The Panthers slotting Luke Walsh into halfback with instant results, turning on the points in the first half and then weathering a strong Titans fightback to win 34-20 at CUA Stadium in Penrith.
From the outset, the Panthers looked to be playing with much better structure and Walsh seemed to integrate so well, you’d think he’d known the Panthers boys for years.
With Walsh combining well with the hard running Waterhouse and Luke Lewis – the Penrith side had cut through Titans in no time, racing to a 12-0 lead in just over 10 minutes of the game.
With possession running at near 60% in the first term, the Gold Coast side had little chance to make an impact and were fairly ill-disciplined for the most part. Scott Prince giving away a poor penalty, trying to milk it at the ruck as did others as his side struggled to contain the Panthers juggernaut. Most penalties the Titans gave away, were followed by Penrith tries.
Walsh scored on debut and was positioning his outside men very well.
Fullback Lachlan Coote was injured in a crusher tackle that saw him leave the field and allowed former fullback Jarrod Sammut to slot into his old spot.
The freedom afforded to Sammut at fullback produced immediate results, he was in everything in attack. Within minutes, Sammut had 2 tries for himself – the second a superb kick ahead for himself, to regather, beat Zillman and score a classic.
With the score 22-4 at half time to the Panthers, it looked like being a long night for the visitors.
But with some possession, the Gold Coast side stablised and mounted an impressive comback. Early in the second term, the Titans side experienced a period of 5 minutes with near 95% possession, allowing them to burn up some of the Panthers petrol in defence.
This allowed Prince to get himself into the game and involve his outside men much more, new face Kevin Gordon and William Zilmann combining well to score a tough try and the ever-calm hand of Nathan Friend continuing to terrorise the Panthers from dummy half.
It was immediately game-on.
With several rapid fire tries, the Titans were back within 8 points and looked every chance for the comeback win. The Panthers not helping themselves, gifting several penalties and losing focus for a period.
With the game in the balance, it took a split second of Michael Jennings brilliance near the hour mark to give his side the edge.
Jennings dashing from dummy half to expose a poor Ashley Harrison defensive effort, turning on his blistering pace to go 40m to score. The try never allowed the Titans to recover, winger Shane Elford scoring an intercept effort only minutes later to shut the game and send the locals into raptures.
When they’re on, the Panthers, much like the Tigers can really blow sides away. They do have their defensive problems and can lose focus at times, giving away poor penalties – but they do have the power to produce when they really want to.
The addition of Walsh added plenty to the structure of the side, with more options – they look more composed and comfortable when under the pump. The only problem for Matt Elliott now looks to be at fullback, with Sammut playing so well – you have the boom rookie Coote and Sammut to choose from.
For the Titans, it was always going to be a hard road trip. The betting plunge on them from so early in the week suggests their mental attitude was off-par from an early stage, the loss of Rogers and Bailey having a major effect.