Aquis Titans coach Neil Henry has lauded Penrith’s back three to be as good as any in the game ahead of the club’s crucial Round 25 showdown at Cbus Super Stadium.
Gold Coast is acutely aware of the threat posed by Panthers trio Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak as they prepare for the seventh (Penrith)-versus-eighth (Gold Coast) clash at Robina.
Between them, the back three average a combined 408 running metres per game, a statistic that will bite the Titans hard if their kick-chase is ineffective.
Mansour has been arguably the form winger in the competition after emerging from the State of Origin series as one of few Blues players who enhanced their reputation.
He has 13 tries from 21 games this year, leads the NRL for line breaks and is fourth for tackle busts.
His knee-pumping energy often bursts through for two carries in a set to help the Panthers generate momentum as they exit their defensive half.
Moylan, too, earns valuable real estate for his side but his creativity is a huge bonus in a side that also has Nathan Cleary and Bryce Cartwright calling the shots.
“Their back three is as good as any in the game right now,” Henry said.
“Moylan’s ability to play first receiver is a big plus. He can play as a half which is a bit of an indication where their attack’s going.”
There will be gripping match-ups across the park as Gold Coast aim to leapfrog Penrith and qualify for the club’s third NRL finals series.
All the eyes have so far been on the halfback duel between rookie of the year frontrunners Cleary and Ash Taylor.
“Cleary’s got an old head on his shoulders,” Henry said.
But the showdowns are endless.
Moylan versus Jarryd Hayne, Mansour versus Nene Macdonald, Greg Bird versus Trent Merrin and Nathan Peats against Peter Wallace all are intriguing sub-plots that will have a bearing on whether the Titans can seal a finals berth.
The Panthers have won five of their last six games while the Titans are almost as effective after winning four of their last five.
Titans forward Ryan James is aiming to be top of the props after adding two more tries to his season tally last week against Newcastle.
The front-rower needs just one more try to equal the all-time record for most tries in a season by a prop forward.
Former St George forward Jack Holland (11 tries in 1950) and former South Sydney front-rower Harry Eden (11 tries in 1975) currently share the record.