Call them the NRL’s cardiac kids but Penrith’s playmaking young guns are fast mastering the art of putting opposing sides to the sword at the death.
The Panthers believe their new reputation as the competition’s heart-stoppers will actually help them when they enter this year’s finals series as arguably the most inexperienced team.
They gave coach Anthony Griffin a cruel re-introduction to the league when he took over from Ivan Cleary this season after more than a year off – all nine of their opening games were decided by less than 10 points.
It wasn’t until a 12-point win over the Warriors in round 10 that Griffin was able to breathe easy before the full time siren.
But that didn’t mean the mountain men suddenly stopped sending games down to the wire.
A league-high 16 of their contests this season have been decided by 10 points or less, 13 of them by a converted try or less.
Only nine of those 16 games were converted into wins but it’s a nerve-racking record second-rower Isaah Yeo believes could deliver them a deep push into the finals despite their lack of experience.
This week’s line-up against Manly contains just 23 games of finals experience, 13 of them owned by veterans Peter Wallace and Trent Merrin.
“Those tight games were a real learning curve for us. Obviously we didn’t get all of them and that could come down to inconsistency and inexperience,” Yeo told AAP on Thursday.
“But over the last couple of months, we’ve been really good on the field and I think that’s showing with our defence at the moment.”
Winners of six of their past seven, the Panthers have only once conceded more than three tries – during a golden point loss to the Warriors – and given up a total 98 points in that period.
Melbourne, the league’s best defensive team, have conceded 114 points over the same stretch.
“Everyone thinks we’re an attacking side but we’re able to keep some really good sides to low-scoring numbers and come out over the top of teams with 15 to 20 minutes to go,” Yeo said.
“We obviously know the finals are a different beast and we’re not there yet. But we’ll ride the wave and listen to the people that have been there before.”
NRL’S CARDIAC KIDS: Games decided by six points or less
Cronulla, North Queensland, Gold Coast, St George Illawarra (9)
Canberra, Warriors, Sydney Roosters, Parramatta (7)