Bench players step up to guide Panthers home
PENRITH'S thrills and spills had Anthony Griffin's blood pressure in all sorts, but his no-frills benchmen have kept the Panthers' finals charge alive in a warts-and-all 24-16 win over the Titans.
For 40 minutes the ill-discipline and impatience that has cruelled Penrith all season threatened to do the same with its top-eight surge and give the Gold Coast a welcome leg up in its own climb up the ladder.
Enter no-nonsense forwards Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Leilani Latu and James Fisher-Harris from the pine, and the Panthers remain alive with a four-to-three-win that draws them level with eighth-placed St George Illawarra.
A 62nd-minute intercept try from a one-legged Matt Moylan clinched it, and sent the skipper to the bench with more concern around the hamstring that continues to plague him.
But it was the charges of Griffin's interchange men that kept Penrith in it to begin with, as the tireless trio churned through a combined 382 metres once they were thrown into the fray.
As plenty of their teammates threw away their first half with frivolous errors and needless passes in attack, Campbell-Gillard tucked the ball under his arm and turned himself into a one-man wrecking ball.
While the benchmen were full of running, the Panthers had nothing but errors for the first half-hour as the Titans hung on to a 6-0 lead from an early Jarryd Hayne try.
Against the run of play and the afternoon's prevailing theme, a rare Titans mistake gave Penrith the first shot they actually took advantage of.
With halftime in the offing, Waqa Blake showed far too much pace for someone who weighs in at 98 kilos, shutting the gate from 60 metres out after Tyrone Roberts had coughed up possession.
A long kick return from rookie No.1 Dylan Edwards got the Panthers rolling after the break, and a penalty from Joe Greenwood gave Nathan Cleary two points from in front and Penrith an 8-6 lead.
Minutes later Blake was in again, hitting a crash ball from Cleary and his double in impressive fashion.
Once more foolish play from Tyrone Peachey put his side on the back foot when his late shot on Roberts conceded a needless penalty, particularly when Leivaha Pulu's blatant trip on Josh Mansour was missed in the lead-up.
From the ensuing set the Gold Coast went the length and a grovelling grubber from Taylor wound up with Anthony Don next to the corner post.
Eight minutes later though the 22-year-old half put it on a platter for Moylan, who hobbled 30 metres for a clutch intercept try, and then made straight to the bench as his hamstring seized up.
As Taylor floundered, fellow teen prodigy Cleary fired, taking charge in Moylan's absence and piloting a cut-out ball for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to cross out wide.
A late try to Roberts gave the Gold Coast a sliver of hope.
But it now heads home four points adrift of the top eight, needing to win its last six straight and nursing Konrad Hurrell through a first-half hamstring injury that will sideline him for some weeks to come.