The Panthers finals hopes took a huge blow on Friday night when they were outclassed by the gutsy Cowboys.
With news during the week of Matt Scott's ill health, the Cowboys looked determined to put in a big performance for their long time skipper. In the ninth minute, they opened the scoring when they spread the ball right from a scrum to Tom Opacic, who got a stunning offload away to Kyle Feldt, who spun out of a tackle to stroll across the line to score a good try. Jordan Kahu converted from out wide.
The Cowboys lost Scott Bolton with a shoulder injury midway through the first half. In the 33rd minute Penrith got on the board when Brian To'o got the ball with space to move out on the right side, made a beeline towards the right corner and then launched his now trademark leap to score. Nathan Cleary was unable to convert from touch.
Right on the stroke of halftime, John Asiata put in a speedy grubber, which Kahu took superbly before getting an even better offload away to rookie Murray Taulagi, who scored an easy but brilliant try. Kahu added the extras to give the Cowboys an 8 point lead at the break.
In the 58th minute, Penrith were on the attack, when Cleary chipped back in towards the posts, however it was too heavy and went dead in-goal. Opacic raced out to take the 20 metre tap, ran to the broken defensive line and then passed to Feldt who exploded through a yawning gap and raced 70 metres to score under the posts. Kahu added the two.
Penrith hit back immediately when James Maloney's grubber into the Cowboy's in-goal area was forced by Isaah Yeo for a good try. Cleary converted from almost in front.
Tom Opacic suffered a bad concussion after getting his head in a bad place for a low tackle, and came off for an HIA in the 68th minute and didn't return.
In the 72nd minute, the Cowboys iced the cake, when Jake Granville from dummy half and close to the Panthers line, darted to the defensive line and then sent a short ball to a barnstorming Jason Taumalolo and the big man powered over James Tamou to score to the right of the posts. Kahu again added the extras and the Cowboys cruised to a 24-10 victory.