Crikey Sports introduces Pat Byrne, project manager and sports fan who, in conjunction with Crikey Sports, will be publishing a weekly column where he thinks outside the square in bringing you the game of the week as he sees it … in a box…

Pat Byrne, blogger and “Game-in-a-box” creator writes:

There is a point in a season for some teams where they have to get desperate just to give themselves a slim chance or just to save face. For others that same point might be where they need to keep winning to guarantee a position in the finals. They need to win to maintain the momentum because if they stumble, they are gone.

The former team is at the bottom of the hill just trying to get started knowing they have a huge mountain in front but also knowing it isn’t quite too late. The latter team is part way up the mountain but knows, if they slip, the lead climbers will be out of reach.

The Gold Coast Titans (15th or second last) are in the former’s position at the bottom of the mountain, whilst the Penrith Panthers (10th) are in with a chance if they keep winning.

The Titans certainly came out relatively hard and it augured well for their must-win home game. A try in the fifth minute to Mead off a Prince bomb seemed to signal their intent and that their horrible run of being held up over the try-line from last week’s game was over. But after that try, the Panthers slowly tightened the screws, much like the St George Dragons do.

The second try of the game, to Jennings, also seemed to be an omen.  It was Jennings’ first try in the NRL this season! Alas, later in the game, he injured his ankle and it looks like he is gone for Origin II. But that try coming off a Waterhouse charge down showed just how fast Jennings is … again.  Maybe this will open the flood gates for him and Penrith.

The Panthers second try came from a little grubber by Dennis which finished with Kingston diving on it. The Panther’s mostly dominated this half but the late come back in that first half by the Titans held that domination score to just 3.50%.

The Titans started the second half as they finished the first, on top. They scored as a result, just three minutes in. And it was Preston Campbell trickery that did it.  He was 9 metres out and he dribbled it from left of the posts toward the posts. He had to tap it again with his foot but then managed to dive on it just before it went over the dead ball line.  It was 10 all at this point.

Later, Civoniceva split the Titans right up the middle from 50 metres out and then eventually Purtell went over under the posts. The Panthers dominated then for most of the half and with less than ten minutes to go, the Panthers’ Walsh popped over a field goal to ensure the Titans had to score twice. I marked this as a turning point as the Titans responded and for a short while dominated. But it was as if it was their last real shot and they never recovered after releasing that shot.  The Panthers then camped down on the Titans line with some massive possession and eventually the Titans broke.  The Panthers scored to make it 23 to 10 and four tries to two.

Overall it was a pretty scrappy game with the less scrappy team the winner. But that scrappiness is perhaps indicative of their standing in the competition ladder. That scrappiness leads to a disjointed attack and defence and that puts pressure on the team and lets good teams get in and to dominate.

A second half domination of 10.00% and an overall domination of just short of 7.00%, should have been more for the Panthers. But alas, their own game let them down. In the end, it was the Panthers that held their play together enough to keep climbing up that ladder and left the Titans languishing.