Panther belief grows with each win
They've shocked the rugby league world to be the surprise halfway leaders of the 2014 Telstra Premiership but Panthers coach Ivan Cleary says it is the growing belief within the group that has propelled his team to the top of the table.
Penrith scored three second half tries on the zero tackle from Titans errors to inflate the 36-14 final scoreline on Saturday night but Cleary was happy with the way his side responded after a mistake-riddled first half and two disallowed Titans tries.
"We looked more likely to score when we were defending than when we had the ball at times," Cleary said of the unconventional tries to Isaah Yeo, Tyrone Peachey and Jamie Soward.
"We might have lost that game earlier in the season I think. I didn't think we were quite on the money tonight, certainly that first half and you sort of got the feeling that we were never going to put the perfect game together but our defence got better in the second half and we were actually able to score some points on so that's the pleasing thing.
"We're a little bit more attuned into understanding that we can still win the game if you're not right on top of your game and that's important, because you can't be at your best every week.
"I think we realised at half-time there were certain things which we had to get better at whereas earlier in the year if we couldn't play our best we'd just [accept] that it wasn't going to be our night.
"Maybe just that belief and getting used to playing with each other and growing together as a team."
The Panthers will seek a fifth straight win when they return home to Sportingbet Stadium next Saturday night to face a Dragons team coming off a 30-0 dusting of Cronulla and hoping for a repeat of the more than 19,000 fans who turned out for their win over Parramatta in Round 12.
On the back of their under-20s premiership in 2013 there is a growing sense of excitement in the golden west and captain Peter Wallace conceded that the players can sense the growing excitement within the community.
"I haven't seen a crowd like that at Penrith for quite a few years and you can feel the excitement around town," Wallace said of the clash with the Eels. "It's a rugby league community and I think everyone's pretty excited about how we're going at the moment and hopefully the crowd keeps turning up.
"It's a good place to play when you've got a full house there at Penrith Park.
"Definitely I think there's a bit of confidence in the team at the moment. Obviously you get that with a few wins but like Ivan said, we're going to have to improve on tonight.
"That's probably our biggest thing, we need to play well every week and not have one week on and one week off."
As for their lofty mid-season position on the table, Cleary delivered one of the lines of the season before reminding his players of what lies ahead of them.
"No one hands out bouquets at halfway," said Cleary.
"We understand that we've still got a long way to go and we're just on the journey of getting better and I think we need to get better next week on what we delivered tonight so that's what we'll be trying to do."