NRL Rd 6 - Panthers v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 19: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates after scoring a field goal during the round six NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at Campbelltown Stadium on June 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Predicted Finish: 11th

Actual Finish: 1st

Fair to say I missed in a big way here. I had no idea that Penrith would be a player in 2020. They lost Maloney, their forwards seemed soft and I doubted Ivan Cleary. Which sides shall I enjoy with my serving of crow?

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1. Highlights

Record Win Streak: One loss all season. In 2020, that should be impossible. Yes, the season was four or five rounds shorter than the regular NRL season but given everything that this season has thrown up, I still can’t believe the fact the Panthers went 20 rounds with one loss and one draw. To say that 17 wins in a row in this era is a difficult task is a drastic understatement. Six points was their biggest losing margin in 2020. That surely won’t be repeated any time soon.

Didn’t fold in the finals: How many times have we seen teams run through the final rounds, or even the majority of the regular season, only to falter in the finals? There were whispers that Penrith may be unable to lift that extra gear that the likes of the Roosters and Storm have in them come the knock out stages. Despite losing the decider, it’s fair to say that the Panthers were not overawed by the pressure of finals. They won a thriller of a Prelim a week after holding off the fast-finishing Roosters in round one of the finals.

Distractions? Never heard of them: The Panthers started the season win two straight wins and were looking pretty polished considering. Then came the Covid break that could have absolutely ruined the momentum of a lesser side. Not only did everything grind to a haunt, but their superstar halfback was dragged through the media and then suspended after breaking rules re social distancing on social media. The came the bubble breach of young star Charlie Staines following his incredible debut. These distractions had every right to lead to a loss of form. They didn’t.

Almost impossible defence: The Panthers scored points for fun in 2020, however they build their incredible season on defence. They conceded only 238 points across the 20 regular season games. That’s less than 12 points per game. You don’t need me to point out how difficult it is to beat a team who is conceding less than two converted tries per game. They were 38 points better off than the next best defensive side, the Melbourne Storm. That’s three games worth of conceded points!!!

Watch Zero Tackle’s own Dan Nichols over at Rugby League Outlaws

 

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA – MAY 17: Panthers coach Ivan Cleary speaks to the media after the round 10 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the New Zealand Warriors at Panthers Stadium on May 17, 2019 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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