Penrith enjoy rare view from NRL summit

Scott Bailey
Nathan Cleary has helped lift youthful Penrith to the top of the NRL ladder

Penrith will enjoy just their 12th week at the NRL ladder summit this century after dethroning Parramatta to claim top spot at the regular season halfway mark.

Inspired by Nathan Cleary, the youthful Panthers' gritty 22-10 win over North Queensland ensured the NRL would have a new leader for the first time since March, ending the Eels' eight-round reign.

With 10 rounds of the regular season remaining, Penrith appear a genuine title contender with Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters among their scalps.

Staying at the top is the next challenge for the Panthers, given the club has not spent more than two straight weeks at the top since 1991.

"There's no prize (for it), but we've earned that spot in how we've played," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.

"It was another lesson today in a different style of contest for us with so many things in our favour.

"We probably learned we need to deal with that a bit better. But it does set us up. It's just what we do from now on in."

Penrith's ascension comes despite having the most inexperienced roster in the NRL.

While much has been made of Brisbane's reliance on youth as part of that club's problems, Penrith's 17 had 212 fewer NRL games between them this week then their Broncos' counterparts.

And while Penrith are first, the Broncos now sit 14th after seven losses in their last eight games with the world caving in on coach Anthony Seibold following Friday night's abysmal 48-0 loss to the Wests Tigers.

"It (the ladder position) is potentially a little better than I'd hoped," Cleary said.

"But we are always optimistic that if we do things well and get things right, we can do pretty well this year."

Penrith's rise to the top comes after they took full advantage of Parramatta's 22-18 loss to Manly, while Melbourne are below them in third and Newcastle fourth.

Seeking a third straight title, the Sydney Roosters have dropped out of the top four for the first time since round five after their shock loss to injury-ravaged Canberra.

At the bottom of the eight, Cronulla narrowly missed out on climbing into a finals-paying position at the halfway mark after their 46-10 flogging of the Warriors on Sunday.

The Warriors crossed in the final minute to leave the Sharks ninth, behind South Sydney on percentages with the exact same for-and-against differential.

"I'm not entirely happy (with equal-eighth)," Sharks coach John Morris said.

"We're nowhere near our best, but we also haven't had our best team on the park.

"Four out of our last five have been wins. But to drop a game last week shows us there are parts of our games we need to be better at."