SYDNEY - Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett claimed the moral victory as his depleted side and an equally undermanned Penrith fought out the NRL's first draw of 2008 last night, locked at 12-12 after golden point extra time at CUA Stadium.
After an 80-minute arm-wrestle had yielded the sides two tries each, they frantically fought out an extra 10 with 18-year-old Panthers debutant Lachlan Coote having at least three chances to win it with kicks.
Asked if he was entitled to be happier than Panthers counterpart Matt Elliott, Bennett said: "I think so, yeah. I would be in that situation.
"When I realised it was getting out of our reach, I was just happy to realise we could pick up a point and not panic about that.
"But I think in their case they'd be looking for the two at home and certainly with a lot more quality players."
Both sides went into last night's match with nine first-graders on the sidelines due to injury and State of Origin duties.
Elliott was loathe to disagree with the legendary Broncos mentor.
"We probably had a couple of extra opportunities, didn't we?" he said.
"As I said to the players if I express any dissatisfaction after the effort they put in, feel free to punch me in the head."
Bennett said the one-point result was a positive because it took for-and-against out of the equation in his side's run home to the finals.
"It's better than your for-and-against, it just takes all that type of pressure off and you're obviously going to be an odd one out now so it will just put you in a good position."
Coote had the first opportunity to kick his side to victory but missed with a 43m penalty shot in the second minute of extra time, and then a long-range field goal attempt in the fifth.
In the second period of extra time, Brisbane halfback Shane Perry missed with a field goal attempt with three minutes left on the clock and Coote missed again in the final minute.
"I said sorry to the boys," Coote said.
"I let them down, I couldn't finish it off. No excuses but I just had nothing in my legs."
The scores were also locked up at halftime, 6-6, and the Panthers went ahead 8-6 five minutes after the break with a Shane Rodney penalty goal.
But the Broncos took the lead for the first time in the match in the 47th minute when, on the back of a superb charge from David Taylor, Corey Parker beat a poor attempt at tackle from Luke Lewis and crashed over, Michael Ennis' sideline conversion making it 12-8.
The Panthers looked to have hit back spectacularly in the 64th minute when Coote flew high to grab a Wade Graham bomb and prop Brendan Worth crashed over.
But video referee Phil Cooley ruled Worth had been in front of the kicker and disallowed the try.
A piece of individual brilliance from Michael Jennings, who flashed down the left touchline and beat four defenders, had the scores locked again, at 12-12, with seven minutes left.
Coote also had a regular time chance to make it 14-12 but his conversion attempt from wide out to the left missed.
"Although we didn't get the two points, to walk into the shed and look your mate in the eye and just know everyone's had a real big dig for each other ... it's pretty satisfying," Broncos skipper Parker said.