The Penrith Panthers have wrapped up the regular season with an impressive 44-12 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys, solidifying their position as the top team in the NRL ladder. Jack Cogger, who was filling in for the injured Jarome Luai, showcased his skills as he played at No.6 and contributed to three of the Panthers‘ tries. Despite a strong start to the season, the South Sydney Rabbitohs faced a numb feeling as they dropped down the ladder and dealt with rumors of team disunity. Meanwhile, the Newcastle Knights dominated the St George Illawarra Dragons with a 32-12 win, securing their spot in the finals and cementing their position as the form team of the NRL.
The upcoming match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Canberra Raiders will determine the hosting rights for the elimination final in week one. Both teams are guaranteed a spot in the top eight. The Penrith Panthers will face the New Zealand Warriors in one of the qualifying finals at BlueBet Stadium, while the Brisbane Broncos will host the Melbourne Storm in the other.
The Panthers‘ victory over the Cowboys showcased the impressive performance of Jack Cogger. The 26-year-old had a hand in each of the three tries scored in the first half. His calm and composed presence on the field was highly regarded by his teammates, with Nathan Cleary stating that Cogger was the best player on the field. Despite Luai’s return to training, he will not be playing in the next match, allowing Cogger to continue showcasing his skills.
The Panthers‘ dominant win not only secured their position at the top of the ladder but also earned them a $200,000 pay cheque to be split between the players and the club. They also have the advantage of choosing preferences for changerooms, jerseys, and training timeslots at venues throughout the finals. With a near fully fit squad and the return of key players like Mitch Kenny and Scott Sorensen, the Panthers are well-prepared for a shot at a three-peat, a feat that hasn’t been achieved in 40 years.
On the other hand, the North Queensland Cowboys had a disappointing season, surrendering meekly to the Panthers. After reaching the preliminary final last year, they struggled to find their form early in the season and although they showed improvement in the middle of the year, this performance was a low point for them. Coach Todd Payten expressed his frustration at the team’s lack of resolve and defensive lapses throughout the match. Ultimately, their season came to an end as they failed to save their playoffs hopes.
The current NRL ladder standings, as of Saturday night, are as follows: Penrith Panthers in 1st place with 42 points and a +333 points differential, followed by the Brisbane Broncos in 2nd place with 42 points and a +214 points differential. The Melbourne Storm holds the 3rd spot with 38 points and a +168 points differential, while the New Zealand Warriors are in 4th place with 38 points and a +124 points differential. The Newcastle Knights round out the top five with 35 points and a +175 points differential. The Cronulla Sharks, Sydney Roosters, and Canberra Raiders are currently in the 6th, 7th, and 8th positions, respectively. Meanwhile, the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Parramatta Eels are just outside the top eight in 9th and 10th place, while the North Queensland Cowboys sit in 11th place.
Overall, the regular season has come to an end with some standout performances and surprises. The stage is now set for the finals, where teams will battle it out for a chance to lift the NRL Premiership trophy.