Gold Coast Titans seal last-minute win over Canberra to end round one, Panthers beat Eels
Phillip Sami was one of five try-scorers for the Titans in their thrilling 30-28 win over the Raiders. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
Gold Coast Titans have produced a stirring comeback in Garth Brennan’s NRL coaching debut, Konrad Hurrell’s late try helping to pip Canberra 30-28 at home.
The late game had the close finish after Penrith beat Parramatta 24-14 on Sunday afternoon.
The Titans’ new million dollar man Ashley Taylor was the architect, twice putting in kicks to set up tries in a club-record equalling 18-point comeback win.
It was shaping as an embarrassing opening night for the new-look Gold Coast side, which had leaked three soft tries after just 11 minutes.
Bullied through the middle of the park, the Titans completed at just 53 per cent and missed 20 tackles compared to Canberra’s nine in the first half.
The Raiders made easy yards and looked like running away with the contest before Taylor’s precise grubber found Kane Elgey in goal as the rain fell to give the Titans a sniff, down 24-12 at the break.
Phillip Sami and Dale Copley both crossed in the left corner to start to the second half, with a penalty kick soon after levelling proceedings 24-24.
Raiders centre Joey Leilua put a halt to the comeback though, scooping up a battered down bomb for a 28-24 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
But Hurrell intercepted another Taylor grubber with 90 seconds to play, to delight the 10,238 in attendance.
Earlier Siliva Havili darted from dummy half for the easiest of tries on debut for Canberra, before Jack Wighton and Elliott Whitehead exploited some nervous and disjointed Titans defence for tries of their own.
Kevin Proctor then put Gold Coast on the board when he finished off a polished set of six by barging over on the right edge.
The Raiders tweaked their line-up ahead of what was Ricky Stuart’s 100th game as coach, with Blake Austin recalled to start in the number six and Aidan Sezer used off the bench.
Panthers grab comeback win over Eels
Waqa Blake (L) scored two of Penrith’s three tries in the Panthers’ 24-14 win over Parramatta. (AAP: Brendan Esposito )
Penrith have roared back from 14 points down to steal a courageous 10-point win over arch rivals Parramatta in their NRL season-opener.
The Panthers appeared dead and buried when the Eels raced out to a three-try lead — two of them to winger Josh Hoffman — inside the opening half hour on Sunday.
But in front of their first sellout crowd in four years at Panthers Stadium, the home side scored 24 unanswered points to stun the premiership contenders and claim a resounding victory.
In a game that marked Jarryd Hayne’s first game for the Eels since 2014 and James Maloney’s Panthers’ debut, it was unlikely duo Waqa Blake and Viliame Kikau who sparked the home side to life.
Blake produced an impressive 35-metre individual effort to reduce the deficit just before half-time, before Kikau steamrolled over from close to the line soon after the break.
Back-to-back penalty goals to Nathan Cleary — the second of which resulted in Mitchell Moses in the sin bin for a professional foul — gave the Panthers the lead for good.
Blake completed his brace when he finished off a 70-metre run in the 59th minute, before Cleary sealed the win with a third penalty goal late in the match.
The Panthers star finished with a perfect six goals from six attempts, while full-back Dylan Edwards also impressed with a game-high 160 metres, eight tackle busts and three line breaks.
It was a stunning turnaround from the Panthers, who appeared off the pace from the kickoff as they conceded a penalty in the opening minute and then turned the ball over in their first five sets.
It was in stark contrast to Moses’ hot start, which included drawing the penalty, forcing an error from Maloney, setting up the opening try and nailing the conversion from the sideline.
After just nine minutes, the Panthers had already made 75 tackles to 15, including 11 in their own 20-metre zone.
They looked to steady when Moses was taken off for a concussion test, but then showed little resistance to Corey Norman’s 21st minute try.
A rout was on when a sublime Brad Takairangi cut-out for Hoffman gave the Eels a three-try lead, however Blake brought the 21,506 crowd to life just before the break.