Penrith Panthers skipper Matt Moylan soldiers through pain in victory over Gold Coast Titans

Guts and glory: Matt Moylan winces his way to the line for an unlikely try to the hobbled skipper. Photo: AAP
Guts and glory: Matt Moylan winces his way to the line for an unlikely try to the hobbled skipper. Photo: AAP

Matt Moylan was lame, but the Panthers skipper on one leg can sometimes be as good as anyone else on two.

So in a year where the pre-season premiership favourites look like limping into the NRL finals, their talisman eking out 30-odd metres - praying he doesn't hear a ping while hobbling over for an intercept try - just about summed up how things have been at the foot of the mountains.

It hasn't been pretty all year. And probably won't be any time soon. But Penrith are winning again, to the point they might return to the top eight if the Dragons crash to a heavy loss against Manly on Sunday afternoon.

That hammy? It might be hanging by a thread. It might not be. You're never quite sure with Moylan, grinning sheepishly when it came to the only muscle anyone cared talking about down Mulgoa Road on Saturday evening.

The official line was just tightness. About as tight as the finals highwire Anthony Griffin's men have been walking for weeks. So what chance of him fronting up five days later against a listless Bulldogs?

"I reckon I'll be sweet," said Moylan, who missed last week's win over the Warriors with the same hamstring tightness. "It was just something I had to deal with. I knew it was a bit tight in that first half and I just tried to manage it through.

"We just didn't want to risk doing too much to it. The coaching staff thought it was a good idea to come off and we had several players who could fill in and do a good job for us [in the last 15 minutes] so we changed it."

Over the line: The Panthers rejoice after sealing the match. Photo: AAP

Over the line: The Panthers rejoice after sealing the match. Photo: AAP

Moylan lasted an hour, just long enough to come up with the play Penrith had been searching for all afternoon to defy the plucky Titans 24-16 at Pepper Stadium on Saturday. Yet there were more than a few wondering how he snaffled Ash Taylor's stray pass so quickly.

“[Taylor] saw something and young Moylan was pretty quick to get there given he's got a sore hamstring," Titans coach Neil Henry quipped. "I don't think he had to run too far."

Thankfully. Because if the hobble had started from inside his own half rather than the Titans' end of the field, Moylan wouldn't have made the try line. Worse still his hamstring mightn't have either.

But as soon as their No.1 gun crept off, Nathan Cleary iced the game for the Panthers, who suddenly look like a team that just might do something in September.

"It wasn't pretty, but that's just what it's like this time of year sometimes," Griffin said. "Obviously two teams out there fighting out over a valuable two points and at times it got messy.

"Everyone realises this is the time of year we want to be playing our best footy - I don't know how far off our best we are - but we're getting the job done at the moment."

If the red pen hasn't been put through the Titans yet, it's hovering. They've been cut four points adrift of the eighth-placed Dragons and finals fringe dwellers Penrith - and still have to play the Broncos and Roosters before the end of the year.

While Moylan's hamstring stayed intact - barely - the same can't be said for Gold Coast's leading try-scorer Konrad Hurrell, who couldn't last 10 minutes before tearing his own hamstring.

"I don't want to be blunt, but they're lucky," Henry said. "They got a result. I thought we worked really hard and were all over them. It was a 6-2 penalty count in the second half and possession was 60 per cent to them.

"I think the difference in the game, which everyone knows, is we gifted [Penrith] two tries. You shouldn't be conceding tries when you're in possession."

The first of those came when Tyrone Roberts had the ball wedged from his grasp late in the first half, prompting Waqa Blake's one-hand pick-up and near 70-metre dash for the first of his two tries.

It evened the scores at the break and the Panthers put the foot down afterwards, no thanks to Moylan's heads-up play when they needed it most in the first meeting of the sides since Reagan Campbell-Gillard's serious back injury.

Their big prop ran for 189 metres - bettered only by Blake - and knows what they do five days later against the Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium can determine their finals fate.

"It's pretty much [a case of] keep the jerseys on and sleep in them," he said.

This story first appeared on Brisbane Times.