The North Queensland Cowboys have once again proven their resurgence with a thrilling 27-23 victory over the Penrith Panthers in Townsville on Friday night. Coming off their impressive win over the Melbourne Storm in Round 14, the Cowboys fought back from a 20-12 halftime deficit to secure another impressive victory. The deciding play came in extra time when Scott Drinkwater scored a superb solo try with just two minutes remaining.
Despite missing their State of Origin stars, it was Tom Dearden and Jason Taumalolo who stepped up for the Cowboys and helped lead them to their seventh win of the season. The Panthers wasted no time in opening the scoring, taking advantage of a penalty against Chad Townsend for a late contact on Panthers halfback Jack Cogger. The ensuing set saw Cogger launch a kick that was spilled by Zac Laybutt, allowing Izack Tago to pick up the scraps and score his fifth try of the season.
The home side responded in the 13th minute when Dearden outsmarted the Panthers defense and delivered a perfectly timed pass inside for Drinkwater to score. Townsend converted the try, leveling the scores at 6-6. The Panthers thought they had regained the lead in the 18th minute when Spencer Leniu got the ball over the line, but he was penalized for a double movement and the Cowboys were able to escape.
Midway through the first half, the Cowboys found themselves with their second try of the night. Laybutt set up Kyle Feldt down the left side, who then sent a pinpoint kick back inside for Dearden to gather and score. The premiers made their comeback in the 25th minute with Tago scoring his second try off a left side shift involving Dylan Edwards and Jaeman Salmon. However, Cogger failed to convert, leaving the Cowboys ahead 12-10.
A dropped ball by Semi Valemei in the 30th minute gave the Panthers a prime opportunity to capitalise, and that’s exactly what they did. Salmon broke through the Cowboys defense and scored from close range, putting the Panthers in the lead 16-12. In just his second NRL match, Panthers winger Tom Jenkins scored his first try after good lead-up play from Salmon, Edwards, and Tago. The Panthers took a comfortable 20-12 lead into halftime after Cogger converted a penalty goal.
In the second half, the Cowboys quickly closed the gap with Kulikefu Finefeuiaki scoring his first career try in the 54th minute. The home side drew level in the 63rd minute when Feldt soared into the left corner. Both teams had their chances to break the deadlock but were unable to convert, leading to a tense final few minutes of regular time.
Cogger’s attempt at a field goal for the Panthers was charged down, and with just 90 seconds remaining, it was Townsend who stepped up for the Cowboys and slotted his 15th career field goal to give his team a narrow 23-22 lead. However, Cogger had another chance and this time he made no mistake, sending the game into golden point.
The Cowboys had the first opportunity in extra time after Dylan Edwards dropped the ball on the halfway mark. However, Luciano Leilua‘s mistake on the second tackle gave Edwards a shot at redemption, but his field goal attempt sailed wide. A penalty against the Panthers for a strip then gave Feldt a chance to win it for the Cowboys from halfway, but his kick missed the mark.
With just two minutes remaining in the second period of extra time, a dropped ball by Tyrone Peachey gave the Cowboys possession and Drinkwater took full advantage. With a 30-meter run to the line, he weaved through the Panthers defense and secured a stunning 27-23 victory for the Cowboys.
The win cements the Cowboys‘ resurgence and further establishes them as a force to be reckoned with in the competition. It was a thrilling match that showcased both teams’ resilience and skill, but ultimately, it was the Cowboys who came out on top with a memorable golden point victory.