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An ill-disciplined Panthers outfit proved their own worst enemy on Saturday afternoon, suffering a crushing 14-12 loss at the hands of the Cowboys.
The scoring at 1300SMILES Stadium opened off the back of a perfect short pass from Penrith five-eighth Matt Moylan. Dean Whare broke through the line and the Panthers suddenly found themselves 20 metres out from the North Queensland line.
Moylan continued his stellar form, putting Corey Harawira-Naera through a gaping hole to score untouched. The rest of the first half was dominated by a combination of defensive resilience and errors. The Cowboys looked to be building nicely yet were lacking execution. Meanwhile, the Panthers just could not get going, with penalties and errors in particular proving their undoing in the first half.
As a result, the home side dominated the possession count in the late stages of the opening forty minutes. Yet, the Panthers held on bravely in defence, with Harawira-Naera stopping a rampaging Coen Hess from storming over in the 36th minute.
It almost proved a game-changer when Tyrone Peachey burst through off the following set only to fall short of the line courtesy of a great tackle by Shaun Fensom. As a result, the Panthers only held a 6-0 lead at the break after what was a relatively scrappy first half.
It was a similar story at the start of the second half. The Cowboys were enjoying the clear advantage when it came to possession. However, still, the Panthers were proving too strong in defence, repelling multiple attacking raids.
Ultimately, it was another error which would lead to the home side's first try. Coming out of trouble, Waqa Blake juggled the ball in a tackle and finally, off a Michael Morgan offload, Corey Jensen barged over. The Panthers continued to shoot themselves in the foot, with Mitch Rein conceding a penalty in front of the posts a short moment later. Ethan Lowe pointed towards the sticks and gave the Cowboys the lead for the first time in the game.
Just when it appeared as the Cowboys were building, Nathan Cleary regained the lead for his side when he took the line on in the 64th minute. In the end, a massive play from the Cowboys saw Dallin Watene-Zelezniak forced back into his own in-goal area to give Paul Green's men a couple of final shots at Penrith's line - and Kyle Feldt took full advantage.
Michael Morgan posted his second try assist in the second half when he kicked long for a flying Feldt, who snatched the ball to lock things up. Then, Lowe did his best 'JT' impression to nail the conversion from the sideline and give his side a 14-12 lead. The Panthers would regain the ball of the kick-off and looked like they would almost steal it in the dying moments, yet there would be no miracle this time, with the Cowboys celebrating Gavin Cooper's 250th game with a critical 14-12 win.
The Cowboys now brace for the cold of the Nation's Capital when they travel to take on Canberra next Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Panthers will attempt to bounce back when they battle the refreshed Rabbitohs next Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium.
North Queensland Cowboys 14 - Penrith Panthers 12
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Halftime Score: North Queensland Cowboys 0 Penrith Panthers 6
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Michael Morgan
2 points - Coen Hess
1 points - Dylan Edwards
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (14)
Tries: Corey Jensen, Kyle Feldt
Conversions: Ethan Lowe (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Ethan Lowe (1/1)
PENRITH PANTHERS (12)
Tries: Corey Harawira, Nathan Cleary
Conversions: Nathan Cleary (2/2)