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Jennings remaining positive despite Panthers' ability to self-combust

Date

Steve Mascord

TITANS 36 PANTHERS 18

Titans players celebrate a try in their win against the Penrith Panthers at Skilled Park.

Titans players celebrate a try in their win against the Penrith Panthers at Skilled Park. Photo: Matt Roberts

Michael Jennings last night summed up the predicament Penrith find themselves in in simple terms. ''We've got to win every game from now on,'' he said as he left Skilled Park.

MATCH STATS

The NSW centre had just played in a 36-18 loss to Gold Coast that came despite the Titans losing three players - including NSW star Greg Bird - to injury in the first 45 minutes.

Under new coach Ivan Cleary, the Panthers have won just four times this year and host Parramatta in a possible wooden-spoon duel on Saturday. Before yesterday's defeat they lost Luke Lewis (groin), Josh Mansour (back), Travis Burns (eye) and Sam McKendry (calf) from their nominated team and underwent a reshuffle so dramatic some players even changed their jersey numbers, a rarity in the modern game.

But the upheavals at Penrith, well documented in recent weeks, go much deeper and were exemplified by fullback Lachlan Coote being dropped, getting a late reprieve for Mansour yesterday and then presenting Gold Coast with two gift tries on a forgettable afternoon.

''It's not the best season - we're doing it tough,'' Jennings told the Herald as he made his way to the team bus, ''But … we've got to come back from this. We've got to move past everything.

''Obviously it is tough with new coaches and all that, and all their new systems and structures but we've trained all off-season for it, so we've got to build, we shouldn't use that as an excuse for our performances. It's us boys out there.

''[It] doesn't help with a couple of boys out. It wasn't the best prep but you've got to come back strong from that. We've just got to stick together. Then we've just got to come to Parramatta, worry about that game and build from that.''

Despite his walking wounded - Burns seems to have played half of Monday night with a fractured eye socket - Cleary left the door ajar for more changes.

''It's a balance, it's always the same,'' he said after the six tries-to-three defeat. ''You've just got to work at getting the best combination you can and this week will be no different. We'll get the best team that we can muster together and go from there.''

When Gold Coast led 6-0 after 11 minutes yesterday, things looked OK for the Panthers. Titans five-eighth Aidan Sezer had come up with the ball after a Scott Prince bomb had been passed from Kevin Gordon to Steve Michaels but Beau Champion (ankle) was gone and Matt Srama (shoulder) was on his way.

Jennings burst into the clear at 15 minutes but was run down by Prince and Gordon.

Not long afterwards, captain Prince intercepted a wayward Coote pass 20 metres from the Titans' line and offloaded to a flying David Mead who singed the grass on the way to Gold Coast's second try.

Coote was consoled by teammates but his later fumble was snapped up by Michaels for Gold Coast's next try, and in the second half the former City Origin custodian was unceremoniously hooked by Cleary. ''You saw the game,'' the coach said. ''It was a bit of an opportunity, at that stage of the game, to see Arana [Taumata] at fullback and give Harry [Seijka] some more time.''

So by the time Bird departed with his pectoral muscle problem, Penrith were 24-0 in a hole following Sezer's second. The loss of three players did not dent Gold Coast's confidence, Prince said, because ''you don't really realise it when you're out there''.

The twinkle-toed effort of South Australian junior Brenton Lawrence to run 40 metres on the way to his 50th-minute try was the Titans' summit yesterday.

Penrith finished with a three-try flourish, Taumata grounding Luke Walsh's kick, Cameron Ciraldo crashing over and Ryan Simpkins taking four points back off his former club.

During this final 21 minutes, Gold Coast also managed a last try, to Luke O'Dwyer, who had come on as Champion's replacement.

''I didn't expect that,'' Cleary said. ''Yeah, we could probably reach out for some excuses and we did have some disruptions, but it was an exercise in self-mutilation for us. We directly handed them two tries …''

GOLD COAST 36 (A Sezer 2 B Lawrence D Mead S Michaels L O'Dwyer tries S Prince 6 goals) bt PENRITH 18 (C Ciraldo R Simpkins A Taumata tries L Walsh 3 goals) at Skilled Park. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Phil Haines. Crowd: 11,591.

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Round 1
Thu, 03 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR vs BRI 20:05Pirtek
Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN vs CBY 20:05BO
Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBR vs PEN 15:00GIO
WST vs NZW 17:30CSS
NQL vs CRO 19:301300
Sun, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs SOU 16:00AS
GCT vs NEW 18:30Cbus
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MEL vs STG 19:00AAMI
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PEN vs CBY 20:05Pepp
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CBR vs SYD 15:00GIO
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PAR vs NQL 19:30Pirtek
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CRO vs STG 16:00Shark Park
MEL vs GCT 18:30AAMI
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NEW vs CBR 17:30HS
PEN vs BRI 19:30Pepp
GCT vs WST 21:30Cbus
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STG vs SOU 16:00SCG
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Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
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CBR vs GCT 17:30GIO
SYD vs MAN 19:30AS
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STG vs PEN 16:00WIN
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Thu, 31 MarTimes shown AEDT
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NQL vs STG 19:301300
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Thu, 07 AprTimes shown AEST
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NZW vs MAN 17:30MSS
PEN vs NQL 19:30Pepp
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Thu, 14 AprTimes shown AEST
MAN vs PAR 19:50BO
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Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
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CBY vs GCT 15:00ANZ
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NEW vs MAN 14:00HS
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Round 9
Thu, 28 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU vs WST 19:50ANZ
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Thu, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
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CRO vs MAN 19:30Shark Park
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Round 12
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WST 19:50SUN
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CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO
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Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
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NQL vs NEW 17:301300
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Thu, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBR 19:50SUN
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PAR vs GCT 17:30TIO
SYD vs MEL 19:30AS
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Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
SOU vs PAR 19:50ANZ
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WST vs PEN 17:30ANZ
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Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR vs SYD 19:50Pirtek
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
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CBR vs NQL 19:00GIO
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Round 19
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
STG vs GCT 19:50Jubilee Oval
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MAN vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
SOU vs BRI 19:30ANZ
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Round 20
Thu, 21 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs CBY 19:501300
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs PEN 19:50SUN
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CBR vs NZW 15:00GIO
GCT vs PAR 17:30Cbus
MEL vs SYD 19:30AAMI
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CRO vs NEW 14:00Shark Park
STG vs WST 16:00ANZ
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SOU vs MAN 19:00ANZ
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Round 21
Wed, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs PEN 22:00MSS
Thu, 28 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
CBY vs STG 00:00ANZ
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SOU vs CBR 00:00ANZ
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Round 22
Thu, 04 AugTimes shown AEST
STG vs BRI 00:00WIN
PAR vs MAN 00:00Pirtek
CRO vs CBR 00:00Shark Park
NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
MEL vs SOU 00:00AAMI
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Round 23
Wed, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs SOU 22:00MSS
Thu, 11 AugTimes shown AEST
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BRI vs PAR 00:00SUN
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SYD vs NQL 00:00AS
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Round 24
Thu, 18 AugTimes shown AEST
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NEW vs GCT 00:00HS
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Round 25
Wed, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs WST 22:00MSS
Thu, 25 AugTimes shown AEST
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Round 26
Wed, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs PAR 22:00MSS
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NQL vs GCT 00:001300
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