Taylor a Star of the Present and Future
Many critics have labelled halfback Ashley Taylor a star of the future ever since his days as the Holden Cup under 20’s player of the year as a junior Bronco, however the 21 year old showed on Sunday that he can already be a star right now. In just his 11th game in the NRL, Taylor outshone experienced rivals Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace to help the Titans snatch a 78th minute victory. Despite losing his halves partner Tyrone Roberts early in the second half, Taylor took control of the match, scoring an impressive solo try in the 75th minute to make the score 24-22 in the Panthers favour. Taylor then showed no signs of nerves while kicking the conversion, tying the game up at 24 a piece. When Tyrone Peachy dropped the ball close to the try line, it was Taylor who showed great desperation to pick it up and race 40 odd metres before offloading the ball, which lead to the match winning try on the ensuing play the ball.
Panthers with Little to Show for First Half Domination
The Titans can thank their lucky stars that a dominating first half by the Panthers only equated to two tries. The Panthers spent what seemed like an eternity of the first 40 camped in the Titans own half of the field, however a combination of errors, bad luck, strong defence, and questionable refereeing saw the scoreline stay at just 12-6, with the Panthers only coming up with one try during their repeated efforts at attacking the Titans goal line. There were instances in which bad luck could be blamed for tries not being scored, however Penrith’s attack was very flimsy on the right side of the field, with the ball going straight behind receivers on multiple occasions.
Physical Game sees Battle Scars
In a hard-hitting, brutal affair, both teams felt the burden of the injury bug. The Panthers lost Peta Hiku in the 42nd minute to what is suspected to be an ACL injury, which could be season ending. Forward James-Fisher Harris was also reduced to just 32 minutes after suffering a badly broken thumb, while Reagan Campbell-Gillard appeared to have broken his nose. The Titans also had an injury setback when halfback Tyrone Roberts was assisted off the field with a badly corked knee. The injury appears positive in the long term, as Roberts was desperately trying to rehabilitate by stretching and riding the training bicycle, in an attempt to get back onto the field for the game, however he stayed on the sidelines as a precautionary. Both sides were also affected by the concussion ruling, with some brutal hits sending Titans Ashley Taylor and Greg Bird off for a testing, as well as the Panthers Jamie Soward, however all three passed and returned to the field.
Are the Titans a Genuine Top Eight Chance?
If you had of asked this question in the pre-season, you would have undoubtedly been laughed at, probably even by Titans fans. However, after a gritty start to the season, the Titans have shown that they are a far better team than they appear to be on paper. The win against the Panthers was their fifth of the season, pushing them to 10th position, on equal points with the 8th placed Raiders. Although they lack the star player or game breaker that most other teams possess, the Titans have proven to be the most courageous side in 2016, and are clearly putting their all in for each other on the field. Their last ditch try in the 78th minute- which put them in front for the first time all game- was symbolic of their never-give-up attitude that they’ve shown all season. Although their first finals appearance since 2010 still seems unlikely at this stage, if they continue to show the heart they have so far, nothing is impossible.