North Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga bagged a hat-trick as the Cowboys demolished the NYC Panthers 40-16 at Pepper Stadium on Saturday.
It took Ponga only eight minutes to slice through the Panthers defence and score the opening try. The conversion was waved away but North Queensland led 4-0.
The Panthers got their first genuine attacking opportunity in the 15th minute of the game however their last-play kick was scooped up by Ponga. The fullback streaked away on a 95-metre run to score and give the Cowboys an 8-0 lead.
The visitors’ lead was extended further when some simple hands put winger Michael Carroll over untouched in the corner in the 21st minute. With the conversion attempt again unsuccessful, the Cowboys were ahead 12-0.
The Panthers continued to be their own worst enemy and five minutes later a sloppy pass in attack was swept up by Cowboys centre Kurt Wiltshire. The centre ran 90 metres to score North Queensland’s fourth try and this time it was converted for an 18-0 lead.
Dean Blore finally got the Panthers on the board in the 30th minute as the playmaker broke through from close range. He couldn’t convert and it remained an 18-4 game.
The fightback continued in the final minutes before halftime and the Panthers eventually got their reward via Daniel Brown. Some slick hands put the winger in the clear and he dived over. Blore was on target with the conversion attempt to cut North Queensland’s lead to 18-10 as the siren sounded.
HALFTIME – Cowboys 18-10
The Cowboys struck first after the break as Sam Murphy crashed over out wide in the 47th minute. The conversion was waved away by North Queensland enjoyed a 22-10 lead.
They broke through again shortly afterwards as centre Enari Tuala touched down for North Queensland and it was converted for a 28-10 advantage.
A linebreak by Blore with 18 minutes left in the contest ended with Reed Izzard scoring from the next play. Blore followed it with a conversion to make it 28-16.
The Cowboys effectively put the game to bed with 13 minutes remaining. Ryan Lloyd ran on to a great short ball next to the posts. The conversion was successful to take the score out to 34-16.
Ponga grabbed his third try with another long-distance effort with five minutes left to play and the successful conversion made it 40-16 to the Cowboys.
FULLTIME – Cowboys 40-16