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Cowboys defeat Penrith to soar into top-eight

The Cowboys have defended their way to a gritty 16-6 victory over the Panthers to climb back inside the top eight. 

Both teams were undermanned for the clash in wet conditions at BlueBet Stadium, with Isaah Yeo the only Origin star to back up from Wednesday night's second match. 

While Penrith missed the attacking spark provided by NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai, a host of North Queensland youngsters stood tall to lead their side to a victory over the defending premiers. 

Jaxon Purdue scored a crucial try in the second half, with hooker Harrison Edwards getting through a mountain of work defensively to finish with 48 tackles. 

The Cowboys had their backs against the wall for much of the contest and were forced to defend multiple sets of six with just 12 men after a player was sent to the sin bin on two separate occasions. 

Penrith, however, struggled to break down their opponents' defence and missed the impact of Blues Liam Martin and Brian To'o.

Isaah Yeo was the only Origin star from either team to back up for Sunday's clash between the Panthers and Cowboys.
Isaah Yeo was the only Origin star from either team to back up for Sunday's clash between the Panthers and Cowboys. ©NRL Photos

The Panthers were not at their clinical best throughout the opening exchanges, with a kick out on the full and two errors providing North Queensland with three early chances to strike. 

Kyle Feldt crossed from the first, only to be denied due to an obstruction. The winger then produced a spectacular tap back on the second, which did not go to hand. 

It was third-time lucky in the 10th minute, Feldt finishing off a right-side shift to dive over in the corner.

Kyle Feldt Try

The try spurred the Panthers into action and they looked set to hit back after Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater was sent to the sin bin. 

Feldt had other ideas, taking an intercept and racing 60 metres down the field. The right winger was dragged down, however North Queensland went on to score through left winger Braidon Burns a couple of plays later. 

Braidon Burns Try

The match then swung towards the hosts, with Penrith spending an eternity camped inside their attacking 20.

The Cowboys repelled multiple sets of six, however, they conceded numerous penalties in the process and eventually lost Purdue to the sin bin for a trip. 

The pressure continued to mount, with Penrith having the ball for 11 of 12 sets and 34 tackles inside the red zone before the dam eventually burst and Brad Schneider slid through the North Queensland defensive line to make it 12-6. 

Brad Schneider Try

The second half quickly turned into an arm wrestle, both teams attempting to gain the ascendancy in the wet conditions.

Eventually the Cowboys broke through against the run of play, Drinkwater deflecting a Penrith grubber before pouncing on the loose ball and charging 80m down the field. 

The fullback was run down by Panthers debutant Casey McLean but the visitors promptly shifted the ball and Purdue scored in the corner to put his team up 10 with 19 to play.

That was where the scoring would end, North Queensland's defensive wall holding firm while Penrith made a number of errors attempting to chase the game.

Match Snapshot

  • The win was the Cowboys' first at BlueBet Stadium since 2016
  • North Queensland winger crossed for his 10th try of the season in the 10th minute of the clash. He has now scored 10 tries in nine-straight campaigns.
  • Penrith youngsters Casey McLean and Luron Patea made their NRL debuts in the loss. 
  • Scott Drinkwater was in the thick of the action for the Cowboys, running for 110 metres, with a line break assist, a try assist and three tackle breaks. He was also sent to the sin bin for a professional foul in the first half. 
  • North Queensland have now won five of their past six matches and have risen to 7th on the ladder.

Play of the Game 

The match was hanging in the balance midway through the second half, with Penrith hot on the attack and trailing 12-6. Drinkwater deflected a grubber, before racing 80m down the field. He was dragged down, but North Queensland shifted the ball left and Purdue sliced through for his first NRL try. 

Jaxon Purdue Try

What They Said 

"It was kind of like baking a cake with no icing. (Missing Origin players) was definitely part of it, the connection wasn't quite there tonight, particularly with the way we finished off our sets. We weren't taking our opportunities at the right time and that was a part of that. We just didn't throw enough at them, and I guess that comes down to cohesion." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary

"We had a pretty gutsy performance against the Roosters a few weeks ago but over the course of my time here at the club that was probably one of the more mature performances we've put in. We had some adversity defending with 12 for 20 minutes but our scramble on the try line stopping tries and in that second half, we didn't make an error coming out of our own end and field possession won us the game. Our attack is putting less pressure on our defence, each round points are scored with runs of possession against good defensive teams so if we can hold the ball, it helps us a lot." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten

NRL Press Conference: Panthers v Cowboys - Round 17, 2024

What's Next

The Panthers head to Brisbane to face the Broncos in a grand final rematch while the Cowboys return home to host the Sea Eagles in a Saturday night showdown.

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.