Former NSW playmaker James Maloney has sent a friendly reminder to Blues selectors with a five-star exhibition to guide Penrith to a 19-10 victory over the Sydney Roosters on Sunday afternoon.
The Panthers delivered their strongest performance of the season in front of a healthy 16,883 crowd against a depleted Roosters outfit, who were without Latrell Mitchell and Angus Crichton but welcomed back Cooper Cronk in the halves and Blues pair James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner.
Boosted by the return of NSW halfback Nathan Cleary themselves, it was former Blues five-eighth Maloney who had the ball on a string with three try assists, a field goal and 40/20 in the 80-minute display.
Viliame Kikau chimed in with two tries to rally the Panthers, who have now won three on the trot and delivered the defending premiers their third straight loss of the season.
A 60-metre carry from Brian To'o, busting past the likes of Cordner and Tedesco in the 47th minute, started a dominant second half that led to Roosters centre Joey Manu being sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
The Panthers ignored calls from the bench to take an easy two points on offer and the decision paid dividends with Kikau finishing off a Maloney cross-field kick to push the lead out to eight.
The defending premiers were forced to defend their line further without Manu's services with Cronk pulling off a try-saver on Kikau, while Brent Naden lost the ball over the line in some desperate defence on the edge.
Match: Panthers v Roosters
Round 13 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
A short ball from Victor Radley to Nat Butcher set Radley up for his second of the season but a try to Naden three minutes later off a Maloney grubber enabled the Panthers to stretch out to another eight-point advantage to seal the game.
Earlier, Penrith showed their intentions with Kikau stepping inside three Roosters defenders to slam the ball down next to the posts in just the second set of the game.
tors on the board with Daniel Tupou tippy-toeing his way over in the corner.
Kikau's late footwork caused havoc on the left channel in defence for the returning Cronk with Naden and Josh Mansour also the beneficiaries of some early ball from Maloney.
But for every slice of luck the home side generated in the opening 40, they struggled to turn field position into points.
Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards busted through the middle of the field but got himself into an awkward position to throw a pass forward with Nathan Cleary in support.
Kikau cuts back on the angle for the first try
Penrith went close again through Reagan Campbell-Gillard but a last-gasp effort from Tedesco managed to jolt the ball free in a try-scoring chance.
The Roosters' defence, which had leaked 38 points against Newcastle in round 11, muscled up despite a weight of territory against them.
A class ball from Tedesco in the 27th minute got the visitors on the board with Daniel Tupou tippy-toeing his way over in the corner.
The attacking play proved one of the Tricolours' last real chances in attack, highlighting the lack of possession and field territory the defending premiers had in the second half.