In a thrilling game that could easily be considered as the match of the season, the North Queensland Cowboys secured a crucial 27-23 victory over the Penrith Panthers. The hero of the night was fullback Scott Drinkwater, who scored an 89th-minute try in golden point to secure the win for his team. The Cowboys had initially looked to have sealed the victory in regular time with a 79th-minute field goal from halfback Chad Townsend, but Penrith’s Jack Cogger pulled off a last-second field goal to level the scores and send the game into extra time.
The Cowboys had a chance to win the game in golden point through a 50-meter penalty-goal attempt from winger Kyle Feldt, but his kick went well wide. However, it was Drinkwater who ultimately stole the show, weaving through the Panthers‘ defense to score the match-winning try. It was a remarkable turnaround for the Cowboys, who appeared disinterested at times in the first half. Their lazy defense allowed Penrith to take a 20-12 lead at half-time after initially taking an early lead.
Penrith extended their lead to 22-12 early in the second half with a penalty goal, but the Cowboys fought back, with second-rower Kulikefu Finefeuiaki scoring a try followed by Feldt’s equalising try. The victory brings the Cowboys‘ record for the season to 7-8 and puts them within reach of the top eight. It was a significant win for the team, following their dominant 45-20 victory over the Melbourne Storm in the previous round.
The Cowboys‘ five-eighth, Tom Dearden, delivered an outstanding performance after being released from Queensland’s State of Origin camp. Dearden scored a try and assisted in two others, playing a pivotal role in his team’s gutsy win. Penrith’s defense was breached for the most points in a single game this season, but their fill-in players put in impressive performances that nearly secured them the victory.
Penrith found themselves trailing 12-6, but quickly took the lead with back-to-back tries. Center Izack Tago scored off a scrum set play, followed by fill-in five-eighth Jaeman Salmon powering over from dummy-half to give Penrith a 16-6 advantage. Dearden played a role in both of the Cowboys‘ first-half tries, setting up Drinkwater after a smart line break and scoring one himself from a well-executed Kyle Feldt kick.
However, Penrith regained control before the break, with second-game winger Tom Jenkins scoring thanks to a clever play from Salmon. The Panthers capitalised on their possession and territorial advantage with precision in their attacking zone. Both teams were significantly affected by injuries and State of Origin absences. The Cowboys were without key players Reece Robson, Murray Taulagi, Jeremiah Nanai, and Reuben Cotter, while Penrith missed the services of Brian To’o, Jarome Luai, Isaiah Yeo, Liam Martin, and Nathan Cleary. Additionally, Moses Leota was absent from the match to be present for the birth of his child.