Lachlan Jeffery reviews the Cowboys big win over the Panther cubs on Saturday night
North Queensland Cowboys 38
Tries: Valentine Holmes 3 (22, 31, 54), Murray Taulagi (8), Scott Drinkwater (27), Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (66), Reece Robson (69)
Goals: Valentine Holmes 3 (23, 28, 55), Chad Townsend 2 (67, 70)
Penrith Panthers 8
Tries: Robert Jennings (44), Sunia Turuva (62)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
The North Queensland Cowboys have warmed up for the finals with a dominant 38-8 win against an understrength Penrith Panthers outfit at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday night.
With the minor premiership secure, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary opted to give thirteen of his regular starters the week off ahead of next week’s qualifying finals.
With a home final potentially still up for grabs, the Cowboys looked for a strong start and narrowly avoided conceding a try to J’Maine Hopgood after only five minutes.
In an at-times stop-start opening period, the Cowboys regularly found space down the Penrith edge, scoring through Murray Taulagi in the 8th minute.
They went close to scoring again through Kyle Feldt in the 16th minute, only for the Bunker to confirm he had gone into touch.
A successful captain’s challenge a few minutes later gave the Cowboys another chance, with Valentine Holmes scoring after Robert Jennings was unable to collect the kick from the returning Tom Dearden.
They extended their lead again five minutes later as a Reece Robson break led to a Scott Drinkwater try.
Holmes’ second shortly after pushed the Cowboys lead to 20-0, which it remained until half-time.
The Panthers didn’t take long to hit back after the resumption with Robert Jennings crossing in the 44th minute.
The crowd was brought to their feet as the Cowboys turned defence into attack through a 20m restart, Holmes and Feldt combining to go the distance, with Holmes completing his hat trick under the posts.
That gave the Cowboys the momentum and they continued to build pressure, forcing a goal line drop out on Sunia Turuva. In the following set, debutant Thomas Jenkins was ruled to have run Jeremiah Nanai off the ball, leaving the rookie from Young in the sin bin.
Despite being down a man, Penrith were next to score as Sean O’Sullivan took on the line and shifted to Sunia Turuva to score his first NRL try in the corner.
The Cowboys put the result to bed with 13 minutes remaining as a wicked bounce for Charlie Staines gifted Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow a try.
Robson got his name on the scoresheet with ten minutes to go when the Bunker found no knock on in his grounding.
Taulagi went close to scoring his second in the dying minutes, only to drop the ball in attempting to ground it.
A phenomenal effort from Eddie Blacker in his first appearance for the Panthers to run down Scott Drinkwater at the death saved a certain try, leaving the minor premiers with a 30-point loss, and the Cowboys hoping the Knights beat the Sharks to finish second.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Reece Robson (Cowboys), 2 pts – Valentine Holmes (Cowboys), 1 pt – Scott Drinkwater (Cowboys)
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