Panthers were ready to be put down: Cleary

Penrith are now within two points of eighth-placed Parramatta after their 19-10 upset of the Sydney Roosters in the NRL.

tigers coach ivan cleary looks on before the start of the nrl trial match between the north queensland cowboys and the wests tigers at barlow park in cairns australia
Tigers coach IVAN CLEARY looks on before the start of the NRL trial match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Wests Tigers at Barlow Park in Cairns, Australia. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary admits his team were ready to be "put down" three weeks ago, but have now set their sights on pushing into the top eight.

The Panthers made it three wins on the trot with Sunday's 19-10 upset of a depleted Sydney Roosters outfit on Sunday.

And while they remain in 14th spot, the two points lifts them to within two of eighth-placed Parramatta in what is a heavily congested mid-table.

"This time last year the eight was starting to work itself out. Whereas this year, the top teams are doing really well, then there's just a mass of teams," Cleary said.

"I always said if you can win a bunch of games in a row in the NRL pretty much any season, your whole year can change.

"We're obviously in a bit of a bubble. We've just got to keep doing what got us here in the first place. And I actually think there's more in our team."

James Maloney had arguably his best display of the season with three try assists, while star second-rower Viliame Kikau scored two tries.

But Cleary said there's been an improvement across his entire line-up, who were written off after losing their sixth straight match in round 10.

"We were probably ready to be put down three weeks ago," Cleary said.

"(But) we realised we had to work off those wins and actually play some better footy and we did that tonight.

"Still got a way to go, but we looked different tonight. There was a different intensity about us. We looked so much more like a team these last few weeks."

While Maloney took the plaudits in attack, halves partner Nathan Cleary produced two desperate cover tackles to deny certain tries.

"Nat does that pretty much every week, I gotta say. I think he was doing it on Wednesday night (in State of Origin) as well," Ivan said.

"We had more try saves tonight than we probably had most of the year. That's the example of the team we've got to show - the character, and a bit more fight."