Panthers 6 Roosters 42
Black magic: Penrith winger David Simmons goes over in the corner for the game's first try. Photo: Anthony Johnson
The heartache of a failed Origin series was meant to be too big of a wound for James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce to recover from in club land.
It was meant to derail their club's momentum - yet, albeit momentarily, they are on top of the table having won six games on the trot.
Panthers v Roosters
Shaun Kenny-Dowall offloads the ball. Photo: Anthony Johnson
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Simmons||Tries||1||Tries||7||Players||Tupou, Friend, Cordner(2), Guerra, Maloney, Tuivasa-Sheck|
|Players||Walsh 1/1 (100%)||Conversions||1||Conversions||7||Players||Maloney 7/7 (100%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||0||Players|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||0||Players|
The NSW halves, who copped the brunt of a state's frustration after the Blues' eighth consecutive series loss, have used the disappointment as a launching pad for the club's premiership assault.
Over the past fortnight it has been Pearce who has come back and proved a point with his form for the Roosters, but in Friday night's 42-6 win against the Panthers it was Maloney who produced a five star showing.
Maloney finished the game with a try, three try assists, four line breaks, two line break assists, five tackle breaks and a perfect seven with the boot in what was a battle of the competition's two over-achievers this season.
"I thought he was really strong," Robinson said.
"I didn't think many players were playing their best for the club in the first half and I think Jimmy had some poor kicks. But in the second half Pearcey and Jimmy, along with Morts and Friendy, realligned the team. They got us back playing square with some good combinations and good repetition of plays.
"Jimmy had some really nice touches there. When he pushes through the line that's his style of play. He was pushing through really well and he had a couple of nice combos on that left edge as well. There were some nice finishes."
Even without Sonny Bill Williams the Roosters' forward pack made easy inroads into the Panthers defence, providing the platform for Pearce and Maloney to weave their magic.
But in the end it was the class of the Roosters' halves that proved the difference between the sides.
The match had the potential to pose more questions than answers for the Roosters in their run home towards the finals, but they well and truly stamped themselves as premiership heavyweights with a convincing victory.
However it wasn't all smiles in the Roosters sheds, with coach Trent Robinson left searching for answers as to why his side, the most penalised team in the competition, was again so out of favour with the referees.
"That was poor again tonight," he said.
"I feel I need to talk to the referees about some of those penalties. I feel like they're really critical of us in that area but I'm not saying that we don't need to improve either. So I need to make sure I'm working with them as well and getting that (message) back to our players. We're trying to work on it, I think you can see we're working hard with the refs there but that's still not good enough what happened tonight."
"I definitely think that is [a reptutation]. It's significant penalty counts for a decade through many different coaches but I don't think it dictates what happened tonight."
The Panthers, who were seventh a fortnight ago, came into last night's game with a slim hope of playing finals football - not a bad effort for a team tipped by most at the start of the season to win the wooden spoon.
But against the well-oiled machine that is Trent Robinson's Roosters, their bold bid for the playoffs came to an end, and quite possibly the season as well for Adam Docker and Sika Manu, who both suffered broken arms in the loss.
"We're doing it pretty tough at the moment and these two injuries won't help," Cleary said.
"But the reality is we'll get a team back on the field next week. We've sort of had this issue of not being able to keep the same team for most of the year it's kind of felt that way.
"There's enough out of tonight's game, it might not seem like it from the outside but there's enough out of tonight's game to give us something to work with coming back home (against North Queensland) I'm sure the boys will put on a good show next week."
While one team is plummetting down the ladder, the other is making a major play at the minor premiership.
The win against the Panthers has taken the Roosters to the top of the ladder, equal with South Sydney but ahead on for and against with the Rabbitohs still to play this round.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 42 (B Cordner 2 J Friend A Guerra J Maloney R Tuivasa-Sheck D Tupou tries J Maloney 7 goals) bt PENRITH 6 (D Simmons try L Walsh goal) at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Jason Robinson. Crowd: 11,879.