A first half blitz from the North Queensland Cowboys was too much for the Penrith Panthers to overcome as the Cowboys won 26-20 at Carrington Park in Bathurst on Friday night.
It was all Cowboys early on as Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan controlled the game beautifully, and they scored first points as Morgan crossed the line from a Jake Granville ball in the 14th minute. They were in again four minutes later as Ben Hampton strolled through some suspect Panthers defence before a Thurston penalty in the 23rd minute took the lead out to 14-0. It got even worse for the Panthers when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was sent to the sin bin for striking Kyle Feldt in the 31st minute and the Cowboys took full advantage as Gavin Cooper scored shortly after.
Tyrone Phillips kept the Panthers’ hopes alive when he went over in the corner just before half time as they went into the break down 20-4. They carried that momentum into the second half as Peter Wallace bagged a double in the first ten minutes after Shaun Fensom was sin binned when he took out Tyrone Peachey who was attempting a quick tap. The Panthers were only down by four points before Thurston scored his first try of the season to take the lead back out to eight. Tyrone Phillips got his second try of the night in the 59th minute to bring it back to within four points but it was too much for the Panthers to overcome as a late Thurston penalty goal sealed the win for the Cowboys.
PANTHERS LEFT TO RUE YET ANOTHER SLOW START
Another week, another poor start from the Panthers. In six of their nine matches so far this season, the Panthers have been down at the half time break, a stat which coach Anthony Griffin will no doubt want to reverse.
In all six of those games, the Panthers have produced a strong second half and did enough in three of them to get the win, however they need to start better if they want to be considered title contenders. Their match next week against a rising Newcastle Knights side is now a very important one as will be hoping to lock themselves in that all important top four for the forseeable future.
JASON TAUMALOLO PRODUCES HIS BEST GAME OF THE SEASON
The form drop of Jason Taumalolo in 2018 has been a big talking point regarding the Cowboys slow start to the season but on Friday night he was back to his devastating best. Taumalolo ran for 233 metres including 95 post contact metres, and produced two line breaks on top of seven tackle breaks. The Panthers struggled to slow him down as he constantly got the Cowboys on the front foot.
INJURY CURSE STRIKES THE PANTHERS AGAIN
The Panthers were hurt by yet another injury as Trent Merrin suffered an injury to his finger in the pregame warm-up. It meant Merrin was ruled out of the game as Kaide Ellis was rushed into the side. It’s just another name to add to the growing list of injured Panthers players including Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards, Waqa Blake and Josh Mansour.
Coach Anthony Griffin stated that he was still unsure whether it was a dislocation or a fracture but Merrin will need to have surgery and it’s believed he could be out for up to eight weeks.
SIN BINS CONTINUE TO TAKE THEIR TOLL
Sin bins in 2018 are at an all time high and they again were a major factor in Friday night’s match. With the Panthers down 14-0, referee Ashley Klein ruled that fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak punched Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt and was sent to the bin. The Cowboys were able to take advantage of a short-handed Panthers side as they scored only two minutes later to take the score to 20-0, a lead that was ultimately too large for the Panthers to overcome.
In the second half, Cowboys forward Shaun Fensom was sent to the sin bin after he took out Tyrone Peachey attempting a quick tap. It was the Panthers who now benefited from a man advantage as they ran in two quick tries and brought the deficit back to just four points. Whether you agree with these calls and the increase in sin bins, it’s clear the referees are doing what they can to stamp out the negative play in the competition.
PENRITH PANTHERS 20
Tries: Tyrone Phillips 2, Peter Wallace 2
Goals: James Maloney 2/4
Drop Goals: n/a
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 26
Tries: Michael Morgan, Ben Hampton, Gavin Cooper, Johnathan Thurston
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 5/6
Drop Goals: n/a
Penrith Panthers: 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Isaah Yeo, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Tyrone Phillips, 6 Tyrone Peachey, 7 James Maloney, 16 Moses Leota, 9 Peter Wallace, 10 Reagen Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Corey Harawira-Naera, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Sione Katoa, 15 Jack Hetherington, 17 James Tamou, 21 Kaide Ellis
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston, 8 Matthew Scott, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 14 Te Maire Martin, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Ethan Lowe