THE WRAP: Titans v Panthers
Statistics can show a lot of things – discipline, work-rate and even a player’s desire.
So if we look at below it’s obvious that Ryan James was again tireless (48 tackles, 16 runs or 120 metres), Josh Hoffman was busy and effective on the left edge (134 metres from 15 carries) and Nathan Peats’ has a huge defensive attitude (42 tackles in his 58 minute son the field).
However, what showed at Pepper Stadium yesterday that is not obvious in the match stats was the development of some of the team’s least experienced players into young men who can have a big impact on the Titans results.
Like the fact that in five victories this season, the team has had to come from behind to win. And the faith in each other to do that can’t be measured in stats.
In the absence of Tyrone Roberts for the last 34 minutes of the match, Ash Taylor continued to come of age by making some clinch plays that he didn’t seem able to make earlier in the season.
He put up the awkward bomb that was dropped by Panthers fullback Matt Moylan, then in the resulting set had the confidence, and speed, to dummy outside and run from 10 metres and score the match-levelling try seven minutes from the end.
He was there to scoop up a fumble by Panther Tyrone Peachey and set the Titans downfield, setting up the opportunity for Anthony Don to win the match with two and a half minutes to do. He took control when he was most needed.
Agnatius Paasi, raw and inconsistent last season, showed he is one of the most dynamic players close to the line with his fourth try of 2016, again from his ability to squirm through tackles and reach the line – when his side needs a lift. He is second in the Titans’ try-scoring lists with four, behind second-rower Zeb Taia (five) – his last two coming in the 39th minute against the Roosters that saw the Titans come from behind to go to the sheds leading 8-6 at the break, and in the 36th minute yesterday he backed himself again and saw his team go to the sheds at 12-all at the break.
Anthony Don’s match-winning try was spectacular, but it was the contributions in the lead-up which showed his the Titans side is starting to develop.
It began with great pressure by James (who brilliantly charged down Moses Mbye in the 80th minute of the Bulldogs clash) on Penrith halfback Peter Wallace that saw the ball shifted wide to the left and Tyrone Peachey drop the ball. It was Taylor who snapped it up and found Leivaha Pulu who sent the ball to Nathan Davis who was tackled.
Pulu, in the 78th minute of his 11th NRL appearance, had the desire, energy and awareness to get off the ground after being tackled, double to the right and pick up the pass from dummy-half William Zillman and throw the try-assist pass, his second crucial play in the lead-up to Don’s for the match-winner.
Davis, in his fifth NRL game, earlier had pulled off a tremendous hit of Isaah Yeo, leapt high above the Panthers for a Taylor bomb and looked to have scored an earlier potential match-winner but lost the ball on grounding it, and generally competed like a player with far more experience.
KEY MATCH STATS
POSSESSION: Titans 45%, Panthers 55%
COMPLETION RATE: Titans 79% (27/34), Panthers 78% (31/40)
ERRORS: Titans 10, Panthers 10.
TACKLES: Titans 307 (missed 33), Panthers 279 (missed 23)
OFFLOADS: Titans 10, Panthers 18.
LINE BREAKS: Titans 5, Panthers 4
PENALTIES: Panthers 8-4
TOP TACKLERS: Ryan James 48, Nathan Peats 42, Chris McQueen 34, Zeb Taia 25, Greg Bird 23, Nathan Friend 23, Luke Douglas 21.
TOP METRE MAKERS: Josh Hoffman 134, Nene Macdonald 130, Agnatius Paasi 125, William Zillman 123, Ryan James 120, Greg Bird 116.
HIT-UPS/RUNS: Ryan James 16, Greg Bird 15, Nene Macdonald 15, Josh Hoffman 12, William Zillman 11, Ash Taylor 11, Nathan Peats 10.
TOP MINUTES (forwards): Taia 80, Bird 75, James 75, McQueen 61, Peats 58, Paasi 45, Friend 34, Douglas 32, Pulu 31, Pettybourne 27.