Penrith will go into the second half of the 2014 Telstra Premiership at the very top of the table following their 36-14 defeat of the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday evening.
In a second half riddled with errors from both teams it was the Panthers who showed the greatest composure when it was most needed to join the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles on 18 competition points but assume the No.1 mantle given their superior for-and-against.
It was hardly the display that will strike fear into the other premiership front-runners but the sense of organised chaos they seemed to thrive on will have any future opposition on high alert.
While Peter Wallace provided the control at halfback the instinctive brilliance of Jamie Soward, James Segeyaro and Tyrone Peachey gave the Panthers a threatening look in attack despite having to get through a heavy defensive load in the opening 20 minutes of the game.
Segeyaro's spark out of dummy-half was a feature in the opening stanza while Peachey's clever footwork and deceptive pace put the Panthers in front 24-8 with the second of three bizarre second-half tries from the visitors.
Leading 14-8 at half-time, Isaah Yeo grabbed the first of the Panthers' second-half tries in the 50th minute when an Albert Kelly pass hit Dave Taylor in the head 20 metres out from the Titans line and Yeo collected the loose ball and broke free of an attempted tackle from David Mead to score the second try of his NRL career.
Fifteen minutes later the Titans paid for a poor last-tackle play when Peachey's left foot deftly stopped an attempted grubber from Kelly and he out-paced Maurice Blair over 90 metres to score out wide, and in the 77th minute Soward collected a charged-down kick just on his own side of halfway and ran straight down the middle of the field to score under the posts.
Mead gave the Titans a glimmer of hope when he scored a bizarre try of his own in the 71st minute when a dropped ball from Taylor was ruled to have been stripped, but it was Moylan who put the exclamation point on proceedings when he backed up from a Peachey bust in the 79th minute to score his side's sixth try of the night.
It was Penrith's third away win from six matches thus far and the third game in succession in which they have scored 26 points or more.
Having looked the more enterprising of the two teams Penrith took a 14-8 lead into half-time after a bizarre final couple of minutes that culminated with Jamie Soward extending the lead to six points with a penalty goal on the bell.
The Titans had an ideal opportunity to at least level things heading into the break when they had a scrum inside the Panthers' half with a minute and 20 seconds still left on the clock but inexplicably kicked on the first tackle, a kick that was gleefully cleaned up by Penrith fullback Matt Moylan.
Two tackles later Greg Bird conceded a penalty for a strip with two players in the tackle, and early in the next set conceded a second penalty for a ruck infringement 37 metres out right in front of the posts that Soward successfully converted.
Despite the Titans dominating with 64 per cent of possession through the first 19 minutes courtesy of a 12-from-12 completion rate, it was the Panthers who scored first courtesy of a wonderful individual effort from hooker James Segeyaro. Having absorbed two sets on their own line, the Panthers made their way down to the Titans' 40-metre line where Segeyaro fooled Luke Douglas with a show-and-go and then scooted around fullback William Zillman to score.
The Titans finally took advantage of their weight of possession in the 14th minute when on the first tackle of their third set on Penrith's line Douglas went someway to making amends for his earlier lapse when he simply barged his way through three defenders to score beside the posts.
Moylan's restart from halfway went out on the full and after Albert Kelly was taken out late after passing – and had his troublesome left leg given the all-clear by the trainer – Kevin Gordon kicked the second goal of his NRL career to give the Titans an 8-6 advantage.
Segeyaro finished off an electric first-half performance when he sparked a spectacular Panthers try from halfway. Having been caught up with Titans forward Paul Carter at dummy-half on the last tackle, Segeyaro offloaded to Jeremy Latimore who sent Tyrone Peachey into the back-field. Peachey then found Soward on his inside who veered to the right side of the field to link up with Lewis Brown who cut back on the angle to put the Panthers back in front.
The Titans had two potential tries denied them, first by the video referee and then the touch judge. Awarded as a try by on-field referee Matt Cecchin, Zillman was ruled to have knocked on in attempting to regather a Brad Takairnagi in-field kick right on the tryline in the 27th minute while seven minutes later David Mead was ruled to have come back in from outside the field of play in a thrilling movement down the right that was not referred to the video referee.
Penrith were hit by two injury blows in the first half with Sika Manu (scratched eyeball) and David Simmons (medial ligament strain) both forced from the field, Simmons unable to return for the remainder of the match.
Penrith Panthers 36 (James Segeyaro, Lewis Brown, Isaah Yeo, Tyrone Peachey, Jamie Soward, Matt Moylan tries; Soward 4 goals) def. Gold Coast Titans 14 (Luke Douglas, David Mead tries; Kevin Gordon 3 goals). Half-time: 14-8 Panthers. Crowd: 10,507.