James Maloney has fired Penrith to a thrilling 19-18 NRL win over South Sydney, sending a resounding message to NSW State of Origin selectors.
The wiley Panthers' No.6 celebrated his 33rd birthday by sinking a clutch 75th-minute field goal at ANZ Stadium on Saturday to extend his side's winning streak to four games.
Importantly, he has scored a head-to-head victory over South Sydney counterpart Cody Walker, who is struggling to hold onto his Blues No.6 jumper for next Sunday's Origin II in Perth.
Walker missed a field-goal attempt in the 74th minute as his side continued their Origin period slump with a third loss on the trot.
It has been reported that Panthers No.7 Nathan Cleary is set to partner Mitchell Pearce in the Blues halves next Sunday at Optus Stadium, however Maloney has given Blues coach Brad Fittler and his selectors food for thought.
Maloney took the Panthers to an 8-6 lead at halftime when he sent Viliame Kikau over.
After NSW's Origin I loss, Cleary was criticised for his lack of strike power, having not set up a try in his four appearances for the Blues.
He came up with his first try-assist for the Panthers in two months when he put in an inch-perfect ball for Brent Naden to make it 14-6.
The Rabbitohs came storming back into the contest when Liam Knight crossed before James Roberts hit full flight for the first time in a cardinal and myrtle jumper.
In his second game for the Rabbitohs since his mid-season move from Brisbane, he showcased his game-breaking ability when he took the ball on the 20-metre line, burst into the backfield and found Dane Gagai on the inside.
But just when the Rabbitohs seemed to have all the momentum, the Panthers hit back when they put the ball through the hands down the left edge and crossed through Brian To'o to level it up at 18-18.
Cleary missed a sideline conversion to take the lead which set up a tense final eight minutes.
Walker had a chance to win it, however his attempt veered left of the posts before Maloney kicked what proved to be the winning field goal.
Panthers prop James Tamou put his hand up for an Origin recall when he tallied 184 metres from 17 runs and made 23 tackles.
Already missing Sam Burgess (shoulder) and Tom Burgess (ankle), the Rabbitohs were struck a blow on game day when George Burgess was forced to withdraw because of a virus.
It was the first time since round eight, 2012 that a Rabbitohs side had not featured a Burgess brother.
Australian Associated Press