Panthers beat in-form Titans
Penrith have moved one step closer to the NRL Telstra Premiership top eight with a hard-fought 24-16 victory over the Gold Coast Titans at Pepper Stadium.
The Panthers were their own worst enemy in the opening half with a 63 per cent completion rate before improving out of sight to dominate the visitors at the backend of the game.
Scores were level at 6-6 at the break and the contest remained in the balance until the 63rd minute when Panthers skipper Matt Moylan latched onto an Ash Taylor pass and raced 40 metres to score.
Moylan left the field soon after with tightness to the hamstring that ruled him out of the clash against the Warriors last week.
The Titans were dealt an early injury blow of their own with in-form centre Konrad Hurrell tearing a hamstring in the 11th minute to be ruled out for the remainder of the contest.
It was the visitors who struck first when Ash Taylor turned the ball inside for William Zillman to bust up the middle and send Jarryd Hayne over for the opening try of the game.
The momentum swung shortly minutes out from the half-time break when Waqa Blake picked up a loose ball from Tyrone Roberts to race 60 metres to the try line against the run of play.
Griffin demanded a better start from the hosts after the break and the side responded when Edwards weaved his way through the Titans defence and enabled the Panthers to take a penalty goal.
Penrith's two-point lead quickly extended to eight when a simple backline movement sent Blake over for a double with Edwards putting the Fijian international into a hole on the right edge.
Momentum is the key in rugby league and the following set after points proved a turning point momentarily with some controversy in the 51st minute that sent the game back into anyone's chance.
Gold Coast forward Leivaha Pulu looked to have tripped Josh Mansour as the Australian international was chasing through a kick.
Panthers teammate Tyrone Peachey was penalised in the play for a late shot on Roberts.
The visitors went 100 metres on the back of the call and Taylor placed a grubber in-goal for Anthony Don to collect and get the ball down in the corner.
Taylor's ability to set up two tries for the afternoon came undone when he threw an intercept pass for Moylan to pluck out of the air and race 40 metres to the line.
The Panthers skipper showed discomfort after the four-pointer with Griffin opting to bring him from the field with 11 minutes remaining.
Similar to the win over the Warriors, Cleary stood up to take control and sent Dallin Watene-Zelezniak over with a deceptive cut-out pass that left Zillman in no-man's land.
Gold Coast scored a four-pointer via Roberts in the final five minutes to set up an unlikely late chance, as the Panthers held on for a much-needed win.
Penrith Panthers 24 (Blake 2, Moylan, Watene-Zelezniak tries; Cleary 4 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 14 (Hayne, Don, Roberts tries; Roberts 1 goal) at Pepper Stadium. Half-time: 6-6. Crowd: 11,480.
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Waqa Blake. 2 points: Reagan Campbell-Gillard. 1 point: Dylan Edwards.