Gutsy Cowboys ambush Panthers in Origin-affected clash

Jasper Bruce |

Penrith’s underwhelming State of Origin period has continued with a 16-6 upset loss to gutsy and depleted North Queensland.

Of the Panthers’ NSW quintet, only Isaah Yeo backed up for their second loss in as many games when fit Origin players have been rested or unavailable this season.

All-conquering Penrith have traditionally flaunted their depth during the Origin window, losing only once in the mid-year representative window across their last two premiership seasons.

But execution issues cost the Panthers in wet home conditions on Sunday, as they did against St George Illawarra before Origin I.

The Cowboys were made to contend with the absence of all six of their Origin players, two sin-binnings and a flood of Penrith possession that bordered on biblical in the first half.

But when 18-year-old Jaxon Purdue slid over midway through the second half, the Cowboys were on their way to a fourth consecutive away win and first victory in Penrith since 2016.

Penrith had 39 tackles in the red zone and eight penalties before half-time, but only one try to show for it, as replacement halves Jack Cole and Brad Schneider struggled to generate points.

The Cowboys had no such issues to begin the game, clicking into gear after Paul Alamoti sprayed the opening kick-off out on the full.

Kyle Feldt grabbed a looping cut-out pass from fellow veteran Chad Townsend and burst through Alamoti, shifted to the wing, for first points after nine minutes.

Attacking wide continued to work for the Cowboys, who made it 12-0 through Braidon Burns shortly after losing Scott Drinkwater to the sin-bin following repeated set restarts.

At one point late in the second half, the Panthers enjoyed 11 of 12 sets in a row and it took Schneider skipping past a tiring Drinkwater to score their only try of the night.

It came just after Purdue went to the sin-bin for tripping Daine Laurie, an act that is likely to land him on the match review committee’s charge sheet.

Stand-in fullback Laurie looked likeliest for the Panthers with 228 run metres and James Fisher-Harris pitched in a tenacious 67-minute effort.

But the Panthers were left to rue missing chances in the first half when opportunities dried up in the second.

In a hot-and-cold season, the Cowboys’ win ensures they will finish the weekend inside the top eight.

The Panthers have the bye ahead of Origin III but may rest their representative contingent again before the round 20 clash against the Dolphins.