Penrith’s season is on the verge of crisis point after a fumbling loss to the Gold Coast at Centrebet Stadium this afternoon and the prospect of two horror away trips confronting them.
The Panthers face North Queensland and Newcastle in the next two weeks and could return home in round seven having won just once in the opening six weeks of the season.
Based on today’s performance, it would take an almighty effort for the Panthers to travel to Townsville and beat the highly fancied Cowboys.
The Panthers had plenty of ball early but failed to capitalise on their opportunities, with the Titans eventually scoring first when David Mead got outside Josh Mansour to score out wide in the 13th minute.
When Greg Bird scored an awfully soft try in the 29th minute, the Titans went up 12-0 and Penrith fans were left scratching their heads given the number of opportunities the home side had to put points on the board.
Twice during the first half Penrith seemed all but certain to score – once they got over and were denied by the video referee due to the obstruction rule, and on another occasion Luke Walsh brilliantly weaved his way through a number of Titans players but lost control of the footy over the line thanks to some last ditch defence.
But it was the fumbling errors when on attack in the Titans’ red zone that will surely concern coach Ivan Cleary the most.
Down by the 12 point margin at the break, the Panthers needed to score quickly and did so just two minutes into the second half when David Simmons produced an AFL-like leap and batted the ball back to Wes Naiqama, who scored out wide.
The Titans extended their lead to 18-4 when Steve Michaels scored with 21 minutes remaining, but the Panthers then roared back into contention when Tom Humble grabbed an intercept and ran more than 60 metres to score, bringing the margin back to eight.
With Gold Coast out on their feet and Penrith’s small but vocal home ground behind them, it appeared that a comeback win was not out of the question. But the Panthers – albeit via some controversial refereeing decisions – couldn’t take advantage of multiple opportunities, and it was all over when Kevin Gordon swooped on a Panthers error to run almost the length of the field to score.
Another late try extended the Titans’ margin, with the Gold Coast eventually winning 28-10.
The statistics tell the tale of Penrith’s failure to capitalise on their chances – they had 53 per cent of possession, and had to make less tackles, but could only score twice in the 80 minutes.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said he was disappointed with the result.
“It was a frustrating day today because we really put a lot into that game but we didn’t get much out of it,” Cleary told Triple M.
“I thought we defended better today than we did last week but we didn’t attack well.”
Without criticising the match officials, Cleary said there’s huge issues surrounding the obstruction rule, which robbed Penrith of their first try.
“I think without a doubt if you’re fair dinkum there’s opportunities there to get yourself obstructed – put it that way. Nobody can tell me that isn’t happening at the moment,” he said.
“There’s just been so many of them and it all stemmed from a few in the past few weeks which were ridiculous decisions and this is a result of all that. Really with some common sense we wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
Earlier in the day, the Panthers’ Holden Cup side had an impressive 40-12 win over the Titans.
Gold Coast 28 (Tries: Kevin Gordon 2, Steve Michaels, Greg Bird, David Mead. Goals: Aiden Sezer 4) def Penrith 10 (Tries: Wes Naiqama, Tom Humble. Goals: Wes Naiqama 1).