Panthers only touched surface: Yeo
Penrith are in the top eight at the right time of the season and Panthers back-rower Isaah Yeo believes it's their spot to lose with four crunch games remaining.
The Dubbo junior is adamant the side are yet to hit their straps, in another ominous warning to opposition clubs after Wests Tigers skipper Aaron Woods labelled them a "dark horse" at the weekend.
It was a patchy performance against the joint venture but enough to ensure Anthony Griffin's side secured their fifth-straight victory.
With a crucial clash against the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday, Yeo gave an honest assessment as to where the side was at and how much improvement was left.
"If you're not playing your best footy over the next month leading into the finals then you don't deserve to be there," he told NRL.com.
"I think we've only touched the surface, our fifth plays weren't ideal and we weren't completing in that first half. But to still come over a side in the last 10 minutes with that start was good. We've got a lot more improvement left."
The Panthers identified the past month as pivotal in their bid to get their season back on track.
With results going their way courtesy of the Dragons' surrendering their past two results, Yeo said it was important for the side not to take their foot off the gas.
"The top eight is where you want to be at this time of the year and now we're in we don't want to drop back out. Destiny is in our hands now after a bit of luck.
"We had a result go our way when the Bunnies beat St George so that was nice and has given us confidence."
Griffin's men don't have the same luxury as their Western Sydney rivals Parramatta with the final four games of scheduling.
They'll play the Cowboys, Raiders, Dragons and Sea Eagles to round out the season – all teams vying for a finals berth.
The clash with St George-Illawarra is shaping as the most decisive in Round 25 at Pepper Stadium and adds greater significance after the Dragons hammered Penrith 42-10 back in the opening round of the season.
"We're fighting against teams who are all wanting to finish somewhere in the eight so it's probably a good thing and if we get through should prepare us well for the finals," Yeo said.
"We've played good footy away and you always get a little edge back at home so we knew we could use that to our advantage. It's been a good period for us but we can't afford to get ahead of ourselves."
Yeo has been one of Penrith's most consistent performers in 2017 and is becoming a constant threat on the left-edge for post-contact metres.
"I'm probably lucky to be a bit taller and dangly so that helps, where as the smaller forwards are probably disadvantaged there," he said.
"I just want to get the side on the front foot if the other team is muscling up in defence or has us deep in our own half.
"But then you see a guy like Jason Taumalolo who I think is the best at it."
Speaking of which, the 22-year-old believes stopping Taumalolo is the key to stopping the Cowboys on Saturday night.
The Kiwi international has more run-metres than any other player in the Telstra Premiership, including 222 the last time both sides met in Round 16.
"He has minimum 20 carries a game and starts all their momentum," Yeo said.
"He's a massive priority for us to contain. But across the board they've got Michael Morgan who has been great since JT (Johnathan Thurston) got injured and obviously Te Maire [Martin] playing well since he left us too.
"It will be our biggest test yet."
Penrith are set to receive a further boost with skipper Matt Moylan expected to be named in the 21-man squad after a fortnight on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.