Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Panthers put smile on Cleary's face

Former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Panthers 36
Titans 22

It has been a extremely trying season for Ivan Cleary but he had reason to smile yesterday.

The Panthers celebrated back to back wins for just the second time in 2012 and virtually guaranteed they will avoid the wooden spoon, in the process ending any play-off aspirations of the Titans.

The former Warriors coach has struggled in West Sydney, coming into a dressing room that had been accustomed to a player-driven culture.

He has had to make some hard calls, demoting several high-profile players to the NSW Cup and also falling out with former club captain Luke Lewis. But the Cleary revolution has yet to bear real fruit, with the Panthers notching just seven wins before this match.

At least events of the past week give some hope for the future, allied with the potential of the Penrith NYC team who set a new Toyota Cup record with a 78-0 demolition of their Gold Coast counterparts in the earlier match.

The Titans made the perfect start, with David Mead scoring on their first set of six after a Matt Srama break.

Panthers speedster Brad Tighe replied seven minutes later, before Scott Prince restored the visitors' lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Titans had dominated the half and were good for their lead but the home side finally awoke, scoring tries to Tighe and Michael Jennings in the latter stages of the first half.

William Zillman brought the Titans closer in the 47th minute to give some hope but two tries in two minutes to Josh Mansour (a contender for try of the season) and Jennings killed off any hopes for the Titans. Tighe completed his first NRL hat trick in the 73rd minute before Mark Minichiello crossed for a late consolation try.

Panthers 36 (B. Tighe 3, M. Jennings 2, J. Mansour tries; L. Walsh 6 goals) Titans 22 (D. Mead, S. Prince, W. Zillman, M. Minichiello tries; S. Prince 3 goals). Halftime: 18-12.

- Herald on Sunday

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