Penrith coach Anthony Griffin is set to persist with Peter Wallace as his fill-in hooker after an encouraging performance in their heartbreaking 18-16 NRL loss to Canterbury on Thursday.
Having initially named utility Tyrone Peachey at No.9, Griffin instead shifted him to six and handed the hooking duties to stand-in skipper Wallace.
And the move provided instant dividends, as Wallace’s calm demeanour helped the Panthers to a 14-0 lead by the 20-minute mark, and an eight-point advantage at the break.
But the Bulldogs then clawed their way back into the match, limiting the home side to just two points in the second half and then scoring on the buzzer to steal a stunning victory.
“Obviously it’s heartbreaking tonight, we got beaten at the death. But as a team, we’re getting a little bit better every week and learning the lessons that we need to learn,” Griffin said.
“I can’t wrap us enough about our effort and the way we’re going about things.”
It wasn’t the first time Griffin had pulled the former NSW State of Origin No.7 out of the halves, with the former Brisbane coach making a similar call in Wallace’s final year at the Broncos in 2013.
“I don’t think he liked it as much back then, when I put him there,” Griffin recalled.
“But at this moment, at this team, once we lost (James) Segeyaro, it was the best solution for us.
“We could’ve thrown a kid in there that wasn’t ready and in that out there tonight – that was a real heavyweight slugfest – so we needed some experience in there.
“I thought the team functioned really well and part of the reason they functioned really well was we had a really cool head in there making the decisions at dummy half, which was good.”
Wallace, who was also replaced as captain of the club by Matt Moylan in January, described Griffin’s decision to move him into the scrum was the correct one.
“I thought with the way we wanted to play, I thought it was really good for the team. It was the right decision for me to play there, so I’m happy to do it,” Wallace said.
Asked whether he would persist with Wallace at No.9, Griffin said: “We’ll have just have a look at tonight and see how it went. I thought Pete did a great job there. I thought we had really good control. I just thought he steadied the team down a lot.”