Monday Morning Halfback: Round 5
Panthers getting used to thrillers
It has been a crazy rollercoaster start to the season for the Penrith Panthers and new coach Anthony Griffin.
Every game they have played this season has been decided in the final three minutes of the contest.
The Panthers were staring down the barrel of a 1-4 start to the season before they scored two tries in seven minutes to steal the win against Parramatta on Sunday in the most dramatic of circumstances.
"Just another week at the Panthers," Griffin deadpanned following his side's match-winning try after the siren.
"I'm so happy for them, there has been an awful lot of effort for the one result, I didn't think we deserved to get beat."
In Round 1 Penrith were sunk by a try to Canberra's Shaun Fensom in the final minute, and the following week a try to Bulldogs half Moses Mbye at the death ended with debutant Kerrod Holland kicking the match-winning conversion long after the 80 minutes was up.
Round 3 saw the Panthers get their first win of the season with their own first-gamer Te Maire Martin kicking an ice-cool field goal in the 77th minute to beat the Broncos, while Josh Dugan scored a try with four minutes remaining in Round 4 with Gareth Widdop kicking the match-winning goal in the 78th minute.
Penrith's last four games have ended inside two points and all five have been on a knife edge in the dying minutes.
"I think we showed it out there with our celebration – everyone is over the moon, it was good for us to get a tight one, we've got done in a couple of them," returning fullback Matt Moylan said after his first game in more than 300 days.
With the race to the NRL finals expected to be extremely tight, every competition point will be critical and history shows you need to win the close games to make the playoffs.
In 2015 the Raiders lost six games by just two points and ended up two wins short of making the finals.
What will happen when the reigning premiers North Queensland take their shot at the Panthers at Pepper Stadium on Saturday night? If the first five rounds are anything to go by, you can't afford to miss it.
Roosters happy to test their youth
They have started the season 0-5 but the winless Roosters aren't as bad as the ladder suggests.
The Tricolours have won the last three minor premierships on the trot, but are now firmly anchored to the bottom of the competition ladder after a golden-point loss to the Warriors on Sunday.
Like the Panthers, at the end of the season the Roosters could be left ruing the games that got away.
Big losses to the Rabbitohs in Round 1 and a 40-nil drubbing against the reigning champions in Round 3 put the blowtorch on Trent Robinson's men.
But take out the two one-sided contests and the Bondi club has lost by a field goal, a conversion and a golden-point try.
While it doesn't help them on the competition table, the Roosters should take comfort in the fact that they aren't far away from victory.
Robinson is staying calm under fire. It is easily the toughest challenge he has faced in his coaching career and yet he is still looking for ways he can improve his players – even if it means taking some losses.
"Teams can see we have decided, with Mitchell [Pearce] being out, that we're going out there to teach them some footy and get them some games," Robinson said.
"You have to blood some of these guys. You have to wear what's going to happen around them. We're not afraid of leaving them out there and learning some footy because it will benefit us in the future.
"We want to win. We want to win each week and we want to really compete hard but we also want future and that's what we're investing in. I'm not pretending or covering up anything though – we should have won. We had enough opportunities."
Robinson hopes to build some much-needed momentum without the likes of Pearce (suspended), Boyd Cordner (pectoral) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (knee) who are still all a month away from returning.
"We look forward to [their returns] but we want to play some good footy and win some games without them," Robinson said.
"That's the exciting bit for us at the moment, if we can do that and we don't have to rely on them. That's exciting. That's our focus and we're trying hard to do so."