Panthers face Titanic struggle

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For the second week in a row torrential rain caused havoc at Sportingbet Stadium, but this time around the result was not so good. After beating Canberra 12-6 in the rain, the Panthers struggled to back it up in another slog-fest, going down to the Rabbitohs 18-2 last Friday night.

Souths simply handled the conditions better and after neither side took their chances in the first half, the Rabbitohs turned things around much better than Penrith in the second, scoring three tries to nil and producing a defensive effort that very much deserves to be praised.

Penrith must put that performance behind them as they head into Easter Monday’s clash against the top of the table Gold Coast Titans.

The Titans find themselves as the unlikely leaders of the NRL and in their last two matches have somehow found a way to win – last week it was a freakish final try against the Broncos, the week before a controversial penalty against the Storm. Both Brisbane and Melbourne had every right to win those matches but the Titans found something when it mattered.

Both the Titans and Panthers played last Friday night so find themselves enjoying a 10-day lead-in to this encounter, and how both coaches manage that break may play a part in how this match unfolds.

For Titans coach John Cartwright, the mental side of the preparation for this game is surely about convincing his players that they deserve to be on top of the ladder. It’s about convincing them that they have what it takes to come to Penrith Stadium on a lonely Monday night at the end of a long weekend and topple the Panthers.

For Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, managing the drop in confidence that most likely occurred after the side lost its biggest test of the season so far would have surely been a big part of the week. Penrith were talked up big time last Friday and to not score even one try would have shattered the side’s confidence. Whether it was shattered for just a day or two, or still lingers around, will be a big element of the side’s performance on Monday night.

Panthers co-captain Kevin Kingston believes this Monday’s opposition are doing all the right things at the business end of games.

“Their core players are playing really well and they are winning tight games which is what you want to do,” he said.

Being switched on for the entire 80 minutes will certainly need to be a focus for the Panthers against a Gold Coast side that has got the little things right this season.

The Panthers got kick happy against the Rabbitohs but the side appears to be better served when Peter Wallace takes full and proper control rather than attempting freakish mid-set miracles.

How Wallace handles livewire opponent Albert Kelly on Monday night will be interesting – he certainly has the ability to break the line and without doubt has the pace to get rid of most of Penrith’s backline in a foot race. Containing the little number seven and limiting his time in open space will be vital.

At the end of what has been a run of three straight matches at home, the Panthers need to win to walk away from the trio of games with a respectable two from three.

I’m one who believes the Gold Coast will falter eventually – they just don’t have the squad to maintain their position on top of the table as the season progresses.

It is certainly possible that their fall could start against the Panthers on Monday night if the home side is committed in defence and a little calmer in attack.

Great playmakers don’t necessarily create opportunities, they wait for the right ones to unfold in front of them. If Wallace and Jamie Soward do that on Monday night, enough chances will arise to get the points on the board.

In good news for the Panthers, an early guilty plea means Soward has escaped suspension on a high tackle charge.

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