Patience running out with Cartwright
THE pressure is on Bryce Cartwright to lift his game even more following a disappointing evening for the Gold Coast Titans against the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Coach Garth Brennan will be looking for his back-rower to improve on both his defence and attack following a below-par performance during the trial match on the Sunshine Coast.
Costly errors and missed tackles saw the Titans go down 22-16 during a blustery game at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
The Gold Coast had the strong breeze at their backs in the first half and looked dominant from the opening minutes of the game.
But silly mistakes and three errors in the first five minutes kept them from capitalising on their possession.
Hooker Mitch Rein was a standout for the Titans and has made a strong statement to Brennan and fellow dummy-half Nathan Peats as a possible starting No.9.
His 50-minute performance included a try in the 30th minute to even the scores at 10-all as well as a relentless defensive effort.
But it was Cartwright which still looked in need of improvement following a mixed evening both on and off the ball.
The 193 centimetre, 107 kilogram utility player looked hesitant with ball in hand all night and slipped off easy tackles.
An unnecessary behind-the-back flick pass just metres from the tryline was intercepted by Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi who took off to the 50-metre line before being brought down.
The Cowboys were made the most of the costly error by scoring later in the set.
Cartwright tried to make up for the brain snap the next time the Titans were attacking the Cowboys line by putting his fullback Jesse Arthur through a hole to score in the 24th minute.
However it was overshadowed for the rest of the night by his poor defence and absence in attack, which was the reason he was brought to the Gold Coast last year.
His poor defence was epitomised by a feeble tackle attempt on Cowboys' Te Maire Martin which resulted in the young half breaking free to score in the first half.
Gold Coast centre Brenko Lee - who played outside Cartwright on the left edge - said he was a little shocked by the flick pass but it was part of the excitement of playing alongside him.
"I thought we did well on our edge," he said.
"It's exciting (to play alongside Cartwright). I think even he doesn't know what he's doing. The one he popped out at the start of the game, I was shocked. I was just trying to focus on catching the ball, it came out of nowhere but it's Bryce Cartwright," he said.
"He's very talented with the footy, he can do anything.
"It's awesome having him on our edge and in our team. He gives the other team nightmares when he's at his prime."
It comes almost 12 months after coach Brennan called on 24-year-old Cartwright to come out of his shell and improve his game.
He played just 14 games for the Titans last year due to his poor performance and still has plenty of work to do earn a starting spot in the side.
The Titans were kept quiet in the second half as they battled the windy conditions and a fired up Cowboys attack who piled on the points and made easy tackle breaks through the Titans' poor defence.
A late try to prop Leilani Latu in the second half did little to worry the Cowboys as they secured the win in front of the record 10,680-strong crowd.
Titans rising star Moeaki Fotuaika also looked devastating throughout the match with several strong hit ups against a star-studded Cowboys forward pack.
The 19-year-old said it was a nervous start going up against Cowboys forwards Matt Scott, Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean.
"The first five minutes I was just trying to get my first run, then my first tackle out of the way and then once that was done, my nerves kind of went away after that," Fotuaika said.
"It was pretty tough out there. After the 10 minutes then the second wind kind of came in. It's always a physical battle coming up against those boys. It was really good to come up against them and a good challenge as well.
"Even with that game, it's given me a lot of confidence coming up against those boys. They're one of the best forward packs in the game."
Coach Brennan will be sweating on the return of Ash Taylor from shoulder surgery to bring some attacking flair into the Titans game.