The Panthers have overcome a slow start and contentious decisions to defeat Gold Coast Titans 24-16 at Pepper Stadium.
A scrappy opening from the hosts and bewildering decision from the referees kept the Titans in the contest until two late tries secured victory to keep the Panthers right in the hunt for Finals football.
The Titans were dealt an early blow with Konrad Hurrell limping from the field in the 10th minute with a hamstring injury but it wouldn’t stop them from opening the scoring four minutes later through Jarryd Hayne.
MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Blake scores a double in Panthers 8-point victory
Ashley Taylor and William Zilllman combined to open up the Panthers defence before Zillman found his fullback in support to race clear for the opening points. Tyrone Roberts added the extras to hand his side a 6-0 lead.
Chances to equalise proved scarce for the Panthers with penalties and a completion rate hovering barely above 50% hampering their efforts at both ends of the park until an error from the visitors allowed Waqa Blake to equalise before half-time.
A forced error by Roberts from Corey-Harawira Naera fell kindly for Blake to swoop upon and race 65 metres to the line, allowing Nathan Cleary a simple conversion to bring his side level at the break.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 6 - 6 Gold Coast Titans
A strong kick return from Dylan Edwards got the Panthers up field early in the half before a penalty against the Titans allowed Cleary to kick his side in front 8-6 in the 45th minute.
Edwards was at the heart of it again three minutes later as the Panthers extended their lead. An early ball from Matt Moylan created the overlap for Edwards to put Blake in for his second try. Cleary booted the Panthers outside a converted try making it 14-6.
An extremely questionable decision from referee Gavin Badger bailed the Titans out of trouble and carried them up field to hit back on the scoreboard in the 53rd minute.
Despite Josh Mansour being tripped, the Titans received a penalty and made it count when Anthony Don fell on a grubber in goal to bring the score back to 14-10.
The Panthers regrouped to strike back passed the hour mark when Moylan telegraphed a Taylor pass to intercept and race half the length of the field. Cleary would again add the extras to push the score out to 20-10.
That effort would cost the Panthers their captain for the remainder of the game after aggravating his hamstring but it wouldn’t stop them extending their lead with ten minutes left on the clock.
Sione Katoa was injected in to the game for Moylan and provided the service for Cleary to pick out a perfectly weighted cut-out ball to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak that bypassed the entire Titans defence. Cleary couldn’t convert the try as the score remained 24-10.
The Titans would run in a late try through Roberts but were second-best for much of the contest as the Panthers ran out 24-16 winners.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 24 – 16 Gold Coast Titans