Panthers v Rabbitohs: Five key points
Regardless of the way you look at it, Penrith totally dominated South Sydney on Friday night. With their young stars firing, the Panthers held all the cards in their 20-6 win over the Rabbitohs. Here are the five key points to come from their all-important win.
Penrith are back
Looking more like the world-beating Panthers of 2014, the chocolate soldiers took down the reigning premiers in a sign that order is finally being restored at the foot of the mountains.
After making it to the preliminary finals last season, the Panthers re-entered the top eight (temporarily) for the first time in five weeks, yet their coach Ivan Cleary refused to call it a "faultless" victory.
"We're starting to look like a football team again. Combinations are starting to improve and I think the confidence definitely is starting to come back," Cleary said post-game.
"I mentioned a few weeks ago we were disjointed, that's just how we were playing. Our play wasn't flowing very well. It just wasn't quite clicking. I thought we just played as a team really, that was the best thing."
Inglis influence wouldn't have helped
Many would argue that South Sydney's performance would've been complimented by the inclusion of Queensland fullback Greg Inglis, and while it may have, there is no way the Rabbitohs captain would've combated a relentless Penrith team single-handily.
While stand-in custodian Alex Johnston doesn't have the Midas touch when it comes to linking up with the halves just yet, he did still manage to produce slightly better numbers than what we have been used to seeing from Inglis this season.
Panthers' cubs lift
Bryce Cartwright and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak were the driving forces behind this particular win, but considering how far fellow young guns such as Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tyrone Peachey, Waqa Blake and Isaah Yeo have come along in the past 18 months, it is a testament to the bright future ahead for the Panthers.
"We've handed debuts to a lot of guys in the past two seasons. They didn't just make their debuts to play a handful of games," Cleary said.
"They were always going to be keepers around here for a long time. They are all at very similar stages but what we've got over the last couple of weeks is the senior guys really playing well. It's really hard on those young guys unless those senior guys are playing well."
Have the Rabbitohs peaked too early?
Considering their early-season success – where they started the year with every possible pre-season trophy and three-straight wins – the Rabbitohs have been quite the shamble of late.
Falling to their second loss in three games, the Rabbitohs will end the round at sixth on the Telstra Premiership ladder and in real danger of getting overtaken by the likes of Penrith themselves, the Bulldogs and the Warriors.
State of Origin is no excuse, with only Inglis missing, though their second bye of the season in Round 18 is a godsend for the club as they look to get their season back on track once again.
You better believe coach Michael Maguire will have them raring to go when they come up against the Dragons at the SCG in a fortnight's time.
Set to meet in Round 18, the Roosters have come across the Panthers at the wrong time. With confidence brimming at Pepper Stadium, the Tricolours will have to combat a team who have seemingly turned a corner.
Cleary said his squad made a point of being successful at their home ground, and no doubt this won't change for next Saturday's game.
"Our last two home games have been really disappointing. A while back now against Parramatta and then the Storm in particular," Cleary said.
"Home is home. We've got some very loyal fans but they need to see some decent performances to get excited out here. Hopefully they're a bit more excited after this one."