Penrith have secured their sixth victory on the trot to surge into the top eight after cruising to a 24-2 win over Gold Coast at Panthers Stadium on Friday night.
After losing eight of their opening 10 games and copping heat from all angles the Panthers have turned their fortunes around and the 22-point win lifted them to eighth spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder
Coming off his Origin triumph just 48 hours earlier, James Maloney again showed his class by laying on two spectacular tries for winger Brian To’o – one with a brilliant long pass and the other with a pinpoint cross kick.
But it was livewire playmaker Jarome Luai who sparked an early onslaught as the Panthers raced out to a 14-2 lead at halftime.
Match: Panthers v Titans
Round 17 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
Luai handled twice in the lead-up to fullback Dylan Edwards' try in the 29th minute and was a constant threat.
Titans fullback AJ Brimson did his best to inspire the visitors with a classic trysaver on Brent Naden in the 11th minute but that sort of desperation has been all too rare for the Titans.
Naden, who re-signed with the club on a new two-year deal earlier in the night, ran for 232 metres and looked at home alongside Viliame Kikau on the left edge.
Titans winger Phillip Sami went close to scoring for the visitors but was held up by a solid effort from Edwards over the line.
Penrith score their second as the Titans fail to diffuse bomb
Gold Coast battled on after losing Dale Copley to a head knock but costly errors – including failure to regather a quick Maloney drop-out and Jarrod Wallace kicking the ball out on the full – was a theme of their overall night.
Former Penrith back-rower Bryce Cartwright had a game to forget in his return to the ground with two errors, but his cousin Jed Cartwright, who was making his NRL debut for the Panthers, entered the field in the second half for a night out to remember.
The attack by both sides lacked polish for much of the second term before Edwards helped himself to a second try and To’o picked up Maloney’s kick and again launched himself into the corner to complete his double.
The Titans were down to one player on the bench in the last five minutes after losing Dale Copley (HIA), Ryley Jacks (rib cartilage) and Shannon Boyd (arm).
Luai stays alive and Edwards grabs the opener