The Penrith Panthers were seeking their fifth consecutive victory as they continued their push for the top of the table. A win in the last game of round ten would see them head the ladder going in to round eleven after the Eels slipped up yesterday and left the door wide open.
Their opposition, the North Queensland Cowboys, had issues at the other end of the table as they went into today’s game with just one win in the last five. Nothing but an unlikely big points win would do anything to alter their league position, but it would keep them in sight of the top eight.
The bookies couldn’t see past a big Panthers win as one of the competitions in-form sides reached for the stars.
It was a clever opener for the Panthers as a high kick was tapped back by Stephen Crichton into the hands of Jarome Luai who threw a dummy and crossed. Nathan Cleary hit the post with his conversion attempt, Penrith 4-0 ahead after eight minutes.
A sensational Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow score, weaving his way for fifty metres through a broken Panthers defence, saw the full-back score in the corner. Kyle Feldt couldn’t add the conversion from the touchline, the sides were tied up at 4-4 with just over two minutes of the half remaining.
Cleary attempted a drop goal on the final hooter, the ball drifting wide of the sticks, and the sides went into the sheds all-square, a fantastic effort from the Cowboys who were holding their own against the much-fancied Panthers.
Debutant Daejarn Asi put the Cowboys ahead with just two minutes on the second half clock as he took the ball ten metres from the line and exploded toward the line leaving the tacklers in his wake. Feldt was accurate with the boot and against the odds North Queensland had a 10-4 lead.
The Panthers got their second eight minutes later when a passing move ended with Billy Burns finding Greg Naden to score in the corner. Nathan Cleary converted from the touchline to lock the game up at 10-10.
Penrith were back in front on fifty-nine after a great offload went from Tyrone May into the hands of Stephen Crichton who only had three metres to go to score. Cleary added the conversion to make it 16-10, still too close to call with twenty remaining.
On the final hooter Cleary threw two dummies and went though the defensive line to get a four pointer which he converted for a 22-10 win.
The final hooter signalled the Panthers win, but they knew that they’d been in a game and that they were fortunate to escape with the two points which puts them to the top of the table. The Cowboys deserved more from a performance where their defence kept them in the game but their attack just couldn’t break the Panthers for the points that they needed.
Penrith Panthers: Edwards, Mansour, Whare, Crichton (T), Naden (T), Luai (T), Cleary (T, 3G), Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo. Subs: May, Leniu, Leota, Burns.
North Queensland Cowboys: Tabuai-Fidow (T), Feldt (G), Lemuelu, Marsters, O’Neill, Asi (T), Clifford, McGuire, Robson, Molo, Hess, Wright, Taumalolo. Subs: Gilbert, Dunn, Cotter, Cooper.
Referee: Ben Cummins.
Ground: Panthers Stadium, Penrith.