Penrith cruised to the club’s third minor premiership with a 32-12 victory over the brave but outclassed Cowboys at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Friday.
Ominously for their finals rivals the Panthers raised the trophy on grand final day on the two previous occasions in 1991 and 2003.
It was Gavin Cooper’s final home game and the veteran back-rower generated a few highlights, including setting up North Queensland’s first try by forcing the ball loose for Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to score.
The Panthers dominated from the kick-off, scoring three minutes into the contest through winger Brian To’o and shooting to a 14-0 lead after Stephen Crichton and Josh Mansour completed a three-try blitz in just 10 minutes.
Crichton was brilliant and should have had a double. The referee was poised to award a penalty try but the Bunker ruled that Mansour had dotted down just inside the dead-ball line after his centre was taken out by a defender.
The Panthers teenager just about did it all in the visitors’ fourth try. He leapt high and batted the ball back into the field of play to steal a short line dropout after one of North Queensland’s few good moments and then went to the air again at the other end to claim a bomb then pass inside for Jarome Luai to score.
The Cowboys tried hard but negligently coughing up the dropout after a good kick chase forced Dylan Edwards back into the in-goal summed up their night.
Ben Condon became the sixth Cowboy to debut this season when he took the field early in the second half.