A Blake Ferguson-inspired Sydney Roosters have capitalised on a first half shutout of Penrith to record a 24-4 win and consolidate their spot in the NRL top four.
For the second time this year, the lanky three-quarter tore up the Panthers’ left edge on Saturday night.
Ferguson was unlucky not to score himself but compensated with a hand in two other four-pointers for the visitors.
After bagging a double in a 20-12 win in March, the former bad boy – together with wing partner Shaun Kenny-Dowall – took full advantage after the Roosters forward pack exposed a frail Panthers middle with unerring ease.
NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce also bounced back from the Blues’ pummelling in Brisbane on Wednesday night with a strong outing.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson revealed his side had made a pre-game pact to help lift their NSW Origin contingent who were embarrassed by Queensland.
“I talked about it pre-game – it’s a tough night, one of the toughest for NSW,” he said.
“I had a small role to play with those players but the key guys were the players and the way they spoke about them coming back and the way they wanted to play for them.
“Our team was the one that got around them. They decided they were going to play for them tonight and they did. So that’s a really good attitude from our guys there.”
Panthers mentor Ivan Cleary lamented a poor showing in defence and conceded his team were simply outclassed by a superior outfit.
“It was pretty much one way traffic I thought. We couldn’t contain their go forward and I was disappointed with our defence too. I thought it just wasn’t up to it,” he said.
“We looked the best on our goal-line but it was just a bit too easy to get down there.
“We probably didn’t turn up with the right attitude defensively and once they got a sniff they were very hard to stop – they’re a very powerful team.”
The Roosters added a try to their early 2-0 lead when Kenny-Dowall finished a long-range effort that included Ferguson bumping off two defenders in the 20th minute.
With four regular first-graders still on the sideline, a gallant Panthers outfit stayed with the dominant Roosters to cop a 6-0 deficit at halftime.
But the Tri-colours’ dangerous duo combined again after the break with a soaring Ferguson tapping back a James Maloney kick for his in-form teammate.
Eight minutes later Roger Tuivasa-Sheck spun the lead to 18 with a solo effort.
There was faint hope of a comeback when makeshift winger Lewis Brown – filling in after David Simmons limped off with a bad back in the first half – stormed onto a Dean Whare inside pass in the 71st minute.
But Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves sealed the win with a barnstorming run in the 75th.