The Panthers have claimed the 2023 minor premiership and ended North Queensland's finals hopes in the process with a crushing 44-12 victory at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday night.
A dominant first half by the defending premiers, who set up a 26-0 lead, was more than enough against a Cowboys outfit who crossed twice to open the second half but overall weren't up for the challenge in a bid to finish in the top eight this season.
It is the fifth time in Penrith's history the club has claimed the J.J. Giltinan shield and the third time in four years after the Broncos lost to the Storm at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
Panthers five-eighth Jack Cogger produced three try assists early to set up tries to Stephen Crichton and Sunia Turuva before Liam Martin went over on the right edge through a short pass by the fill-in playmaker.
Brian To'o Try
An error from Peta Hiku and further ill-discipline from the Cowboys enabled the Panthers to march back up the field with a deft pass from Nathan Cleary enough for Brian To'o to carry three defenders over the line for a 20-0 lead.
Cleary was in a running mood and went close next before Luke Sommerton finished the job on the next play before half-time to cross for the side's fifth of the evening.
The Cowboys needed to be first to score after the break to give themselves any hope of an unlikely comeback and did through Griffin Neame, who barged his way over under the posts after the visitors were able to grab a rare repeat set.
Luke Sommerton Try
Cowboys halfback Chad Townsend was also moving the ball around in attack but it was the left edge from the visitors that cracked Penrith next with Zac Laybutt getting on the outside of Izack Tago before beating Dylan Edwards to the line.
North Queensland continued to enjoy some field position and momentum but it was soon over when Turuva grabbed a double on the left edge with a weaving effort.
A bone-crunching hit from Cleary on Tom Dearden jolted the ball free and the evening got worse for the visitors when Reece Robson was marched for a professional foul on Edwards in the act of chasing a kick for a try.
Cleary was next to get on the try-scorer's list with a narrow put down of the ball on the line before To'o crossed on the right for a second to get the party started for the western Sydney club ahead of their finals push for a third consecutive title.
Match: Panthers v Cowboys
Round 27 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
- Penrith's minor premiership victory was their fifth in club history after finishing ahead of the Broncos on points differential in 2023.
- Luke Sommerton's try was the first of his NRL career with the Panthers rookie filling in for Mitch Kenny (leg) at dummy half prior to the finals.
- The Panthers completed at 90 percent and had 60 percent of possession in the first half to set up a 26-0 lead.
- Panthers winger Brian To’o has now scored 15 tries from his past 11 games at BlueBet Stadium.
- The Panthers had not lost consecutive games at BlueBet Stadium since 2019.
- The Cowboys remain winless at BlueBet Stadium since 2016.
- Panthers centre Izack Tago was taken from the field in the 60th minute as a tactic after making a return from a leg injury.
- Cowboys hooker Reece Robson was sin-binned in the 67th minute for a professional foul on Dylan Edwards.
- Panthers centre Stephen Crichton was enormous on the left edge with 224 metres, 13 tackle busts and four offloads.
Play of the game
Sunia Turuva's second career double came with a neat effort in the second half when he collected a flick pass from Stephen Crichton before tippy toeing his way over the line to put an end to any chance of a Cowboys comeback.
Sunia Turuva Try
What they said
"To go out at half time like we did, with everything to play for and getting put on the back foot and not show any real resolve, was really disappointing and hard to cop. That first period after 20 minutes, the only real bloke I saw really standing up physically was Luc (Luciano Leilua). We were shell shocked, the boys were looking at each other waiting for someone else to do something...that's hard to watch." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten
Cowboys: Round 27
"That's four years in a row we're first or equal first at the end of the year so I'm really proud of that, consistency is such a big part of being successful. We've worked extremely hard to get here and as they say 'it's a new competition' but I think the habits have formed and the understandings of what works for us will help us in there (finals)." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary
Panthers: Round 27
The Panthers will host a home final at BlueBet Stadium against the Warriors while the Cowboys' season is officially over. Penrith will be banking on the likes of Mitch Kenny and Scott Sorensen to return in time for the first week of the finals.