Panthers get some belief back
The Panthers' 22-16 win over the Melbourne Storm on Friday night has ended a lapse in form and given them the confidence they need going into the Telstra Premiership Finals series.
Penrith coach Cameron Ciraldo and his squad were facing the prospect of three straight losses ahead of their finals campaign, but he said their victory was the type of performance they could build on.
"I couldn't be prouder," Ciraldo said.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks. Just the way they prepared all week gave us a real confidence coming down here. The way they hung in here tonight, I couldn't be prouder of their effort," he said of the five tries to two victory.
"The performance we put out there - if we can do that again next week we're in with a chance."
The visitors had to overcome a 12-6 penalty count and two players in the sin bin (Josh Mansour and James Tamou) for half of the first 40 minutes.
Ciraldo was equally proud of his side's defensive qualities.
"I was really happy considering we had at the end of the game about 40 percent possession," he said.
"You could tell they were hurting and put a lot into their defence. They kept turning up and there were some really good try-saving tackles that we were really proud of."
Panthers captain James Maloney, who returned from a knee injury this week, said his belief in his team never wavered despite the poor run of form.
"I've sat here weeks and weeks ago after losses and everyone asked how we were going, and I kept saying we'd be playing our best footy next week," Maloney said.
"And I still believe that. That performance out there is the perfect springboard to go into next week. We'll play our best footy next week."
Penrith's back three were excellent all night with Mansour, Waqa Blake and Christian Crichton scoring all of the Panthers five tries between them. But their coach praised his whole team.
"We didn't have a bad player tonight. We had a big emphasis on our middles, a really good job to start the game, and was the best they've started the game in a while. Having Jimmy (Maloney) back was a blessing for us."
The Panthers are currently in fifth spot and barring a huge win by Brisbane on Sunday, they will host a final in Sydney at either Allianz Stadium or ANZ Stadium.