Panthers thump Titans with Roberts hat-trick
Young Penrith winger James Roberts bagged a hat-trick in Saturday's 40-18 thumping of Gold Coast to push the Panthers into the NRL top eight for the first time this season.
The 20-year-old led a second-half blitz at Darwin's TIO Stadium, the Panthers overcoming the mid-winter heat and 12-12 halftime deadlock to score five unanswered tries.
Last week's woeful performance against Newcastle did little to spur on the Titans, who were without injured stars Jamal Idris and William Zillman - nor did debutants Jahrome Hughes and Hymel Hunt, despite solid performances from both.
"There's not enough desire and want, I think, and that shows," admitted Titans captain Greg Bird.
"We wanted to make amends and put that one behind us down in Newcastle, but I guess we replicated the performance."
Roberts crossed the line twice in three minutes early in the second half, before James Segeyaro put ball to boot for David Simmons' second try of the night.
A try to skipper Kevin Kingston and a third to Roberts blew the lead to 40-12, but a consolation four-pointer to Titans' halfback Albert Kelly ensured there was no repeat of last round's 30-point drubbing.
Dean Whare, a standout for the Panthers in the centres, said the win was a surprise but all went to plan.
"We came up two days early to try and combat this heat, and we won it in the first 10 minutes of both halves," he said.
"We went in with a game plan ... and the Titans were just unlucky there."
It was slippery night early on for Panthers fullback Matt Moylan, who was on the receiving end of a pin-point kicking game from Titans five-eighth Aidan Sezer.
Moylan dropped a bomb just a metre from his own line in the third minute, before letting slip a second high-ball two minutes later to gift David Mead the first try of the night.
Halfback Luke Walsh scored and converted his first try of the season soon after.
The Panthers' victory - their sixth from the past eight starts - has leapfrogged them into sixth spot on the NRL ladder, one point shy of Manly.
They face Parramatta away next Saturday night, while the Titans enjoy a week off with a bye to regroup.
Penrith Panthers 40 (J Roberts 3 D Simmons 2 K Kingston L Walsh tries L Walsh 6 goals) Gold Coast Titans 18 (D Mead 2 A Kelly tries A Sezer 3 goals) at TIO Stadium. Referee: Alan Shortall, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 8,050