Nathan Cleary did not let a facial infection prevent him from helping Penrith Panthers go top of the NRL standings as they defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 18-12.

Half-back Cleary spent six hours in hospital on Thursday being treated for cellulitis and he wore a bandage between his eyes at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

It appeared to be affecting his goal-kicking as he missed the conversions for all four of Penrith’s tries.

However, having scored one of those four-pointers himself, Cleary showed his value to a Panthers side that made it five wins from seven and moved above Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels in the standings.

Brent Naden was the first to go over, following a Cleary kick, before Stephen Crichton touched down to give Penrith an 8-0 advantage at the break.

Bayley Sironen burst through after the interval for Souths’ first points but a patient Dylan Edwards found a through for the Panthers, before Cleary contributed a penalty and a late try.

By that point, James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell – who had an off night – were both in the sin bin, and Alex Johnston’s score with just over a minute to go only made the margin of defeat smaller for the Rabbitohs.