Penrith Panthers skip four points clear at the top of the ladder following their 22-0 win over third-placed North Queensland Cowboys.
Penrith Panthers 22
Tries: Isaah Yeo (2), Dylan Edwards (19), Brian To’o (26), Taylan May (70)
Goals: Nathan Cleary 2 (4, 21), Stephen Crichton (71)
North Queensland Cowboys 0
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
It was a much-anticipated clash between the defending premiers, and the team dubbed as wooden spoon contenders who’ve shot up to third place at the mid-point of the season.
In an enterprising start, the Cowboys looked to spread the ball wide in an attempt to catch out the home side in defence and have them on the back foot.
However, opportunities inside the Panthers half were few and far between in the first half. Penrith effectively controlled play and had enough opportunities to put a sizable lead on the Cowboys at the break.
When Isaah Yeo broke the line after two minutes you would be mistaken to think the Cowboys were going to wilt. But the story throughout the first half was their solid online defence, something the Cowboys have prided themselves on this season that kept the Panthers out.
On the flip side, Penrith played controlled footy and showed very few signs of panic. Just like last week, they were patient in building points on the scoreboard.
Dylan Edwards crossed for the Panthers second of the night with some clever hands to pick up the ball on a slippery BlueBet Stadium surface.
By the time Brian To’o had scored in the corner to make it 16-0, the Cowboys were looking weary and would have felt relieved to go into the sheds not behind by more.
Stephen Crichton and Jaeman Samon left the field for HIA assessment but were cleared to continue.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 16 North Queensland Cowboys 0Embed from Getty Images
North Queensland were looking to avoid an unwanted milestone in the second half – being kept scoreless by the Panthers in back-to-back fixtures at BlueBet Stadium.
While the big forward pack of Coen Hess and Jordan McLean tried to stamp their authority on the game, it was an uphill battle given their first half defensive effort which took the gas out of any comeback in the second half.
Valentine Holmes went close to scoring in the early stages of the second half only to knock on near the goal line. That, combined with a growing error rate bought the Cowboys back to earth after knocking off the Melbourne Storm a week earlier.
It took 70 minutes for the Panthers to cross for their fourth try through Taylan May for the final score of the match.
But it was their defensive effort, led by Viliame Kikau that was most impressive. James Fisher-Harris was tireless in making 220 metres from 20 hit-ups, while Dylan Edwards once again showed how far he’s improved in the past 12 months with another strong performance at the back.
There was some controversy when Nathan Cleary had contact with the knees by a Cowboys defender after kicking which may result in some action by the Match Review Committee. They’ll have a busy review after Kikau was reported twice for lifting and late tackles.
Penrith now move four points clear of the Melbourne Storm at the midpoint of the season. The Cowboys will be looking for the quick bounce back when they travel to the Gold Coast next Thursday, minus their Origin stars.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 22 North Queensland Cowboys 0
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Dylan Edwards (Panthers), 2 pts – Viliame Kikau (Panthers), 1 pt – James Fisher-Harris (Panthers)
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