The Panthers were below their clinical best but the magical boot of Nathan Cleary carried them to an 18-4 win over the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night.
The premiers made 12 errors and missed 53 tackles but were still good enough to turn their first half-time deficit of the season into their eighth straight win.
In the opening exchanges the Panthers mounted pressure with two line dropouts forced but the Titans held firm and worked their way into good attacking position, only for a couple of errors from Toby Sexton to take the wind out of their sails.
The Panthers got across the line in the 22nd minute through Dylan Edwards but the try was denied by the bunker for obstruction by Nathan Cleary.
Four minutes later the Titans were also across the line but Sexton was held up by desperate defence.
An uncharacteristically sloppy opening half from the premiers opened the door for the Gold Coast and they charged right through with a great team try finished off by Greg Marzhew from a Will Smith kick.
Cleary kick for Tago try
It took the Panthers just four minutes to hit their straps after the half-time break when Cleary grubbered expertly for centre Izack Tago to grab his sixth try of the season. Cleary's conversion made it 6-4.
Cleary came to the fore again in the 48th minute when he found Viliame Kikau close to the tryline and then took a return pass to plunge over and the premiers had raced out to a 12-4 lead.
The Panthers threatened to score again with 20 minutes to play when Taylan May broke into the back field and looked home before he was run down by Smith and Tanah Boyd.
Cleary scores one for himself
Tago went to dummy half and tried to barge over but was bundled into touch and the opportunity was lost.
The Titans had plenty of chances inside the Penrith 20-metre zone but their attack was out of sync and they were unable to close the eight-point gap.
Cleary then iced the victory with another try assist, laying on a try for Jarome Luai with another deft grubber.
The Panthers have now started a season 8-0 for the second year in a row - the first team in history to achieve that feat.
Match: Titans v Panthers
Round 8 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
- Tino Fa'asuamaleaui played yet another great captain's knock for the Titans with 137 metres from 16 powerful runs.
- The Panthers lost their captain's challenge five minutes before half-time when they chose to challenge what appeared an obvious knock on by Dylan Edwards.
- The Panthers had led at half-time in every game this year and their lowest first-half tally before tonight was 12 points.
- Liam Martin went on report in the second half for late contact on Will Smith after the Titans five-eighth had put in a kick.
- Panthers No.1 Dylan Edwards had a tough night under the high ball but clocked up plenty of running metres again with 196.
- The Panthers have won eight of their nine past games against the Titans.
- A big blow for the Titans with David Fifita sitting out the final 15 minutes of the game with a knee injury.
Play of the Game
Greg Marzhew's try in the shadows of half-time was an absolute cracker with a Toby Sexton kick tapped back by Patrick Herbert to Tino Fa'asuamaleaui who offloaded to Sexton who found David Fifita. The rampaging Fifita beat three tackles before dumping an offload out the back to five-eighth Will Smith who launched a perfectly weighted cross field kick for Marzhew to catch and score in the corner. The try sent the home side to half-time with a 4-0 lead and feeling mighty good about themselves.
Must see last tackle try
What They Said
"It was a win for our culture tonight. We definitely weren't at our best. Just a heap of yardage errors which we haven't been doing. Any game where you make so many yardage errors you're going to be in trouble but our defence held firm and if you do that you can win games. We take pleasure in winning any way we can. That's our jobs - to win games." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary
Panthers: Round 8
"I think David is more an impact player. I'd rather he play 60 minutes that are full of quality rather than get gassed and try to push him to 80 minutes just for the sake of it. I'd like the luxury of starting Dave, getting him off, and then getting him back on but you have to worry about your middles. Tino played huge minutes for us tonight and that's what puts them under pressure so I thought it saves you an interchange if you can get KP [Kevin Proctor] to start it ... we could have been sitting here and really happy with that move if Dave stays out there and finishes the game." - Titans coach Justin Holbrook explains his reason for starting David Fifita on the bench
Titans: Round 8
The Titans are in Mackay for a clash with the Roosters, the team that knocked them out of last year's finals in heartbreaking fashion. Jayden Campbell will have two Qld Cup games under his belt and is expected to be back on deck from the rib injury that has sidelined him since round three.
The Panthers face a Friday night blockbuster against the Eels at BlueBet Stadium. Moses Leota (shoulder) is an outside chance of a comeback.