Why you should be watching the Panthers this season

Jamie Soward and Isaah Yeo of the Panthers celebrate after team mate Bryce Cartwright scored the winning try against the Eels. Photo / Getty
Jamie Soward and Isaah Yeo of the Panthers celebrate after team mate Bryce Cartwright scored the winning try against the Eels. Photo / Getty

The NRL is producing a string of nail biting finishes, but Panthers coach Anthony Griffin is the man in most danger of having no fingers left.

Penrith came up with a last second try from maverick forward Bryce Cartwright to beat Kieran Foran's Parramatta on Sunday, with the Eels having led 18-12 with less than 10 minutes left.

That makes it five out of five heart stoppers for Griffin and his men, the Panthers being the close finish specialists in a season that has thrown up plenty of very tight contests throughout the league competition.

The Panthers began the year with a 22 - 30 loss in Canberra, a thriller. They have since embarked on a four game streak where the margin has been two points or less in wins against the Broncos and Eels, and losses to the Bulldogs and Dragons. They have been in contention going into the last five minutes of every match.

Griffin said: "Just another week at the Panthers, going to the last play...we won one a couple of weeks ago against the Broncos. We're sort of going one and one at the moment. The Bulldogs beat us on the last play. That's just been our last month."

While they are the last gasp kings at the moment, the Panthers have avoided an extra-time golden point game decided by the team to score first, the latest being the Warriors victory over the Roosters.

The score lines are producing plenty of drama.

Of the 39 games so far this season, 16 have been decided by a margin of six points or less and it has led to a few golden duels.

It is a controversial subject with Brisbane's famous coach Wayne Bennett the chief opponent of the golden point system.

Opponents say it unfairly tires out players, the merit of gaining a full time draw is wiped out for the loser and many golden point games turn into scruffy field goal shoot outs.

But Fox Sports has reported that extra time is a ratings winner, with huge surges of viewers tuning in after regulation time. For the Knights v Raiders, there was a 45 per cent lift, and it hit 38 per cent when the Cowboys and Broncos played.

Fox writer Ben Glover argued these sorts of numbers would spell the end of the debate around golden point because of the entertainment/ratings factor.

But he argued, persuasively, that the NRL should consider using the AFL points system as a basis for its competition in order to reward all teams who were level at full time. Winners would get four points, golden point winners three, a draw would be worth two, and golden point losers would get one point.

- NZ Herald

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