Goals: Nathan Cleary (8, 11 – penalty, 53, 62)
Player of the Year PointsEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
2 pts – Jarome Luai (Panthers)
1 pt – Dylan Edwards (Panthers)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Warm conditions greeted the players at Panthers Stadium as the Panthers and Cowboys opened their 2021 campaigns.
Kurt Capewell opened the scoring after seven minutes, coming off the back of a strong kick return from Brian To’o. A set restart also helped along the way as one of Queensland’s best in the 2020 Origin series crashed over from close range.
A successful challenge by Penrith (one of three successful on the night), when Reece Robson was penalised for interference in the play-the-ball on James Fisher Harris, led to Nathan Cleary extending the lead to eight points after 11 minutes.
Just like in 2020, Penrith continued to dominate possession and field position. Despite the 66% possession, the Cowboys continued to repel the Panthers in attack. Their scrambling to deny Capewell a brace, and Momirovski just five minutes later, showed that the Cowboys under Todd Payten will be well prepared each week.
It was a half where Penrith were entitled to be up by more than eight points, but the energy was sapped from the Cowboys, which would prove costly in the second half.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 8 North Queensland Cowboys 0Embed from Getty Images
The Cowboys came out of the sheds with plenty of enthusiasm and were entitled to still be in the contest 10 minutes after the break, with a more direct approach to their play.
It was Penrith who absorbed the pressure, and with Cleary making a solid run up the middle of the field, they scored first after the break through Dylan Edwards. Jarome Luai turned the point of attack back to the inside and found his fullback in support against a backtracking Cowboys defence.
On the hour, Brian To’o scored his first try for the season after Luai stepped through the middle and passed to Stephen Crichton on the right, who found the winger unmarked. Penrith were cruising at 18-0 with the game well in hand.
Two minutes later, after a superb bomb from Cleary that landed on the try line, Liam Martin plucked the ball out of the air and offloaded to recently appointed co-captain Isaah Yeo to put the game beyond doubt.
Penrith will be satisfied with their effort, knowing they have plenty of improvement ahead of them. Their intensity and domination were factors in their win.
North Queensland have a bit to work on do in attack, something acknowledged by coach Todd Payten in the post-match presser. Their last tackle options were horrible at times, on top of a poor completion rate – where they finished 22 of 37 sets. Given they only had 39% possession overall, it was critical for the Cowboys to hold onto the pill and assert more pressure on the 2020 grand finalists.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 24 North Queensland Cowboys 0
to be advised
Match Review Committee
to be advised