Penrith's energy and desire slays Dragons
Any doubts over the premiership credentials of Penrith may be put to bed after Anthony Griffin's men climbed to the top of the competition ladder with their 28-2 victory over ladder leaders St George Illawarra on Saturday.
The big-game build up hasn't been Penrith's strong suit in recent years, but in front of a sellout crowd they put in their most complete performance of the season to quash any suggestions of a struggle against top-four sides.
Coach Anthony Griffin was reportedly on the outer before a ball was kicked in 2018, but the mentor has guided his side to a 9-3 Telstra Premiership record heading into the bye next week.
"I like the way our whole team handled the occasion, it was a big game and we've been building nicely over the last few weeks," Griffin said.
"Obviously there are a lot of good things in attack and defence, but just our energy and our desire to keep coming in that type of game was really good.
"From a club point of view we did a really good job. We got a full house here and did a job. It was one of those games that feels real nice, particularly going into a bye."
Asked if this was their most complete performance yet, Griffin agreed.
"I think so, against that quality opposition. They (Dragons) are leading the competition, to be able to do that, it's a credit to them," he said.
With all eyes on Holden State of Origin selection this Monday, the Panthers could field up to five players.
Halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney grew another leg after a solid 80 minute performance, while props Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Trent Merrin were strong in the middle.
Tyrone Peachey, who marked fellow NSW Blues hopeful Euan Aitken, also held his own.
Maloney was quizzed following the game of his chances and admitted he would be disappointed if his name was not read out by NSW selectors.
"I hope so, but we'll wait and see," he said.
"Not much more I can do now. I've been happy with where my footy is at."
Meanwhile, the Panthers could welcome back injured outside back Waqa Blake following the bye in another boost for the side.
Penrith have joined the Dragons as ladder leaders, but go ahead on for and against with a slight advantage on defensive percentages.