NRL 2019: Penrith Panthers down Gold Coast to march into top eight


Pint-sized Penrith winger Brian To'o bagged an acrobatic double, as did Dylan Edwards, and Billy Kikau needed a toilet break as Penrith made it six on the trot to march into the top eight for the first time this season.

After notching just two wins in the opening ten rounds, the mountain men are suddenly starting to live up to their pre-season hype.

To'o may be short but he is making sure he stands out with the way he leaps and then tumbles forward over the tryline.

He did it two minutes out from half-time when James Maloney threw a lovely looping cut-out pass, and then again five minutes out from full-time when Maloney put through an early kick on the second tackle with no Gold Coast defenders in sight.

Fullback Dylan Edwards also celebrated a double when racing on to a couple of Jarome Luai passes.

Penrith will back themselves to chase a seventh straight win when they host St George Illawarra next Friday night in a game that should mark the return of halfback Nathan Cleary, who received a cortisone injection during the week but simply ran out of time to shake off the ankle injury that cost him his Blues jersey for the Origin decider.

While the mood has dramatically lifted at the foot of the mountains, the same cannot be said for the Gold Coast and coach Garth Brennan.

Head over heels: Brian To'o scores an acrobatic try against the Titans.

Head over heels: Brian To'o scores an acrobatic try against the Titans. Credit:NRL Photos

Brennan is a dead man walking and will be lucky to see out next week, let alone the season.

Mal Meninga is expected to hand down his review into the club's operations on Monday, and Brennan's cause was not helped when his players made just one line-break and missed 36 tackles.

Not even six straight penalties in the first half could inspire a try for the visitors.

And to think next weekend they will enjoy a Sunday afternoon game at home – against tearaway competition leaders Melbourne.

Luai did well to keep the ball alive in a set when he eventually found Edwards, who dived over for a try on the half hour.

Maloney, two days after sealing another Origin series victory, launched a 40m dropout that took a bounce and dribbled over the sideline to force a fresh set.

At the double: A pair of tries from Brian To'o helped the Panthers post their sixth straight win.

At the double: A pair of tries from Brian To'o helped the Panthers post their sixth straight win.Credit:NRL Photos

The playmaker then hoisted one up to the heavens, AJ Brimson made a meal of it, Maloney regathered and then found To'o.

Maloney was able to add a penalty goal to make it a 14-2 half-time lead and what looked like shaping as a second-half savaging.

The Panthers lost gun backrower Kikau for a brief spell as he struggled with gastro.

Brent Naden celebrated his new two-year extension by running for a staggering 150m by half-time out in the centres.

Gold Coast lost Dale Copley to concussion but would have struggled if they had 20 men on the bench as opposed to just three.

One of the biggest cheers was for debutant Jed Cartwright, the son of club legend and Manly assistant coach John Cartwright, when he ran on to the field in the 45th minute.

The Titans had their chances with Will Matthews piggy-backing Edwards nearly all the way to the line only to cough up the ball the next set as they tried to push for points.

Moeaki Fotuaika also couldn't hold on to a ball near the line in the first half.

Local junior To'o now has three tries in seven NRL games and has been a wonderful addition for Cleary, as has left centre Naden.

Just how Maloney continues to cope with the physical and mental demands at this time of year proves why he is one of the best and most durable in the game.