NRL Round 20: Broncos v Panthers | Photos

Maybe Brisbane's premiership window was more like a premiership louvre, one that snaps shut just as quickly as it was flicked open. Whatever the case, they have vast improvements to make if they want to rattle the cage in October once more.

Penrith gave Brisbane a hiding in a 31-12 win at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

The grand finalists have enough time on their hands to turn things around and Wayne Bennett has made a point of saying that form over the final few weeks of the regular season remains the key to a fruitful finals campaign.

But there are blinding truths that Brisbane must overcome, many of them laid bare in their 31-12 defeat to an impressive young Penrith outfit at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, a victory which in turn moved the visitors into the top eight.

Even with most of Brisbane's Origin elite back in action, Penrith dictated play from the outset. They won almost all of the meaningful collisions and Nathan Cleary was a vision of composure as he orchestrated repeat set after repeat set.

Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford, who looked almost unstoppable early in the season, continued their grapples with form. Milford's timing is all off, with the playmaker throwing a pair of forward passes as he tried to kickstart his side and his own game.

James Roberts helped Brisbane to add some respect to the scoreboard when he scored late on the counter but even that was an opportune effort. For much of the game, his presence was sadly lacking.

"It was still patchy in that second half but that showed what we were capable of tonight. That will bring a lot of confidence in the camp," said Panthers' skipper Matt Moylan.

And coach Anthony Griffin: "They were in a good mood all week. Last week we got our energy back and there was a lot better execution."

Griffin now has eight wins, a draw and a loss coaching against Bennett and this one would be have been especially sweet, given the context of the ladder. More of this and the Panthers can ensure they can shape their own destiny.

It's rare to see Brisbane fans leave early but for some of the 30,878-strong crowd, that was the case. The lack of energy on the field spilled into the stands and getting out of the carpark became a higher priority than hoping the Broncos could produce a miracle.

"We showed tonight that we can score tries. But for long periods of time there, we couldn't build pressure and didn't look like we could score a try. They got somewhere between six and nine repeat sets. We got zero," was the verdict from Bennett.

Moylan turned in a quality effort from fullback and Trent Merrin was superb in the middle, running for 249 metres to add to his 33 tackles. He scored a late try and nobody deserved one more than the former Blues' backrower, playing his 150th NRL match.

Waqa Blake had a yo-yo start to the game, bungling a certain try after nine minutes than running 90m for one five minutes later to start the Panthers rolling.

Brisbane looked flat from the start. Frustration grew as they trailed 14-0, with Josh McGuire's late swinging arm on Josh Mansour indicative of their mindset.

When Englishman Zak Hardaker scored his first NRL try just before half-time, it was 18-0 and Bennett needed to find a way to spur his troops back into life.

Milford attempted to add some spice to start the second but nothing was going right for the young five-eighth. He tried to attack the line, offloading to Sam Thaiday only to find his pass was forward. There would be more of that to come.

Darius Boyd and Roberts at least shifted Brisbane off the duck and for a moment there was even some hope that another score could see Penrith take their eye off the ball.

It wasn't to be. Moylan knocked over a field goal to give them breathing space, then Merrin barged his way over under the posts to put the finishing touches on a win of impressive quality that should bode well for the Panthers if they can hold their place in the top eight.

Brisbane must now regroup ahead of a tricky Thursday night away game against the Roosters in Sydney. Another loss would put the cat right amongst the pigeons at Red Hill and leave them vulnerable to even make the finals, let alone atone for grand final defeat.