Poor kicking let us down, says Cleary

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was left lamenting his side's ordinary kicking game, rather than a five-day turnaround or their dearth in playmakers, after his side's 32-12 submission to the Roosters.

Having scoured the foot of the mountains for his fourth halves pairing in as many weeks, Cleary thrust 19-year-old Bryce Cartwright into the Panthers five-eighth role, despite Matt Moylan originally being named in the number 6 and the St. Mary's junior having played his four previous NRL games in the back row.

While Cartwright ranked amongst the Panthers best with ball in hand against the Roosters, busting the line midway through the first half and also notching five tackle breaks, the absence of a genuine pivot to partner Jamie Soward was evidenced in the Penrith kicking game, which forced just one drop-out for the match and failed to trouble the Roosters back three for the majority of the game.

Cleary admitted his side's sub-par performance of his side with the boot – which saw even the likes of prop Brent Kite and winger Kevin Naiqama drop the ball on the toe – cost the Panthers any chance of troubling the premiers on their own turf. 

"We definitely didn't build any sort of pressure today," said Cleary.

"There were periods of the game today where we were actually winning the battle for field position and starting to look likely, but if you let the air out of the tyres at the end of the set it encourages them.

"It's been a strong part of our game all year. Obviously without Pete (injured halfback Peter Wallace) there that balance isn't quite the same and the Roosters did a good job pressuring Soward today."

In some welcome good news for Panthers fans, Cleary indicated Wallace's recovery from ankle and knee injuries sustained two weeks ago against the Tigers was progressing quicker than expected, and that the veteran halfback was a possibility of returning for next week's trip to Bathurst to take on the Sharks.

With the Panthers backing up from their thrilling 35-34 win over the Broncos on Monday night, Cleary conceded their limited preparation, as well as the disruptions caused by injuries to last-start five-eighth Tyrone Peachey and winger Josh Mansour, may have been the cause of the Panthers' disjointed attack. But ultimately Cleary said his side just wasn't good enough on the day.

"Any reasonable fan would suggest it was going to be a hard ask on the shortest possible turnaround you can have, playing a Monday night game  and then a day game in five days against the premiers coming off a bye, that was definitely challenging," said Cleary.

"We had some injuries too so we're trying to work another combination in the halves, but we didn't play well enough."