James Maloney has continued to impress in Nathan Cleary's absence, spearheading the Panthers to a commanding 35-12 win over the Titans at Panthers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
There was an extra sense of tension added to Sunday afternoon's clash as former Panthers Bryce Cartwright and Mitch Rein came to Panthers Stadium in Titans colours for the first time. However, former Penrith reserve grade coach Garth Brennan did not enjoy revenge with the Panthers running away with a dominant 23-point victory. This was despite a growing injury toll which claimed its latest victim - winger Josh Mansour, who suffered a suspected broken cheekbone after colliding with the flying knee of Anthony Don. The Gold Coast were not without injury concerns of their own with NSW hooker Nathan Peats sidelined for the second half.
The home side looked to have opened the scoring through a simple try off a scrum to Dylan Edwards but the fullback was denied by the Bunker after a double-movement was ruled. Only moments later the Gold Coast crossed over and there was no denying Dale Copley the first points of the afternoon after the centre barged over three Penrith defenders in the corner.
The Panthers responded in the 25th minute when Edwards put Corey Harawira-Naera one-on-one with Copley and the fill-in centre forced his way over. Penrith extended their lead in the 38th minute when an Isaah Yeo offload gave James Tamou the space to steamroll his way over the Gold Coast defence and towards the try line. Despite a mountain of possession, Penrith only took a four-point advantage into the sheds.
James Maloney was Penrith's best in the 35-12 win and the halfback showed great pace to break through the middle in the 43rd minute and he found Edwards in support to give the home side a 16-6 lead. The home crowd erupted in the 52nd minute as Cartwright's homecoming was ruined by a sin-binning for continual infringements on his own line. Another penalty, this time conceded by former Panther Rein saw Maloney kick Penrith ahead by two more.
Maloney starred again in the ensuing set when he put Edwards through a hole off a perfect short ball and the fullback linked with Tyrone Peachey who sprinted away to score. To their credit, the Gold Coast fought back when a perfectly executed kick by Kane Elgey was grounded by Anthony Don in the 59th minute. However, any chance of a comeback was quashed when individual brilliance saw Harawira-Naera cross the stripe in the 61st minute.
Maloney sealed the victory in the 71st minute with a field-goal yet the home side had to weather a late raid from the Titans when debutant Kade Ellis was sin-binned with ten minutes remaining. Coach Anthony Griffin would have been elated as his side went on to score another try when Sione Katoa showed impressive vision to put a soaring Christian Crichton over in the corner. As a result, Penrith ran out 35-12 winners.
Next week the Panthers battle the injury-hit Sharks in Cronulla on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Titans look to bounce back when they travel to North Queensland to take on the desperate Cowboys on Saturday night.