Cowboys 30 def Penrith 26
With less than five minutes left on the clock at CUA Stadium tonight, the Panthers appeared to have the game won.
They were leading the Cowboys 26-16 and the fans were preparing to celebrate.
But the Cowboys scored two quick tries to send the game into golden point – and then a third in extra time to win the game. All up, they scored three times in roughly eight minutes.
It just about summed up Penrith’s season.
As Head Coach Matt Elliott said later: “I’m not disappointed with the effort, and the execution of the bulk of our play was fantastic – but you saw the reasons why we’re on 14 competition points at the back end of the game.
“Our decision making, and our skill, at key times of the game – not just the end of the game but at key times of the game – just let us down.”
The Panthers – playing with Trent Waterhouse, Luke Lewis and Michael Gordon back in the side – started confidently, opening the scoring with a try by Frank Pritchard off a great pass from Luke Priddis in the sixth minute. But Gordon was unable to convert.
The Cowboys went ahead 6-4 thanks to a try by Brenton Bowen, converted by Johnathan Thurston.
The Panthers took the lead again in the 28th minute when Michael Jennings pounced on a dropped ball and ran 60 metres to score. Gordon converted to make it 10-6.
A clever grubber kick by Thurston put Matty Bowen over with less than three minutes of the half remaining, and when Thurston made the conversion, it was 10-all, which is how it it remained at half time.
There was an ugly incident early in the second half. Sione Faumuina was put on report for a high shot on Luke Priddis. He came in late as third man in the tackle and rattled Priddis to the point where the Penrith rake had to leave the field for treatment. He came back later.
Geoff Daniela, Joel Clinton and Jennings scored for Penrith in the second half.
Craig Gower, playing his second last game at home, put in a real captain’s performance. He could barely hide his disappointment at the post-match media conference. Again, Jarrod Sammut was in almost everything.
North Queensland Cowboys 30 (tries: Ashley Graham 3, Brenton Bowen, Matty Bowen, Justin Smith; goals: Thurston 3/5) Penrith Panthers 26 (tries: Michael Jennings 2, Frank Pritchard, Geoff Daniela, Joel Clinton; Michael Gordon 3/5)