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James Tamou takes a charge for the Panthers against Cronulla.

After being squashed by Cronulla last week and looking bereft of point-scoring strategies, Penrith's premiership credentials have been called into question but for a Panthers forward pack stinging after losing the battle in the middle last week the answer is simple – give the young-gun halves a better platform to create.

When Plan 'A' didn't pan out during a glut of early possession last week, a frantic Penrith starting throwing the ball left and right and looked less likely to threaten the Cronulla line as the scoreboard got increasingly out of hand.

Test prop James Tamou says it's the big men in the middle rather than the halves who need to lift.

"Everyone's not quite there at the moment, it's just that extra effort everyone has to find – especially around the middle," Tamou said.

"We're in a tough spot but if everyone picks up that one little bit I think we'll be all right.

"We don't have trouble getting out of our own half but trying to apply pressure and when we do apply pressure we let them off with simple handling errors or a penalty."

The plan last week was to start strong and the team achieved that "up to a point" – dominating the early field position without cashing in on the scoreboard.

"The middles, that's where we're losing it a bit and the biggest part of our game," he said.

"We just needed to go through the middle first to build pressure and we let them off the hook with something silly. They were really well drilled, they were reading our plays and running off the line. We need to start through the middle.

"We need to do the hard yards first and when we get the chance to go wide that will come but all the work starts through the middle."

Asked if teams were reading the young halves better, especially after halfback Nathan Cleary's breakout 2016, Tamou added: "Teams are looking at that, shutting them down, getting off the line.

"We (the forwards) need to do our job and give them more options, either stand either side of them – you see someone shooting out you give an inside ball, something like that so that's up to us to help them out."

Cleary admitted the team struggled to cope with Cronulla's up-and-in defence and stressed the need for patience against the Eels at ANZ Stadium this Saturday.

"[Cronulla got] up in our faces and shying us away from our Plan 'A' and that wasn't ideal for us," Cleary said.

"We ended up having to chase points and that's when we start throwing the ball around and going away from what we know so if we stay calm and composed out there and stick to our game plan it will work better."


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