Rookie Nathan Cleary has catapulted Penrith into the NRL top eight with a five-star individual performance in his side’s 38-18 thrashing of the Sydney Roosters.
The 18-year-old Cleary scored the Panthers first on Monday night, then put the result beyond doubt in the second half by setting up one of the tries of the season for Tyrone Peachey.
The home side were leading 28-6 when Cleary delighted the 9,653 fans in the crowd at Pepper Stadium with a break into the backfield before kicking wide at full pace for Peachey to finish off a 60-metre effort.
The win lifts the Panthers to seventh spot with just four games remaining.
However the victory could come at a cost, captain Matt Moylan finished the match on the bench with blurred vision and forward Sitaleki Akauola also retired early with rib damage.
The Roosters, who had chief playmaker Mitchell Pearce ruled out pre-game with a calf injury, looked competitive early when Dale Copley cancelled out Cleary’s show-and-go effort.
However the home side took over thereafter, scoring the next six tries, including one each to Peachey and Chris Grevsmuhl to take an 18-6 lead into the sheds.
Courtesy of a string of penalties against the visitors after the break, the Panthers snuffed out the match with tries to Cartwright, Waqa Blake, Peachey’s pearler, and Isaah Yeo all within 17 minutes.
By the time Cleary converted Yeo’s easy 40-metre effort from dummy half, it was 38-6.
The Roosters saved some face through late tries to Daniel Tupou and Boyd Cordner, however it wasn’t enough to stop them from falling to their seventh loss in eight games.