The Penrith Panthers had their eyes on a return to the top of the table as the travelled to the Cbus Super Stadium to take on the Gold Coast Titans. The bookies thought that it was a foregone conclusion, with the Titans languishing in fourteenth place in the table.
Both coaches made a myriad of changes to last weekends sides. Justin Holbrook brought in Dale Copley, Jai Whitehead, Kevin Proctor, Nathan Peats and Sam Stone while Ivan Cleary named Caleb Aekins, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Matt Burton and Mitch Kenny in his Panthers side.
The final game of round eleven looked, on paper at least, as though it would be one-way traffic.
Intense pressure on the Titans line in the opening stages of the game saw them get their opener on ten minutes. A penalty gifted the Panthers a repeat sent twenty out before fast hands saw the ball end up in the hands of Josh Mansour to dive over in the left corner. Nathan Cleary pulled his conversion wide of the near upright.
On fifteen the Panthers were in again. Stephen Crichton took a bullet pass from Jerome Luai on the Titans thirty to sprint through a broken Titans defence and ground without a tackler laying a hand on him. This time Cleary kicked the conversion for a 10-0 lead, the early signs were ominous for Gold Coast.
A sensational Jamal Fogarty try, against the run of play, got the Titans on the scoreboard. The half-back picked up a ricocheted kick inside his own ten metre line and went ninety metres down the right wing to dive over under the last-ditch tackle of Brent Naden.
On thirty minutes Isaah Yeo found a path between four tacklers to stretch for the line and get the ball on the ground for the third Panthers try. Cleary was again accurate with the boot to make it 16-4.
The Titans grabbed themselves a lifeline two from half time when Ryan Kelly spectacularly grounded an Ashley Taylor grubber kick just centimetres inside the field of play. Taylor smashed his kick between the uprights to reduce the margin to six points.
With twenty seconds left on the clock Anthony Don benefitted from a quick play the ball to step past the Panthers defence from two metres to ground in the right corner. Taylor hit the far upright with his conversion attempt, but somehow, after being totally dominated for the whole half, the Titans went into the sheds trailing by just two points.
The sides re-emerged into rain, throwing another unknown into an extraordinary match.
The second half was deadlocked until the sixty-first minute when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak finally found some space wide down the right to squeeze past the Titans winger and round to improve the angle for Cleary to kick the goal and extend the lead to eight points.
It was the last points of the game as the Titans were kept pointless in the second half, but the Panthers couldn't turn their dominance into more points.
Despite getting a real scare from the unfancied Titans, the Panthers did enough to secure the win and regain their place at the top of the pile at the end of round eleven. It was stoic defence, and some opportunism which kept the Titans in the game but good work in the opening twenty was enough for the Panthers.
Gold Coast Titans: Thompson, Don (T), Kelly (T), Copley, Sami, Taylor (G), Fogarty (T), Fotuaika, Peats, Jolliffe, Proctor, Stone, Arrow. Subs: Boyd, Peachey, Wallace, Whitbread.
Penrith Panthers: Aekins, Mansour (T), Naden, Crichton (T), Watene-Zelezniak (T), Luai, Cleary (3G), Tamou, Kenny, Fisher-Harris, Yeo (T), Martin, May. Subs: Burton, Leniu, Leota, Burns.
Referee: Adam Gee.
Ground: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast.