By STEVE MASCORD
CONTROVERSIAL winger James Roberts made good on the second chance offered him by Penrith with a hat-trick as the Panthers continued to make a mockery of claims 2013 is a “rebuilding year”.
Sacked by South Sydney for disciplinary reason, Roberts scored three second half tries before 8050 fans at Darwin’s TIO Stadium in a 40-18 pizzling for Gold Coast.
The Panthers moved into sixth place with the victory, secured after the scores were locked 12-12 at halftime, but coach Ivan Cleary continues to insist the Mountain Men are planning for the future.
The loss of Jamal Idris last week shapes as a costly one for the Titans; they have been beaten by a total of 52 points in their last two starts.
Gold Coast had an early opportunity when Penrith fullback Matt Moylan dropped a bomb but in the opening minutes but the Panthers’ defence was equal to the task.
However, the contest soon became a kicking war, with another towering bomb aimed at Moylan bringing points when he collided with Titans winger Kevin Gordon in the air
The ball spewed out and was shovelled by Matt Srama out to Papua New Guinea winger David Mead who dotted down just inside the corner post. Referee Alan Shortall provisionally awarded a try but wanted to check the contest.
Video referees Bernard Sutton and Neil Warton ruled that Gordon had his eyes on the ball and had not taken out Moylan in the air. The green button was pushed, with the normally reliable Aiden Sezer shanking his conversion attempt.
The bombs continued to rain down on both fullbacks, with Titan Jahrome Hughes on debut, but the second try of the game came across the ground.
Panthers halfback Luke Walsh spied a gap from five metres out and stepped his way through, planting the ball on the stripe without a centimetre to spare with his left hand. It was St Helens-bound Walsh’s first touchdown since round 19 last year. His conversion extended his run of consecutive goals to 23.
The fumbling wasn’t restricted to the defusing of bombs and after knock-ons both ways, Penrith was awarded a scrumfeed in centrefield in the 26th minute and made their opponents pay.
From the scrum win, the Panthers spread the ball swiftly to the right and centre Dean Whare did exceptionally well to suck in two defenders and give winger David Simmons a clear run to the tryline. Walsh kept his run of goals going, with a conversion for a 12-4 lead.
The portents were poor at this stage for the Titans, beaten by 30 the previous weekend, but they managed to cart the ball into enemy territory and at 31 minutes and got the right end of a highly contentious knock-on call against Moylan.
The fullback appeared to knock the ball back but the match officials ruled otherwise, giving the Titans a scrum feed deep in enemy territory. But hooker Srama spilt the ball over the line in big a let off for the Panthers.
However, when Penrith replacement Mose Masoe was booked for a crusher tackle on Albert Kelly in the 35th minute, Gold Coast was able to capitalise on the penalty. Mead easily snaffled a kick to his wing to dot down without a hand laid on him, and Sezer goaled magnificently to narrow the margin to two.
The scoreboard ticked over to 12-12 with Sezer’s penalty goal, after a Panthers illegality in the tackle, a minute short of the break.
After halftime, however, it was a slaughter.
Panthers winger James Roberts scored consecutive tries in the 45th and 49th minutes, the first off a nice Brad Tighe offload and the second from Isaac John’s towering bomb, to tick the scoreline over to 24-12.
Walsh’s run of successful goal-kicks finally came to an end late in the match.
Penrith hooker James Segeyaro burst into the clear in the 53rd minute, kicking ahead for Simmons to post his second touchdown.
Before kick-off, the Panthers omitted Kiwi Lewis Brown due to a hamstring injury. Hard-hitting Adam Docker was a late inclusion at lock.
PENRITH 40 (J Roberts 3 L Walsh D Simmons tries L Walsh 2 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (D Mead 2 tries A Sezer 2 goals) at TIO Stadium, Darwin. Referees: A Shortall/H Perenara. Crowd: 8050.
Filed for SUN-HERALD