A slowly improving Gold Coast Titans, buoyed by the signing of David Fifita from 2021, welcomed a Penrith Panthers side looking to go to the top of the table, despite the absence of Viliame Kikau.
Despite a bright start from the Titans, they couldn’t handle the Panthers attacking prowess as they peppered the home side down the left edge.
The ball was spread through Nathan Cleary and Stephen Crichton out to Josh Mansour who slid over for the first try.
Five minutes later, the Panthers picked up their second as Crichton was the recipient this time, as the ball was spread left once again and the young centre raced 30-metres for his 10th try of the season.
After dealing with immense pressure in defence, the Titans all of a sudden found themselves back in the game.
Jarome Luai’s kick bounced off Kevin Proctor and was picked up by Jamal Fogarty on his own 10-metre line.
The half-back then ran 90-metres, and despite the best effort of Brent Naden covering across got over the line for his first NRL-try.
With ten minutes to go to the break, Penrith were once again deep inside the Titans half, and Isaah Yeo punished them as he picked up the ball at first receiver, stepped off his left foot, and stretched over for a third try.
With the half coming towards a close, the Titans managed to cross against Ash Taylor kicked along the floor from 20-metres out and Brian Kelly sprinted after the loose ball for a second try for the Gold Coast.
After a penalty against the Panthers, the Titans ended the half with the ball in hand inside the 20-metre line.
Dale Copley came to within inches on the right edge and Anthony Don picked up. dummied left but went down the short side and slammed the ball down to bring the Panthers to within two points.
HALF-TIME: Gold Coast Titans 14-16 Penrith Panthers
The opening ten minutes of the second period were very much back and forth between the two sides, as one was looking for a weakness in the other’s defence.
The Panthers were the side who began to take control as the game turned into a slog after the heavens had opened at the break.
Jai Whitbread was penalised for inference at the ruck which gave the Panthers the chance to extend their lead but the Titans held the visitors out once again.
Just after the house mark, the game opened up once again, but not for the home side.
Cleary ran the ball down the short side, pushed a pass to Brent Naden, who’s quick catch and pass, found Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to race over and score, despite Naden’s pass appearing to go forward.
Penrith seemed to flick the switch all of a sudden, and in the 70th minute, it looked as though they would cross again as Crichton kicked the ball ahead for Mansour to chase.
The winger was beaten to the ball by Corey Thompson though and the ball went out of in in-goal area off the Panthers winger.
With the deficit to Penrith just eight points, the Titans knew they could still win the game with five minutes left.
Brian Kelly was the man caught with the ball in hand on the last tackle, but his pass out to Anthony Don was intercepted by Watene-Zelekniak and the Panthers cleared their lines.
Penrith would have one last attack in the final minute, but Luai’s kick was collected by Don and the Titans took the final two tackles for the end of the game
FULL-TIME: Gold Coast Titans 14-22 Penrith Panthers
Gold Coast Titans
Thompson, Don, Kelly, Copley, Sami, Taylor, Fogarty, Fotuaika, Peats, Jolliffe, Proctor, Stone, Arrow
Interchanges: Boyd, Peachey, Wallace, Whitbread
Tries: Fogarty, Kelly, Don
Goals: Taylor (1/3)
Aekins, Mansour, Naden, Crichton, Watene-Zelezniak, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Kenny, Fisher-Harris, Martin, Yeo, May
Interchanges: Leniu, Leota, Burns, Burton
Tries: Mansour, Crichton, Yeo, Watene-Zelezniak
Goals: Cleary (3/4)
Referee: A. Gee
Touch Judges: P. Gough, C. Butler
Video Referee: B. Norrie
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)