Panthers v Bulldogs: Five Key Points
The Panthers led for the entire contest, but a late try to Moses Mbye and a clutch conversion from debutante Kerrod Holland meant the Bulldogs stole victory in Round 2 at Pepper Stadium. Here are five things we observed from the contest.
Kerrod Holland's conversion after the siren to win the game would have challenged the mental toughness of seasoned veterans. That he did it on his NRL debut makes the feat even more incredible.
The rookie centre stepped up with time expired to convert Moses Mbye's late try, and made no mistakes in front of a hostile Penrith crowd.
"It's a debut that dreams are made of. It'll be particularly memorable for him, this one. I thought he was steady tonight and came up with the big plays when he had to," his coach Des Hasler said.
Holland's club captain was elated for his young teammate, and never doubted he would kick the match-winning goal.
"What a debut for him. I had all the belief in the world in him to slot it over, and I think it meant a lot to him. I'm very proud of him," Graham said.
As for Holland himself, he was full of confidence.
"It was always going over, I knew straight away" he said in a post match interview.
"I knew we had it won, as soon as he [Moses Mbye] went over, all the confidence in the world."
Panthers close, but not close enough
The Panthers have started 2016 with two straight losses, but could have easily won them both.
A combined losing margin of just 10 points highlights how tight the competition is, and should give Penrith fans confidence that their side isn't far from success.
New coach Anthony Griffin was proud of the way his side competed and believes his team will take plenty from their heartbreaking start to the season.
"I was impressed with the whole 80 minutes, the way we're building performances," Griffin said.
"Obviously as a team it's heartbreaking. But as a team, we're getting a bit better every week. We're learning the lessons we need to learn. I can't rap us enough for our effort and the way we're going about things."
History repeats at Pepper Stadium
For the second time in three years, a match between the Panthers and Bulldogs has finished 18-16 with an 80th minute conversion from the left sideline proving the difference.
Matt Moylan was the hero in Round 3, 2014, coolly converting a last-minute Kevin Naiqama try, while debutant Kerrod Holland was the man of the moment on Thursday night, etching his name into Bulldogs' folklore with a match-winning kick of his own.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler hadn't forgotten the 2014 loss, and joked that the Panthers owed his side the win.
Wallace looks comfortable at dummy-half
It was never going to be easy trying to replace someone with the class of James Segeyaro, but Peter Wallace slotted in seamlessly for the Panthers on Friday night.
Initially named to play halfback, the veteran playmaker made the transition to No.9 and controlled the game well for his side.
His coach was happy with the effort shown by his skipper, and believes the decision to play him out of position was what was best for the team.
"I thought Pete did a great job there. I thought he had really good control. He steadied the team a lot," Griffin said
"We didn't have a hooker. Both our hookers were injured. I thought for the team it would work with Peter and his experience in there, picking the ball up first and Jamie playing behind him. I thought it worked really well.
"At this moment, at this time, with this team, once we lost Segeyaro it was the best solution for us. We could've thrown a kid in there that wasn't ready in a really heavyweight slugfest.
"We needed some experience out there. I thought the team functioned really well and part of the reason we functioned well was because we had a really cool head in there making decisions at dummy half."
Bulldogs looking forward to home
For the first time since 2012, the Bulldogs have started a season with back-to-back wins.
Coach Des Hasler was clearly pleased with the way his team has started the new year, particularly given both of their wins came on the road.
The Canterbury mentor is looking to continue the momentum next week, but is wary of a Parramatta side that is on the up.
"It's a good start for us to get consecutive wins," the Canterbury coach said.
"I think we go home for the first time next week. I think it's a local derby against Parramatta. They were particularly impressive even though they had a loss last week. It'll be another big one next Friday."