Panthers still upbeat despite tough start
New Penrith coach Anthony Griffin might have started his tenure at the foot of the mountains with two straight losses, but the experienced mentor is confident his side is heading in the right direction.
The Panthers suffered a heartbreaking 18-16 loss at Pepper Stadium against the Bulldogs on Thursday in a game Griffin believes his side could have easily won.
"It was a really strong performance. It was a terrible loss to have, but we'll learn from that. We'll be better for it," Griffin said after the game.
"Two weeks now we've been one play away and tonight we probably did enough to win but we didn't. So we've got to look that in the eye and get a bit better for next week.
"I was impressed the way we're building performances. As a team it's obviously heartbreaking tonight. We got beaten at the death, but as a team we're getting a little bit better every week and we're learning the things we need to learn. I can't rap us enough about our effort and the way we're going about things."
Griffin wouldn't be drawn on suggestions his side shouldn't have taken a kick at goal in the second half when they had the visitors on the ropes, instead bemoaning a defensive lapse at the death that allowed Moses Mbye to score for the Bulldogs.
"We got beaten on a couple of decision other than that. I don't want to go into all of them. But two minutes to go – or a minute and a half to go – we were going to win the game if we could have defended that last set," the Penrith coach said.
Skipper Peter Wallace was one of Penrith's best on Thursday night, setting up a try for Sam McKendry and controlling the game from dummy-half.
Despite being named at halfback, Wallace played the entire 80 minutes at hooker in place of the injured James Segeyaro; a move Griffin believes worked well.
"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," Griffin said.
Despite being 0-2 for the first time since 2009 – they also lost at home to the Bulldogs by two points in Round 2 that year – Wallace believes his side is on the right track heading into a grudge match against the Broncos next Saturday night.
"The boys are obviously very disappointed with the way they finished," Wallace said.
"But in saying that, it was a big improvement from last week. Last week I thought we were way off. Our performance was down. But tonight I thought we were really good. We just weren't quite good enough. We can take a lot out of it."