Roosters 32 Panthers 12
A run of three losses early in the season had pundits questioning whether the Roosters' favouritism to replicate Brisbane's '92/'93 double was just pre-season fantasy, but a comfortable 32-12 win against the second placed Panthers has solidified them as the real deal.
The Tricolours' resounding performance in front of 13,993 cold fans at Allianz Stadium bore some similarities to their 56-4 victory over a hapless Parramatta in round two.
That victory coming just nine days after being caught with their pants down by the Rabbitohs seeking to exploit a post World Club Challenge hangover.
A four-day retreat on the Central Coast where they mulled over how they lost the unloseable to a depleted Cronulla pack 30-28 a fortnight ago, proved to be the break from footy Trent Robinson's men needed.
Playmakers James Maloney, who copped a knock to the jaw from James Segeyaro in the dying minutes, and Mitchell Pearce experimented with success in attack, while Anthony Minichiello was his reliable self at the back, catching high balls coming down from a grey Sydney sky all afternoon.
Boyd Cordner bagged a double for the Roosters to go with his 202 metres from 22 carries and 37 tackles.
It's been a month between drinks for the Roosters, who have had two byes in the last month but been crippled by two stinging losses against Manly and Cronulla, but their latest victory will give them the confidence they need in their more difficult run to finals than their western rivals.
For Penrith, not since their inaugural title in 1991 have they claimed the minor premiership, and Saturday's game was billed as the time to either prove or debunk their premiership credentials.
Their kicking lacked spark, which might have something to do with a cruel five-day turnaround after a 35-34 victory over Brisbane on Monday night.
In the fourth minute Jake Friend seized an opportunity to kick early with no wingers back for Penrith and found touch with a 40/20.
But Penrith were reduced to 12 men seconds later when Elijah Taylor committed a professional foul on the back of a quick restart.
Referee Ashley Klein had no option but to give the second-rower a temporary break on the sideline.
After a knock-on from Penrith on their tryline seconds later, a scrum was packed and Mitchell Pearce had no problem throwing a decoy ball to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who put Aidan Guerra into open space in the sixth minute.
Eleven minutes later Lewis Brown gifted the Tricolours another penalty deep in enemy territory and on the third play of the next set Mitch Aubusson ducked his head from dummy half to grab his fifth try of the year.
Mitchell Pearce then orchestarted a one-on-one strip on Matt Maylon before putting the ball down, but the video referee deemed the pill had gone forward.
Remi Casty snared the Chooks' third try of the afternoon courtesy of a flat ball from Mitchell Pearce. Any doubt over the grounding was put to bed by replays, which the referees demanded for all the first half four-pointers.
Not until the 55th minute did the Panthers look like breaking the deadlock, as Matt Moylan put a grubber through, which Minichiello then kicked away.
From the repeat set, Sam McKendry popped out a terrific offload to Soward, whose flat ball to the right side gave Bryce Cartwright just enough space to squeeze through a line of defenders and score.
Penrith's big men responded to the reverberating boos of the home crowd with some barnstorming runs from the next few sets, but their efforts were in vain as Boyd Cordner scooped up a Mitchell Pearce grubber in the 71st minute to secure the two points for the Tricolours.