A season-ending injury to Peta Hiku has compounded a costly Tyrone Peachey brain snap in Penrith’s 28-24 NRL loss to Gold Coast.
With scores locked at 24-all in the 78th minute, Peter Wallace was chased out of a field goal attempt when he threw a pass to Peachey, who dropped the ball then inexplicably failed to dive on the ball.
Titans halfback Ashley Taylor seized on the opportunity and raced downfield, setting up winger Anthony Don for a one-handed corner putdown to steal an unlikely win at Pepper Stadium.
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said the error summed up his team’s worst performance of the season.
“It was just a sign of our whole game today,” Griffin said.
“It’s just not what we’ve been about so far this year. Full credit to the opposition, they hung in there really well today and they got over the top of us in the end.”
Titans coach Neil Henry said he was proud of the way his team continues to build a reputation as a gutsy outfit, with the win lifting them one spot to 10th spot on the ladder.
“They weren’t able to put us away and we couldn’t do the same with them,” said Henry.
“I suppose it’s a testament… we’ve been able to be in games and come back in games. It’s a great trait to have as a team.”
It was yet another heartbreaking defeat in a season of many for the Panthers, who have lost a second centre for the rest of season and are now clinging onto their spot in the top eight.
New Zealand international Hiku was stretchered off after an awkward tackle early in the second half, with scans expected to confirm he will join fellow Kiwi Dean Whare on the long-term casualty list.
One day before NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley names his team for game one, none of Penrith’s five Blues hopefuls stood out in front of the crowd of 11,210.
Skipper Matt Moylan led a troupe of Panthers, including Josh Mansour, Bryce Cartwright, Trent Merrin and Peachey who have been in contention for Blues call-ups over the past month.
However all five may have played their way out of consideration after letting another two points slip.
The two teams went try for try from the moment Titans fullback William Zillman saved a Peter Wallace 40-20 attempt straight into the path of Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the eighth minute.
After heading to the sheds on level-pegging, Moylan showed a touch of class when he dubiously batted on for a one-handed Mansour putdown in the 58th minute.
However Titans mid-season recruit Nathan Peats locked the scores again, scoring from close range in the 64th.
Panthers prop Leilani Latu and Taylor then cancelled out each other’s tries, before Don broke the trend with the game-winner in the shadows of fulltime.