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84:00
3:00pm Sat August 11, 2018
Round 22 - Cbus Super Stadium - Crowd: 11283

Round 22: Titans v Panthers preview

The top-of-the-table clash between the Rabbitohs and Roosters was initially the most highly-anticipated of the weekend but it certainly has some competition.

The Penrith Panthers announced earlier in the week that they would be sacking coach Anthony Griffin. And the media response has been relentless.

While the majority of fans have come out in support of Griffin, Saturday afternoon's game will offer an interesting insight into the most important aspect of the news - what the players think.

Former Panthers players Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro have both come out earlier this week to claim that they weren't the biggest fans with Griffin's "boring" and "negative" game plans.

Segeyaro had some more choice words. There have even been suggestions that Griffin has stripped the Panthers of their ad-lib, exciting brand of footy.

Whether this is true or not may never be known. However, by half time on Saturday afternoon we may have a clearer picture.

Fill-in coach Cameron Ciraldo has stuck with the same seventeen that took down the Raiders last week.

While Griffin may be a more conservative personality, attack hasn't been the problem for the Panthers in recent weeks. Instead, they have fell apart in defence, having conceded an average of 35 points in the past three weeks.

Perhaps a change of coach will inspire more resilience from the tiring Panthers?

Quite simply, they need to make a statement. If they are to make a run to the premiership, it starts at 3pm on Saturday.

Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan will be quietly optimistic given the pressure currently on Penrith.

His side has escaped any real criticism after a disappointing 28-12 loss to the last-placed Eels.

The result was even more dejecting given that only the week before the Titans had dismantled the Warriors by 24 points.

The Gold Coast should avoid the wooden spoon in 2018 but a victory on Saturday afternoon will guarantee it.

All eyes will be on the Panthers when they run out at Cbus Super Stadium and the Titans will look to take advantage of the distraction.

Last meeting: Round 6 2018 - Panthers 35 Titans 12

Who to watch: For the home side, the form of Nathan Peats and Mitch Rein will go a long way to deciding the result of Saturday's game. Penrith appear to be persisting with the inexperienced Sione Katoa and Tyrone May but the former has struggled at times to dominate the ruck. Peats and Rein are both accomplished hookers by their own right but each offer something different. Peats has the experience and control while Rein is dynamic out of dummy-half. They need to get quick service to their big men if they are to topple Penrith's imposing pack.

I asked James Maloney to stand up last week and he had yet another mixed performance. The Raiders continually sent attacking raids down his side and it was working. The five-eighth missed 12 tackles and still looks hampered by a number of injuries. He finally rose to the occasion late but will need to take greater leadership this week. With Griffin gone, the Panthers will be searching for guidance and their skipper needs to deliver.

The favourite: Penrith are favoured despite being the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week.

My tip: This will go one of two ways. Either the Titans will stun the distracted Panthers or Penrith will rally behind Ciraldo and put in one of their strongest efforts of the year. Given his close connection to the club, I will opt with the latter. Panthers by 22.