He is their trump card paid to win games but Titans coach Garth Brennan decided to keep halfback Ash Taylor out of the fray as his side broke their 2019 duck with a 30-24 win over Penrith on Friday night.

Fielding the same spine for the first time this year, the Titans scored twice in the opening 20 minutes to find themselves in the unfamiliar position of leading yet seven minutes later watched their star half limp down the tunnel.

In the sheds after the game Taylor told NRL.com that he suffered a knock to the outside of his left knee when he put in a kick for the first time in the opening minutes but battled on until late in the first half.

Replaced by the energetic AJ Brimson, Taylor was cleared by the Titans medical staff to return to the field but was not called upon in a frantic second half, Brennan unwilling to risk further injury and insert a player into the defensive line who wasn’t physically 100 per cent.

“Was he right to go back? Yes he was, but we didn't know what we were dealing with,” Brennan explained after a well-earned 30-24 win.

“We don't know whether it's bone bruising or whether there's a fracture, we're not quite sure what we're dealing with there.

"He wanted to go back but just looking at his body and looking at him at half-time I just wasn't confident to put him back out there and risk further injury or risk him letting the team down with a missed tackle or whatever it may have been.

"He was obviously in a fair bit of discomfort and he never recovered. There was that kick pressure that he never really recovered from. The doctor was checking him out but I wasn't going to risk him if his body wasn't right.

"That try when [Viliame] Kikau went through him probably showed that he wasn't quite up for it and we had a handy replacement there in AJ Brimson. I was crazy not to use it.”

In Taylor’s absence Tyrone Roberts took the reins and played a key role in getting his side on the front foot, scoring the Titans’ first try and putting in the kick for Anthony Don to put the home side in front.

When the Panthers struck twice early in the second half to lead 24-18 the Titans were staring down the barrel of a fifth straight defeat yet refused to yield, a try to Jarrod Wallace and penalty try to Bryce Cartwright getting them across the line.

Titans prop Jarrod Wallace.
Titans prop Jarrod Wallace. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

"A big factor I thought was after half-time when they went back-to-back tries and we went from being six points in front to six points behind,” said Brennan.

“This team in the past might have thought they'd had a crack for 40 minutes and maybe tonight wasn't their night.

"I knew they weren't going to give up but I knew we weren't going to give up either.

"A few of the defensive sets when Penrith were coming out of trouble showed me the desire in the football team that I knew was there.

"The ball hasn't been bouncing our way but I knew if we kept working hard it would go our way eventually.”