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Penrith Panthers fans.

They were dubbed the comeback kings of 2018 but Penrith fans will be hoping for more comfortable success under returning coach Ivan Cleary this season.

Penrith's slow starts forced them to work hard for their wins last year, fighting back from behind 10 times in 15 wins – seven of those from a margin of 10 points or more.

While their remarkable get-out-of-jail performances made for quality viewing it caught up with them in the Telstra Premiership finals, again forcing them to come from behind against Cronulla in what would be their week-two exit. Stats broke down the time periods where the Panthers conceded their 76 tries in 2018 to highlight their need for stronger starts to matches. 

Across the regular season Penrith conceded 25 tries in the opening 20 minutes of games, totalling 33% of tries conceded in total.

Only the Raiders (30 tries) conceded more in the first quarter of a clash, with Penrith level on 25 with the 14th-ranked Titans.

The Panthers' defence improved markedly later in games, conceding a competition-low 13 tries in the final 20 minutes – indicating the longer the game went for, the better they were able to defend their line under fatigue.

Grand finalists the Roosters and Storm were the next best in terms of tries conceded in the final 20 minutes of matches, with 17 apiece.

In attack the Panthers scored 32 tries in the final quarter of games in 2018 – including 19 in the last 10 minutes.

Cleary will be keen to get his team starting more strongly this season, and it's worth noting he had the complete opposite record during his time as coach of the Wests Tigers in 2018.

The joint venture conceded just nine tries in the first quarter of games all season – easily the competition's most best record.

However the Tigers' final 20 minutes of games was their weak point with 32 conceded.

Should the Panthers be able to find a way to fix their sluggish opening to games, their durability and fitness should keep them well in most contests in the latter part of matches and could dictate whether they can work towards a top-four finish and a title challenge.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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