Penrith Panthers James Maloney has shown why he is one of a select group of NSW players considered definite Holden State of Origin starters with an impressive defensive effort in his side's 12-6 win over the Parramatta Eels.
In a match that saw the Panthers with little ball and few genuine attacking opportunities, Penrith coach Anthony Griffin paid tribute to his halfback's display without the ball.
"Jimmy has certainly stepped up and I thought he's chase to knock that ball dead today that was the highlight for me,'' Griffin said.
"It was a real gutsy team effort from him. He fits into our club really well. He's a larrikin, good trainer and tough footballer, so he's fit in really good."
Five-eighth Tyrone Peachey's efforts alongside Maloney didn't go unnoticed.
"I think Peachey has done a good job too," Griffin said.
"He's [Maloney] brought a little bit more of a running game into the halves. Jimmy does the kicking and organising the play and Peachey straightens us up with some runs, defensively he's been really sound on that edge as well."
Match Highlights: Eels v Panthers - Round 5; 2018
With the Panthers struggling to get their hands on the ball and the Eels throwing all they had at them for large parts of Sunday's clash, Griffin believes it was the side's defence that got them home.
"To win it without the ball was really pleasing," he said.
"That was the best [defence] I can think of for a long while for us, particularly against a desperate side and they had heaps more ball than us in the second half and field position. So we had to win the game that way we weren't going to win it the other way, it wasn't happening for us in attack.
"It was a tough old game and when they got that try that got them within 10-6 you could feel them coming so we had to be really good defensively."
Panthers press conference - Round 5