PENRITH poured on the points in the first half and eventually held out the Titans in an entertaining tussle at CUA Stadium.
The Gold Coast had their chances and probably should have scored more points following a mountain of possession in the second half. But dropped ball at crucial times coupled with a Panthers defensive line that was inspired proved too much for the visitors.
Penrith were definitely the more enthusiastic of the sides and will take a lot from their win, notably a new halfback and an old one with a point to prove. Could be the start of something out Blue Mountains way.
The Game Swung When… On the back of back-to-back penalties, Jarrod Sammut scored his second try just before half-time and the Panthers went to the break with a 22-4 lead. It was plenty, the Panthers turning on their best defensive effort of the season to deny a Titans team which had plenty of possession and a fine choir-master in Scott Prince. And with said weight of football, they came back within eight points following tries to Brett Delaney and Kevin Gordon.
But when Michael Jennings scored one of the tries of the season (see below) and Shane Elford intercepted a Scott Prince speculator and ran 90 metres to score, the Penrith faithful went over to Panthers Leagues happy.
It definitely did not help the Titans that Mat Rogers and Luke Bailey were ruled out in the week.
Who Was Hot… Jennings scored a try and ran beautifully for the Panthers, the lad has all but sewn up a Blue jumper. His defence was also formidable.
Former Knight Luke Walsh was made halfback in the hours before the game and was a big factor in his team’s triumph. A try and two assists, and a fine game with the boot. He’ll likely start at halfback again next week, and if he goes okay, the Panthers will have found themselves a no.7.
Not to say that Sammut didn’t have a fine game – he did: two tries and plenty of menace for a bloke with a fair bit of skill. He actually looks better coming off the bench from this viewpoint, with his tricky and unpredictable play he can turn the tide of a match. He did this one.
The Titans were well served by Preston Campbell, William Zillman and Prince.
Who Was Not… For the weight of possession and flow of penalties the Titans received in the second-half, they could have been reasonably expected to creep up further on the Panthers’ 22 half-time points. They got within eight but with half as many errors and twice as many line breaks as their opponents, they should be disappointed.
Anthony Minichiello dropped the ball twice with his side needing him to hang onto it. Should also be disappointed.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The speed of Michael Jennings. In a game of fast men, Jennings has that X-Factor, the “true gas” of the Steve Renoufs and Andrew Ettingshausens. In the 64th minute he took the ball out of dummy-half and just turned it on, leaving some shocked Titans marker defence in his dust. Ashley Harrison dived but to no avail before custodian Zillman was left clutching at air. Super stuff.
Also a great individual effort by Sammut in the first half, who took off from dummy-half, grubbered through the line, got the bounce and stood up the unfortunate Zillman to score under the posts. Cracking effort and the try that turned out to be the match-winner.
Bad Boys… Ben Cummins put Titans prop Matthew White on report for a “crusher” tackle on Lachlan Coote; he was hit with a Grade 3 charge by the match review committee and will miss three weeks.
Refs Watch… The penalty count was 7-2 the Panthers’ way in the first half but a good case could be made for each of them. Similarly the flow of penalties went the visitors’ way in the second. But there should be no complaints.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Jarrod Sammut (Panthers): Came off the bench after Coote went off injured and won the game for his side; 2 points – Michael Jennings (Panthers): A sensational try and dyke-like defence. Measure up his blue Blazer; 1 point – Luke Walsh (Panthers): A try and a hand in two others.
Panthers 34 (J Sammut 2, L Walsh, L Coote, M Jennings, S Elford tries; M Gordon 5 goals) def Titans 20 (S Prince, B Delaney, K Gordon, W Zillman tries; S Prince 2 goals) at CUA Stadium. Crowd: 9769.