Nathan Cleary scores the first try against the Roosters in Round 22.

Griffin plays down Cleary's star turn

Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary continued his meteoric rugby league rise on Monday night with a try and two assists in Penrith's crucial 38-18 win over the Roosters at Pepper Stadium.

The win moved the Panthers back into the top eight with four rounds to go and their chief playmaker was the architect behind the 20-point victory.

The 18-year-old scored an impressive solo try early in the contest and set up a freakish four-pointer for Tyrone Peachey with a sensational kick on the run in the second half to confirm his status as one of the hottest young prospects in the NRL.

Rather than pump up his young halfback's tyres, Panthers coach Anthony Griffin was quick to praise Cleary's teammates in the spine for giving him the confidence to perform on the big stage. 

"He's doing a great job. His kicking game was good," Griffin said.  

"But I've got to give a wrap to Bryce (Cartwright) and Matt Moylan and Peter Wallace, the guys around him. They're keeping him calm and pointing him in the right direction. 

"He did a good job tonight for us."

 

 
Cartwright said his combination with Cleary in the halves was coming along nicely and was confident it would only get better in the coming weeks. 

The Panthers five-eighth had another impressive night in the No.6 jersey, scoring a try and setting another one up with a trademark offload. 

"We're working on it at training during the week and we're pretty close, me and Nath, so I think that's showing in parts of our game. I thought we combined well in attack tonight and we can only build from there," Cartwright said. 

"He's a good kid. I love playing with him and as everyone sees out on the field, he controls the game well. He's just a pleasure to play with and he's only going to get better. 

"Like Hook (Griffin) said, having 'Moyza' and 'Wal' there to look after me and Nath helps us out a lot."

Speculation has been rife that Griffin would break up the budding halves pairing soon with boom five-eighth Te Maire Martin making an earlier than expected return from a shoulder injury. 

The Panthers coach said that wouldn't be the case, and revealed he'd have to review Monday's game as well as Martin's performance in the Intrust Super Premiership before changing the winning formula.

"Te Maire has been out for a long time with a pretty serious injury. He played a full game on Saturday and he was pretty scratchy," Griffin said. 

"There wasn't anything wrong with what they did tonight, but it's obviously good to have people like Te Maire back. It gives us some options there."

On the win itself, Griffin was pleased with how his side performed over the first sixty minutes, but was disappointed with a couple of late tries to the Roosters that hurt Penrith's for-and-against. 

Sitting in seventh spot on the Telstra Premiership with four rounds remaining, Griffin said the Panthers were now in the enviable position of dictating whether they make the finals or not. 

"We're really happy with the result, firstly, and the way we got there," he said. 

"Obviously those last couple of tries would have been nice if they were ours, not theirs, but we're learning as a group so we'll move on to next week.

"It was probably one of our better performances for the year under the circumstances. It was really enjoyable to watch them enjoying their footy out there tonight. 

"It puts us in a position now where we control our own destiny for the last month."