If the Gold Coast Titans go places this season they may well look back on the day in Gladstone where star recruit Bryce Cartwright got his mojo back as a defining turning point.
After playing just one minute the previous week in the win over the Brisbane Broncos after a lacklustre start to his Titans career, Cartwright was a menacing presence on the edge in the Gold Coast’s 32-20 win over the Sea Eagles in front of 5135 fans in central Queensland.
While confidence comes and goes, class is permanent, and Cartwright flick pass in the 26th minute for Jai Arrow to score oozed skill and guile. It gave the Titans a crucial edge against a brave and injury-ravaged Sea Eagles.
The Titans gave their coach Garth Brennan some nervous moments and it took until the 79th minute to put Manly away, when Arrow scored his second.
Halves Kane Elgey and Ash Taylor backed up their superb performance against the Broncos while lock Arrow took another step towards a Maroons jersey in front of coach Kevin Walters.
The Sea Eagles had already lost Curtis Sironen and Kelepi Tanginoa for the season with ACL injuries before the match.
Fullback Tom Trbojevic failed a late fitness test, while winger Brad Parker complained of stomach cramps in the warm-up and was replaced by Jonathan Wright.
Match: Titans v Sea Eagles
Round 5 -
Venue: Marley Brown Oval
- LIVE PASS
He became the Sea Eagles No.603 and the club’s second debutant on the day with bench forward Jack Gosiewski also playing his first NRL game for Manly, after six for South Sydney.
The Sea Eagles were celebrating inside the opening two minutes with a try to debutant Wright on the left.
The kicking wizardry of Taylor saw Jarrod Wallace score on the back of a kick and the scores level at 6-6.
Before the game Arrow told NRL.com about his appreciation for the Cartwright flick pass and that it wouldn’t be long before it was unveiled in a game to maximum impact.
With the Titans leading 8-6 in the first half, Cartwright unfurled with his signature play on the fifth tackle near the line and Arrow was the recipient.
Titans bench forward Morgan Boyle scored his first career try when Akuila Uate got smashed by Michael Gordon and coughed up possession with the Titans taking a 20-8 lead into the break.
Daly Cherry-Evans almost came back to bite the Gold Coast Titans on the backside again, this time with a length of the field intercept in the 55th minute when the Titans seemed certain to score.
Minutes later Brian Kelly had bridged the gap to just two points (22-20) after a dart up the middle from dummy half by Api Koroisau.
That set up a grand stand finish with Manly refusing to lay down.
Dylan Walker returned to the field for the Sea Eagles for the first time since the Prime Minister’s XIII clash in September last year after having surgery on a broken ankle and his shoulder.
Walker was tentative out in the centres but will only be better for the run.
The Titans, wooden spoon favourites with some pundits before the season kicked off, are now in the top eight and the best placed of the three Queensland sides.