Titans v Panthers: Five key points
Two fullbacks really are better than one, the Panthers' injury crisis deepens and Ivan Cleary rues the lack of synergy that accompanied his team's energy.
Titans' fullback switcheroo working wonders
You could have accused Titans coach Neil Henry of being indecisive or at the very least having a bet each way but his use of Josh Hoffman and William Zillman as alternating fullbacks worked wonders against the Panthers. Rather than committing to a sole No.1 ahead of Round 1, Henry chose to use his lack of options at left centre to his advantage by rotating the pair between the two positions as a way of having fresh legs at the back for longer periods. It screamed of a dad who couldn't pick a favourite between his two sons but both Hoffman and Zillman were among their team's best players against Penrith, each scoring two tries apiece and coming up with key defensive plays either on the left edge or covering up at the back.
"It is tough swapping positions from centre to fullback," Hoffman admitted. "You've got the kick-chase to worry about and then when you switch back to fullback you've got to run all the way back to your position so it is tiring and it is a lot harder at fullback.
"'Zilly' ran a lot of metres today and I think he was burning so there was a bit of swapping around going on between the both of us."
Panther casualty ward admits two more
They lost Elijah Taylor pre-game to a knee injury and the Panthers were forced to battle on in the second half without Josh Mansour and Brent Kite, with both facing extended stints on the sidelines. Early indications were that Mansour had suffered a medial ligament injury to his knee that will all but rule him out of contention to play for the Kangaroos in a fortnight while coach Ivan Cleary described Kite's predicament as a "pretty serious leg injury".
It's not all bad news, however, with Cleary expecting a few troops back on deck for next week's clash with Cronulla.
"Lewis Brown, Dean Whare and Elijah Taylor aren't too far away so hopefully we get some if not all of those guys back next week which would be a shot in the arm," Cleary said.
You can't have energy without synergy
Apparently. According to Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.
It was in reference to the frenetic mode of their attack against the Titans that was conducted without a playmaking general due to the absence of both Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace. Penrith were guilty of numerous poor options on last-tackle plays but Cleary praised their effort if not their execution.
"Everyone was trying to do everything by the looks of it. Everyone was trying but it was a lot of energy without synergy. That's what happened today," Cleary said.
"I thought the boys really tried hard but that energy wasn't collective. It wouldn't matter what situation you're in, if that's not the case then it makes it hard in a team sport.
"That's the big lesson out of today. Regardless of whatever else is happening, we've got to get that right."
Moylan an Origin must
The New South Wales fullback position is one with many worthy contenders but few offer Blues coach Laurie Daley the range of skills that Panthers custodian Matt Moylan possesses. At 23 years of age and with two rookie centres and a 20-year-old on the right wing, Moylan completely dictated terms in the opening 15 minutes, coming up with clutch plays at both ends of the field. Soaring to take bombs, sparking his side's attack with quick taps, laying on a deft pass for his team's first – and only – try, kicking a goal from the sideline and contributing three kicks in general play, Moylan was in everything and looked nerveless in doing it. With so much conjecture over his halves, this is one part of the NSW spine Daley could safely lock away right now and sleep easy at night.
Rugby league can be a cruel game
Josh Mansour's knee has failed him on the eve of the representative season, 300-gamer Brent Kite is facing a lengthy layoff in his final year in the NRL, Agnatius Paasi's stop-start NRL career has stalled again due to injury but the cruellest of them all was the suspected ACL injury to Titans forward Ryan Simpkins. Having returned to the Gold Coast this year, Simpkins had been a strong performer for the Titans over the past six weeks but is now facing the prospect of his season coming to an abrupt end.
"He's a bloke that at the start of the year wouldn't have turned too many heads coming into our squad but he's really been a leader," Greg Bird said of Simpkins. "He's been a leader with the things he does on the ball and the things he does off the ball, he's great for us and he'll be a massive loss for the Titans this year definitely."