Penrith’s Matt Moylan has kicked a match-winning field goal two minutes from fulltime to give the Panthers a 15-14 victory over Gold Coast and confirm a berth in the NRL playoffs.
The Titans, coming back to level at 14-14 on Saturday evening after trailing 14-0 at halftime, will need to beat North Queensland next week or rely on other results to finish in the top eight.
The game, played in front of 18,288 fans at Cbus Super Stadium, seemed to be heading into golden point when Tyrone Roberts kicked a penalty goal four minutes from time, after high tackle from Penrith’s Chris Grevsmuhl on Ryan James.
But, Tyrone Peachey made a line break, bringing the ball to within 20m of the tryline, and Panthers skipper Moylan coolly split the uprights for a one-pointer to snatch the game.
The pre-game focus was on Jarryd Hayne’s first match at fullback for two years, but he was outshone by his opposite number Moylan who scored the Panthers’ first try.
In the eighth minute, Moylan received the ball and cut inside off his right foot, racing past some flat-footed Titans defenders, before touching down to the right of the posts.
The lead was doubled in the 17th minute when, after Bryce Cartwright broke the line and was tackled by Hayne 10 metres out, the Panthers quickly spread it wide and Waqa Blake dived over.
Nathan Cleary, who edged the battle of two possible future opposing State of Origin halfbacks with Ash Taylor, added a penalty to his two conversions to extend the lead to 14 points.
Hayne had a chance to score the first try of his NRL return, three minutes before the break, when bursting towards the line, after an offload from Leivahu Pulu, but the Panthers’ No.1 stopped him 10 metres out.
Five minutes after the break, the Titans were back in it when Pulu was fed by Greg Bird five metres out and he carried three defenders with him over the line for his first NRL try.
Then Bird, bandaged after a first-half head clash with James Fisher-Harris, set up a dramatic finish when he stretched out over the line, in spite of the efforts of Moylan and Peter Wallace, to make it a two-point game.