The Penrith Panthers have secured the 2023 minor premiership after a dominant 44-12 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday night. The defending premiers set up a commanding 26-0 lead in the first half, effectively crushing the Cowboys‘ hopes of qualifying for the finals.
It marks the fifth time in Penrith’s history that they have claimed the J.J. Giltinan shield, and their third time in the past four years. The Panthers clinched the title after the Brisbane Broncos lost to the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium earlier in the week.
Panthers five-eighth Jack Cogger played a pivotal role in their victory, providing three try assists early in the game. His passes set up tries for Stephen Crichton, Sunia Turuva, and Liam Martin. The Cowboys committed errors and displayed poor discipline, which allowed the Panthers to capitalize and extend their lead.
Nathan Cleary showcased his running ability and came close to scoring himself. However, it was Luke Sommerton who crossed the line for Penrith’s fifth try just before half-time. The Cowboys needed to score first in the second half to have any chance of mounting a comeback, and they did so through Griffin Neame, who powered his way over the line.
The Cowboys continued to apply pressure and enjoyed field position, resulting in Zac Laybutt scoring after beating Izack Tago and Dylan Edwards. But their momentum was short-lived as Sunia Turuva scored his second try of the match on the left edge with an impressive weaving effort.
Nathan Cleary delivered a bone-crunching tackle on Tom Dearden, jarring the ball loose and creating an opportunity for the Panthers. The evening went from bad to worse for the Cowboys when Reece Robson was sin-binned for a professional foul on Dylan Edwards during a try-scoring opportunity.
Cleary was not done yet, as he managed to score a narrow try and Brian To’o added another try on the right edge to further extend Penrith’s lead. The victory sets the stage for the Panthers‘ pursuit of a third consecutive premiership as they enter the finals series on a high.