It’s not been smooth sailing for the favourites in NRL Round 1, up on the Gold Coast – it was a hot NZ Warriors side early that nearly got home over the fancied Titans.
In the end it was 24-18, but had the likes of Preston Campbell not pulled off some magic for the Coast, it could have been so easily wrapped up by the Kiwis.
Despite not having Steve Price or Wade McKinnon in the starting lineup, the young Warriors were prepared to throw the ball around and it did pay dividends.
Big Manu Vatuvei had a double early and looked dangerous, and even the expected heat wasn’t stopping them – their black jerseys were left at the dry-cleaners as the Kiwis chose to wear their alternate strip given the expected hot conditions at 1pm local Queensland time for kickoff.
The well heeled Titans took some time to find their mojo, but they eventually wore their opponents down. New buy Greg Bird had some jitters early, but held firm and pulled off some strong defence to prove his worth.
The big difference seemed to be Titans rake Nathan Friend.
The wiley hooker setup a try late in the first period that was a cracker, from dummy half he faked one way, took off on an angle, showed the ball inside, then positioned his winger for a nice try in the corner.
The touchdown was much needed and kept the Coast from losing touch early on.
The experienced hooker was again a key component when he helped break the deadlock late in the game, Friend kicking for Campbell to score late and stitch up the game.
While Cartwright and the Gold Coast would be delighted to get out of jail, it looks like it will just take a few weeks for the new faces in the side to gel. Not the end of the world.
The same could be said for the NZ Warriors, they’ve been written off as spoon chances with Cronulla, but the Kiwis showed enough promise to push their case, certainly in home games.
As with most NRL clashes these days, don’t write anyone off!