Titans v Panthers: Five key points
Griffin fumes at a 'dumb half of football', appraisal of Hayne's return to No.1, Wallace continues to grow in new role and Moylan the man yet again. The key talking points from Penrith's one-point win at Cbus Super Stadium.
Griffin displeased despite securing finals fate
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin has warned his team that further second-half fade-outs will ensure their return to the finals is a brief one after they held off a fast-finishing Titans outfit on Saturday night.
Matt Moylan's field goal three minutes from full-time saved face for the visitors after they gave up a 14-0 half-time advantage but left Griffin fuming at a lack of respect for possession as his side defended their way to victory.
"We're going to have to be a lot better than that if we want to do something with that spot we've got now," Griffin said bluntly. "It was terrible the way we invited them back into that game. It was a very dumb half of football.
"Fifty per cent completion rate, that was the difference [from the first half]. I think we were nine-from-20 by our stats by the end of the game and in the end I thought they did a really good job to be able to win that game playing like that."
Captain Matt Moylan said rather than rash decisions in possession their poor completion rate in the second half was simply a matter of not holding onto the footy tight enough.
"It wasn't like we were trying to force too much," Moylan said. "We were just going into contact and not having a good grip on the ball and that put us on the back foot and invited them back into the game."
Wallace on his way to England?
With the power-running all around him it's easy for the work on Peter Wallace to go unnoticed but just like Storm skipper Cameron Smith he has an influence on the game that brings the best out in his teammates.
With New South Wales hooker Robbie Farah currently languishing in reserve grade and with an ability to slot into the halves if need be, Wallace is firming week after week as a genuine option for Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga to take to England for the end-of-season Four Nations tournament.
With a decade in the halves including four Origins for the Blues his pass selection is superb and his feel for momentum in a game gives his young halves time to play free of pressure from the opposition more often than not.
As tough as they come in defence, Wallace also possesses the Smith-like skill of slowing the opposition play-the-ball and with three of the starting No.9s this week retiring at the end of the season, Wallace could have a representative future in the position.
And not for the Scottish Bravehearts whom he played for in the 2013 World Cup but the Blues and Kangaroos.
Hayne right at home at fullback
The nervy start that he made to his NFL career was nowhere to be seen as Jarryd Hayne made a triumphant return to the No.1 jersey despite finishing on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
He had a clean catch with his first involvement as Titans fullback and the second bomb he defused under plenty of pressure was even more impressive.
The bums of 18,288 people lifted marginally off their seats when he beat three Panthers defenders on his third kick return and he got them all the way to their feet when he backed up to take an offload from Leivaha Pulu and burst into the back-field late in the first half.
He finished with a game high of 222 run metres to go with five tackle busts and while there were a couple of questionable options in attack Titans fans will be hoping it was the first of many games as Gold Coast's custodian.
"Fullback's a difficult role. They tested him a little bit by giving him some early ball and I thought he had a couple of nice touches," was Henry's initial appraisal.
"We probably got too lateral at times trying to find him out the back where we wanted to play through the middle. We started to do that in the second half and that's where we got our points.
"I thought he was safe at the back, he came up with a couple of big tackles on line breaks so he played his role there.
"He'll be better for that run too but we haven't got much time so he needs to better for that run next week and play his part within the team."
Henry concedes Titans missed the jump
It was a match with the build-up of a finals clash and the crowd on hand to match it but Titans coach Neil Henry was at a loss to explain his side's slow start against the Panthers on Saturday night.
The Panthers took control of the speed of the ruck early in the first half and maintained it throughout the first 40 minutes, rolling up-field on the back of powerful charges and slowing the Titans when the home side was in possession.
It meant that the Titans attack looked somewhat static as they were forced to play off the back foot and left Henry wondering why their energy levels were down for the most important game of the season to date.
"We didn't start well at all. We weren't on the pace they were and they're playing good footy," Henry said. "They're going to trouble teams anyway but we just weren't up to speed early.
"We started slow and they were full of running and dominated field position and had momentum in that first 30 minutes or so."
Captain Nathan Friend in his last game on the Gold Coast denied that the Titans had been struck by a bout of nerves as a way of explaining their slow start.
"It certainly wasn't nerves. It wasn't the occasion or anything like that," said Friend, who will retire at the end of the season.
"We proved that we can put that aside and there were no concerns from us coming back from 14 points behind.
"We knew we had the points in us, we just had to fill in the middle and fix up our errors."
Moylan the man yet again
Such was the lack of reaction from Moylan when he had a shot at field goal three minutes from the end that many in the press box thought he had actually pushed it to the right and missed.
The reaction of the teammates around him however told a different tale as the skipper once again stepped up to seize the moment and win a match for his team.
As for the lack of celebration at securing his team a place in the finals, Moylan said the way they played in the second half made it a match-winner he struggled to get excited about.
"Obviously it was good to get the job done but that second half wasn't the way we wanted to go out and finish the game off," Moylan said.
"It was good to get the two points but not the way we wanted to play. Can't celebrate too much there."
It's impossible to watch Moylan play rugby league and not be transfixed by the way he glides across a football field and positions himself in the right place at the right time.
He's drawn comparisons with Darren Lockyer since coming into first grade in 2013 and simply plays at a level that separates him from the vast majority of first-graders.
He seemed to be moving in slow motion as he sliced through the Titans defence for the first try of the game and came up with the final pass to put Waqa Blake over in the 17th minute.
He played only 11 games in 2015 as part of Penrith's horror run of injuries and said a return to finals footy was his top priority coming into season 2016.
"Obviously playing in '14 and having that experience of finally making the finals it was disappointing to have to sit there and watch the finals last year," said the 25-year-old.
"It was a personal goal of mine to get back there and play finals footy and I think it's a lot of the guys' personal goal and it's something we wanted to achieve as a team.
"We've just got there, there's another season starting when that all kicks off."