Matt Moylan’s field goal ninety seconds from full time helped the Penrith Panthers sink in-form North Queensland Cowboys 23-22 in a thrilling Monday night encounter at SportingBet Stadium.
It appeared that Jamie Soward might have erred in kicking in-goal instead of taking a shot at field goal with just over two minutes remaining. Lucky for the Panthers they forced the Cowboys into a goal line drop out. In that following set it was Moylan who hit the ball sweetly between the posts and gave the mountain men their eighth, and probably most important home win of the season.
For the third time Moylan was been involved in the winning play at SportingBet Stadium in 2014. His sideline conversion against the Bulldogs and field goals against Brisbane and North Queensland is fast establishing the fullback as a genuine match winner.
With the gusty wind and heavy rain falling at times, field position was going to be a factor in winning the game. North Queensland got off to the perfect start when Johnathan Thurston found Kane Linnett with a bullet-like pass after two minutes. It looked like the Cowboys were about to continue their form that saw them eclipse Wests Tigers a week earlier. The Cowboys held the ball for the first eight minutes before Will Smith was the recipient of a Rory Kostjasyn pass near the Panthers line.
The night belonged to Jamie Soward as he put his best performance of the season in scoring two, and setting up the other two. Soward started and finished his first try as he linked up with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to score in the corner after eleven minutes. His double was completed thirteen minutes before half time when he spun out of the Cowboys defense to score a try that put the Panthers up by ten points to six.
Six minutes from half time Soward’s attacking kick was knocked back by Jamal Idris in the direction of Jeremy Latimore who crossed to give Penrith an important 16-6 lead. That lead would be cut to four nearing half time when Gavin Cooper put away Glenn Hall after a superb offload.
North Queensland hit the lead three minutes after the break after Dean Whare turned over possession in his own half. Thurston again was on hand to give the final pass to Robert Lui who ran across field before straightening up to score near the posts. Not long after Watene-Zelezniak spilt the ball when returning a kick from his in-goal but the Cowboys couldn’t convert the advantage into points with Ethan Lowe spilling Lui’s pass.
A pivotal moment of the game came at the ten minute mark of the second half after Soward took an intercept and went on a long range run down field. Soward was held down for too long and the officials had no choice but to send Matthew Wright to the sin bin. Cowboys coach Paul Green was scathing of the officials after it appeared Soward tried to milk the penalty.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to regain the lead with Soward’s long overhead pass to Josh Mansour saw the winger cross out wide. The pass reminiscent of the great Wally Lewis at the peak of his career. Most importantly Moylan’s sideline conversion gave Penrith the lead 22-18.
Once again North Queensland pressed the Penrith line as their error rate crept upwards. Michael Morgan went close to scoring but was chopped down by Dean Whare just short of the line. Moylan was then forced to make a play on Jason Taumalolo a few tackles later to shut down another scoring chance.
With ten minutes left on the clock finally the Cowboys drew level. Lui’s kick went into no-man’s land and the bounce favoured Cooper who tapped back for Antonio Winterstein to score in the corner and level the score.
This set the game up for an exciting finish and with James Segeyaro heading off the field with an ankle injury, the Cowboys looked set for their third win on the road this season. However it was the injury plagued Penrith who got the last chance to win the game and in doing so rewarded their small but vocal crowd by getting the vital two competition points.
Soward and Moylan were the stars for Penrith on the night. Some credit should go to Nigel Plum who was one of the best forwards on field along with Adam Docker. Thurston steered the Cowboys so ever close to victory but Cooper was their most dangerous player on the night with Matt Scott not too far behind.
The implications of the result will please Penrith, but hurt North Queensland. The Panthers stay third with the knowledge that one more win might be enough to land a top four finish. North Queensland now sink to the seventh on the ladder and will need to win potentially two of their last three to secure a finals spot. They face the Rabbitohs (A), Cronulla (H) and Sea Eagles (H) in their final three games in trying to qualify for the finals.
PENRITH PANTHERS 23 (Jamie Soward 2, Jeremy Latimore, Josh Mansour tries; Matt Moylan 2, Jamie Soward goals; Matt Moylan field goal) defeated NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 22 (Kane Linnett, Glenn Hall, Robert Lui, Antonio Winterstein tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 goals)