Isaah Yeo: Digital Image by Robb Cox nrlphotos.com

The Panthers have gone down to the Cowboys 30-10 in controversial circumstances tonight at Pepper Stadium.

The first 20 minutes of the game was fairly evenly matched, but the Cowboys stepped up their game towards the end of the first half, and with the help of a few video ref decisions, they steam rolled ahead to win the game.

We started the game on a positive note, welcoming Nigel Plum back from injury as well as James Segeyaro who returned following lip surgery. Ivan Cleary decided to play Api Koroisau in the halves alongside Pete Wallace, and it paid off with the combination working quite well.

Waqa Blake was impressive on debut and was one of the standout players throughout the game.

The Panthers opened the scoring in the 7th minute after the Cowboys failed to make a lot of ground with their first set. That gave Penrith a bit of a head start towards their line, and then a penalty on the second tackle got us even closer. Jamal Idris came within inches of scoring a few tackles later, but it was James Segeyaro – in his first game back after lip surgery – who scored the first points of the game! After snatching the ball at dummy half from Jamal, Chicko dived underneath North Queensland’s defenders to get the ball down. Matt Moylan sent the ball straight through the uprights for the extra two, giving the home side a 6-0 lead, 7 minutes in.

North Queensland hit back in the 13th minute after running the ball up to their line before centre Tautau Moga collected a nice cut out pass on the 20m line before flicking it to Matthew Wright who had been left unmarked on the wing, and he sprinted the final 10m to run the ball over the line. Johnathan Thurston converted to level the score 6-6.

The Cowboys scored again in the 21st minute after Thurston put in a grubber kick from 10m out and Moylan slid in to collect it but lost the ball when former team mate Lachlan Coote charged in over the top of him. Coote managed to come up with the ball to score and despite the on-field ref calling no try, the video ref overturned the decision and gave North Queensland the points. Thurston’s conversion put them in front 12-6.

Penrith began to lose a bit of form here and seemed a little anxious and out of rhythm, with a few wayward kicks and some dropped ball.

With 5 minutes on the clock we almost had the opportunity to level the score when Pete Wallace sent the ball to Moylan, who flicked it to Peachey who flicked it back to Moylan who barged his way over the line, carrying a handful of defenders with him. The on-field ref ruled a try but the video ref overturned it, claiming he was held up, so it was North Queensland’s ball.

Their next set led to their next try after some poor Penrith defence on the left wing. After some confusion around the halfway line, Thurston then broke through the Panthers defence and sprinted 30m before being brought down. The ball was sent wide but our defenders had been drawn in, leaving Cowboys winger Matthew Wright completely open near the sideline, and he ran 15m to dive over the line. The conversion missed, so the score went to 16=6.

HALF TIME: 16-6 Cowboys

The Panthers came back from the half time break two steps behind North Queensland, and some very lazy defence handed the visitors their next try in the 45th minute. After forcing a goal line drop out, the Cowboys began their set 40m out from their line and ran the ball up confidently, before Thurston handed the ball to Ethan Rowe, who ran straight between two Panthers players to get the ball over the line. The conversion added the extra two, extending the Cowboys’ lead to 22-6.

Penrith hit back in the 51st minute with a classy try to Dean Whare off the back of a beautifully played set. The Panthers were awarded a penalty just shy of the halfway line and quickly made their way up to our line. Wallace sent the ball right to Moylan on the 10m line and he flicked it to Whare, who put his head down and sprinted through a couple of defenders to dive over and score. The kick was wide, so the score went to 22-10.

In the 59th minute the refs overruled another Panthers try. After Moylan came agonisingly close to getting the ball over the line, Josh Mansour collected the ball from dummy half and dived under a bunch of Cowboys defenders and got the ball over the line. The on-field ref ruled a try, but the video ref decided to overturn his decision again.

In the 69th minute the Cowboys were awarded a penalty right in front of the uprights after the Panthers kept a hold of the ball for too long. That took the score to 24-10.

North Queensland had their next try in the 73rd minute after a Thurston cut out pass to Wright put him in for his hat trick, right near the corner post. With the conversion, the visitors extended their lead to 30-10 with 5 minutes on the clock.

FULL TIME: 30-10 Cowboys