Panthers deny Titans to continue surge to top

Penrith's big guns came to the fore after a brief scare to topple a brave Titans 40-14 at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.

The Panthers looked under threat midway through the second half when the Titans ran in two tries to narrow a 22-6 half-time deficit before premiership-winning stars Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards and Stephen Crichton took control.

A double to Edwards and try assists through Cleary and Crichton fended off any thought the Titans would come back and win after Alofiana Khan-Pereira and David Fifita crossed after half-time. 

Cleary and Crichton set up two tries each while Liam Martin produced an outstanding effort in the air to grab the side's sixth of the evening and ensure the Panthers keep their minor premiership chances in tact with two home games left.

The Panthers were forced to weather an early storm when Thomas Weaver made an immediate impact on debut to send Klese Haas into a hole on the right edge with the Titans forward stepping inside Edwards to the line. 

An uncharacteristic kick from Cleary early questioned whether the Panthers had turned up on song but the star halfback eventually got into tune to place a kick for Crichton to bat the ball back for Edwards to score the side's opener.

A simple charge from Isaah Yeo put the visitors in front for the first time in the 22nd minute and it was all one-way traffic for the remainder of the half with Tyrone Peachey denied once, but not twice, of a try on the left edge. 

Peachey's first effort was deemed a knock-on but the Titans went down to 12 when Aaron Schoupp was sin-binned for a professional foul on Zac Hosking that prevented an initial opportunity for a try.

The visitors were over again in the shadows of half-time when Crichton placed a grubber for Thomas Jenkins to cross over next on the right edge. 

Gold Coast needed to be next to score to start the second half and the return of AJ Brimson provided the spark with the Titans fullback delivering the pass for Khan-Pereira to dive over for his 19th try of the season.

A cheeky short-side play down the left edge had the Titans' third and suddenly the home side were back in it when Brian Kelly and Fifita combined for the third. 

A suspected knee injury for Jayden Campbell, who clutched at his right leg in a non-contact movement, put a dent in the Titans' momentum with Phil Sami (foot) also failing to finish the match.

Match snapshot

  • Titans forward David Fifita was placed on report for an alleged crusher tackle on Thomas Jenkins. 
  • The Panthers have now won nine of their past 10 games against the Titans.
  • The Titans have now won only two of their past eight games at Cbus Super Stadium.
  • The Titans lost Phil Sami to a foot injury with the winger not returning after half-time before there were serious concerns for Jayden Campbell when he left the field with a knee injury.
  • Thomas Weaver made an immediate impact on debut to send Klese Haas through a gap on the right edge for his first NRL try assist.
  • Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris placed on report penalised for a hip-drop tackle on Jacob Alick.

Play of the game
It might look like a try out of nothing but the momentum-swinger came when Nathan Cleary found Stephen Crichton on the right edge for a runaway effort to Dylan Edwards stretched the lead after the Titans began to creep back in.

What they said
"Bad start to both halves and good starts by them. I thought we fought back well in the first half. The third quarter was a challenge for us. It was good for us to go through that. There's lots to like and getting the wins at the moment is pleasing, especially how it panned out." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

"I was happy with the effort we put in. They're a quality side and we started to run out of troops. They've just got too much class in the end. To say we're getting close is OK but we still got 40 put on us in the end. We've got to keep trying at the back end of the year. There's a lot of reasons to not want to play but that's part of our evolution." - Titans interim coach Jim Lenihan.

What's next
The Panthers return to BlueBet Stadium for two home games to finish the regular season as they chase the minor premiership with a match against the Eels and then Cowboys, who are both out of the finals race in 2023. The Titans hit the road for a tough trip against the Storm before finishing their year with a home game hosting the Bulldogs.

 

Story first published on NRL.com

Link to original story

Author: 
Alicia Newton, NRL Reporter