The Vodafone Junior Warriors produced a gritty display to eke out a memorable 20-18 win over Gold Coast in today's 14th-round NYC match at Cbus Super Stadium in Robina.
Leading the contest from the opening moments, the Grant Pocklington-coached side mixed intensity, energy, aggression and resilience with moments of rare skill to register just its second win of the season and its first on the road.
The Titans sat eighth going into the match with the Vodafone Junior Warriors at the foot of the ladder but the visitors' work belied their lowly position.
The match was notable for a remarkable start.
Gold Coast worked the ball over the halfway line in the opening set, going to its right edge only to see centre Dean Kouka-Smith intercept and race away 50 metres to give the Vodafone Junior Warriors a 4-0 lead after just 51 seconds.
They doubled the advantage in the 24th minute with a brilliant try.
Going to their right side, fullback Lee Turner and bullocking centre Melino Fineanganofo combined to cleverly engineer some room for wing Israel Ogden to show off his footwork. He dummied and then stepped sweetly off his right foot, straightened up and left Gold Coast's left edge grasping and gasping as he dashed over for a wonderful touchdown. The goalkicking was off, though, with Chanel Harris-Tavita again wide with the conversion attempt.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors went out to a 12-0 lead when Harris-Tavita's grubber through the line sat up for Kouka-Smith to score his second try. Kane Telea took over the kicking but sadly his conversion attempt from a handy angle was astray.
The Titans, struggling to complete sets, finally put it together for centre Daniel Brownbill to go over, Ethan Roberts converting to trail 6-12.
Right on halftime Telea had the chance to secure a 14-6 lead but he missed a penalty from in front of the posts.
He didn't make the same mistake with another penalty attempt straight after the break, the Vodafone Junior Warriors battling grimly to protect their eight-point advantage.
In the 53rd minute they were undone when a converted try had the advantage down to just 14-12.
There it stayed for the next 19 minutes in an absolute arm wrestle. The Vodafone Junior Warriors were right up for the battle, coming at the higher-ranked Titans with truckloads of intensity.
Their tenacity paid off in the most remarkable way in the 72nd minute.
Harris-Tavita took aim at the woodwork with a last tackle kick. It smacked into the black dot in the centre of the crossbar bouncing back infield where interchange forward Jerome Mamea picked it up and drove over to score. Telea took the score out to 20-12.
Crucially the Vodafone Junior Warriors couldn't cover the restart, allowing it to go into touch giving the Titans possession on attack to organise a possible escape.
Struggling to keep their opponents in check, the Vodafone Junior Warriors conceded back-to-back penalties enabling the Titans to close it up to 18-20 with a converted try and five minutes still to play.
Looking for just their second win of the year and their first on the road, the Vodafone Junior Warriors showed fantastic courage to repel the Titans and close out a memorable win.
Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
Gold Coast Titans 18 (Daniel Brownbill, Phillip Sami, Keegan Hipgrave tries; Ethan Roberts 3 conversions).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 20 (Dean Kouka-Smith 2, Israel Ogden, Jerome Mamea tries; Kane Telea conversion, penalty).
Halftime: 12-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Vodafone Junior Warriors | Lee Turner; Israel Ogden, Melino Fineanganofo, Dean Kouka-Smith, Gibson Popoalii; Paul Turner, Chanel Harris-Tavita; Kenese Kenese (c), Eiden Ackland, Tayhler Paora; Tyler Slade, Joe Vuna; Chris Sio (c). Interchange: Lewis Sio, Kelepi Lui, Jerome Mamea, Keanu Dawson.