Winless Panthers improving fast: Yeo
They may have got pipped at the post against Canterbury in Round 2 but Penrith players say the effort was a big step up from their loss to Canberra in Round 1 and if they can continue that trend they can worry premiership favourites Brisbane.
Penrith "dominated" their more fancied opponents for 79 minutes last Thursday night, according to back-rower Isaah Yeo, so there are plenty of positives the squad can take out of that ahead of a match against a side he described as the competition benchmark in the Broncos this Saturday.
"Everyone's mood's pretty good. We were obviously disappointed after the game – you walked in [to the sheds afterwards] and it was very silent but 'Hook' (coach Anthony Griffin) spoke to us after the game and just said it was a massive improvement from the Canberra game," Yeo told NRL.com.
"We completed an extra 14 sets compared to the Canberra game so it was a massive improvement I thought. The forward pack really aimed up against the Bulldogs pack.
"I thought for 79 minutes we dominated them so to not come away with the win was disappointing but I'm sure we'll bounce back this week."
The most impressive aspect of Penrith's performance in Round 2 was a furious start that saw a massive shot from Reagan Campbell-Gillard force an error, with the Bulldogs hardly getting the ball for 15 minutes thereafter.
The Broncos have a very different style of forward pack and present a different type of challenge but Yeo said his teammates will be looking to replicate that type of opening, which included a try under the posts from prop Sam McKendry.
"I thought our forwards were really good on the weekend, defensively and in attack. A lot of our attack was going through the middle," he said.
But with the 2015 grand finalists having picked up where left off, things don't get any easier for Penrith this Saturday night.
"They've been very good the first two rounds. Obviously they had the trial over in England [thumping Wigan 42-12 in their World Club Series fixture] and that helps but they've been outstanding," Yeo said.
"They've probably set the benchmark for the competition already. It's a big game, going to be very quick. They don't really focus too much on ruck control, they just try and out work the other team."
Of his own role in the team – some fans have been surprised to see the popular clubman starting and playing big minutes in the back row while the likes of Tyrone Peachey and Bryce Cartwright rotate through the bench – Yeo said it's a case of not trying to emulate anyone else's style and sticking to what the coach wants from him.
"It's always good when the coach has got confidence in you – obviously he's new to the club as well so you've got to try and make an impression but I'm loving my role at the moment," Yeo said.
"I played a bit of back row and lock in the first game then was predominantly back row until Dean Whare went down injured [against Canterbury] then went to the centres so whatever I can do for the team I'm more than happy to do it. I'm enjoying my role at the moment and just looking to play as many minutes as I can.
"I just focus on my role, working hard in defence and just try to sort of run good lines off my half. I don't try and overplay my hand, I just try and do my best for the team and do what the coach wants me to d. The longer you can do that the happier he's going to be and the better you're going to be for the team."
Penrith will be searching for their first win of the season when they host the Broncos at Pepper Stadium at 7:30 on Saturday night.