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Pink wall: Edwards inspires Panthers defensive effort to hold out Cowboys

A remarkable defensive performance by fullback Dylan Edwards helped the Panthers to survive a second half comeback from the Cowboys in North Queensland on Saturday night.

The Panthers led 24-4 in the 44th minute but were forced to defend their own line for much of the second half as the Cowboys fought back and needed to produce try saving tackle after try saving to triumph 26-20.

Hooker Mitch Kenny (43) topped the tackle count, while Isaah Yeo finished with 40 tackles, Liam Martin made 38 and even the backs contributed with centres Izack Tago and Taylan May making 23 and 21 tackles apiece. 

Edwards is renowned for his brilliance in attack but the star fullback was called upon to produce 10 tackles - most of them trysavers on the Panthers line, including a brilliant one-on-one tackle on Jeremiah Nanai.  

The Panthers were the first to score after five-eighth Jarome Luai threw a long pass for winger Brian To'o to celebrate his 100th NRL appearance with a try in just the third minute.

Brian To'o Try

However, the Cowboys hit back after Tom Dearden picked up a loose ball that had been batted back by Mitch Kenny from a short Panthers drop out and passed out wide for unmarked winger Semi Valemei to cross in the corner.

After saving a try at the other end when he stopped Jeremiah Nanai on Penrith's line, Edwards put the premiers further ahead with a 34th minute try after slicing through the defence.

Winger Paul Alamoti, who was a late inclusion in place of Fiji international Sunia Turuva, then delivered a hammer blow to the Cowboys when he intercepted a pass from Dearden to Scott Drinkwater and raced 60 metres to score on the stroke of halftime. 

Paul Alamoti Try

A Liam Martin try just four minutes after the interval extended Penrith's lead to 24-4 and the game appeared as good as over but the Cowboys had other ideas.

Valentine Holmes started the fightback when he sliced between the defence from a scrum win near the Panthers tryline to score in the 48th minute and boom forward Kulikefu Finefeuiaki crashed over on the blindside six minutes later.

When Nanai beat Luai and pushed off Edwards to score in the 60th minute the North Queensland fans at QCB Stadium sensed an upset but a 71st minute Nathan Cleary penalty goal gave the Panthers a six point buffer.

Jeremiah Nanai Try

Despite the Cowboys attacking the Penrith line, they were unable to score again as the visitors repeatedly came up with big defensive efforts to hold them out.

Match snapshot

  • Nathan Cleary became the first player to kick 600 goals for the Panthers.
  • Penrith winger Brian To'o celebrated his 100th NRL match with a try, 18 tackle breaks and carried the ball 228 metres from 19 runs.
  • The Cowboys produced 16 offloads to three by the Panthers.
  • Isaah Yeo (112m) was the only Penrith forward to run more than 100 metres with the ball. 
  • The Panthers have won six of their past eight games against the Cowboys.
  • The match was the 50th time the Cowboys have played at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
  • Cowboys halfback Chad Townsend made his 250th NRL appearance.

Mesmerising play from the Panthers

Play of the game

Defensive resolve won the match for the Panthers, with hooker Mitch Kenny producing a number of jolting tackles but there were no better efforts than Dylan Edwards' try saver on Jeremiah Nanai in the first half. 

A Dylan Edwards try-saving speciality

What they said

“I was pleased but frustrated too. From 24-4 down it was a great effort, but it’s still not good enough. We fell short in winning the game and two freak tries to the opposition either side of halftime was the difference in the end. We're not happy with that, we’ve lost three of the last four and we just can't be happy with being close, taking away the scoreboard in the first half," - Cowboys coach Todd Payten.

Cowboys: Round 8

“We just had a just a rush of possession against us and at 22-4 down I think the Cows started throwing caution to the wind a little bit and were just able to get repeat possession a bunch of different ways. We were under pressure for what felt like that whole second half really so we’re relieved to get home. I guess it is good to go through that and still be able to get the job done," - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

Panthers: Round 8

What's next 

Cowboys coach Todd Payten may be searching for a new centre for Saturday night's clash with the Dolphins after losing Tom Chester with a hamstring injury in the first half.

Chester replaced PNG international Zac Laybutt, whose season was ended two weeks ago after rupturing his ACL, while Fijian Semi Valemei is playing on the wing in place of Murray Taulagi (hamstring).

Taulagi is not due back before Round 10 but second-rower Helium Luki (ankle) could be available for selection against the Dolphins.

Panthers forwards Scott Sorensen (knee) and Moses Leota (shoulder) were late scratchings against the Cowboys and it remains to be determined whether they will be available to face the Rabbitohs on Thursday night. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.