Penrith coach Ivan Cleary believes a key difference to his side's turnaround of form in recent weeks is the inclusion of several rookies acting as a catalyst to the club's revival.

Cleary joked the Panthers were "ready to be put down three weeks ago" in a contrast to where they sit now – just two points outside the top eight with several results going their way this week.

Their nine-point advantage on the scoreline didn't reflect the true dominance Cleary's side had against the defending premiers, who were depleted and lacking cohesion with several stars missing.

Rookie quartet Brent Naden, Mitch Kenny, Liam Martin and Brian To'o have been blooded this season and were among the standouts in a side that has been working their way back to form in their last two performances. 

"There was so much more intensity. It's all come from teamwork and guys wanting to play for the guy next to them," Cleary said after the side's 19-10 win over the Tricolours.

"I've had some young guys who have been able to do that, provided some enthusiasm and energy. 

"The Roosters aren't premiers for nothing, their defence is very good. I don't know how many tries we had disallowed or held up. In the end we controlled most of the second half.

"I still feel we have a long way to go. We let them off the hook. I didn't think we got the calls tonight either so it was just one of those nights we just had to hang in there.

"We looked different tonight, there was a lot of intensity about us. We've looked like a team these last few weeks."

Penrith were boosted by the late inclusion of Nathan Cleary for the contest with a lot of eyes focused on how the NSW halfback would back up after coming under scrutiny in Origin I.

But it was forgotten man James Maloney who steered the ship in a dominating performance that will leave Brad Fittler contemplating whether overlooking last year's Blues five-eighth was the answer.

"Jimmy was very good tonight," Cleary said.  

"The thing is with Jimmy he's been and done it before. You could sense that. A lot of the team they saw this game as an opportunity to build on what they'd done for a couple of weeks.

"We were ready to be put down three weeks ago. We realised we have to play some better footy."

Penrith face ladder-leaders South Sydney on a six-day turnaround next week who are expected to welcome back rested five-eighth Cody Walker.

For Maloney, the timing couldn't be any better to take on the Rabbitohs playmaker.