Cleary stars as Panthers overcome injury-hit Cowboys

Penrith Panthers recovered from a 6-10 half-time deficit to defeat North Queensland Cowboys 24-16 to move ahead of the Cowboys on the NRL ladder.

Penrith received a boost before the game, with Matt Moylan named in the squad at stand-off, with Tyrone May dropping to the bench, Tim Browne also started with Reagan Campbell-Gillard moving back to the bench.

For the Cowboys Ben Hampton replaced Te Maire Martin at five-eighth while Shaun Fensom started the game with John Asiata moving back to the bench.

The Panthers owed their victory largely to a Nathan Cleary second-half try double but also to several injury blows suffered by the Cowboys. They lost halfback Michael Morgan (concussion) and Justin O’Neill (dislocated elbow) in the opening half. Jake Granville also came off for a head injury assessment with the visitors left with just one man on the bench, although the hooker returned for the second half.

The Cowboys opened the scoring when Lachlan Coote linked with Javid Bowen to send Kane Linnett over, although Ethan Lowe couldn’t add the conversion.

The Panthers replied when a long pass from Moylan found Josh Mansour, who ran infield but then turned at a right angle towards the line through some questionable defence from Cowboys to get over the line.

Morgan touched down for the Cowboys on 28 minutes, this time with Lowe adding the conversion and the Cowboys extended their lead to 16-6 on 45 minutes when Jason Taumalolo scored a well crafted try, with the Cowboys looking as though they may be able to shrug off their injury setbacks.

But the Panthers rallied when Cleary touched down Tyrone Peachey’s kick and added the goal, and they scored two further tries from James Tamou and Cleary to grab the points.

Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Tyrone Peachey, 4 Waqa Blake, 5 Dallin Watene Zelezniak, 18 Matt Moylan, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Peter Wallace (c), 16 Tim Browne, 11 Corey Harawira-Naera, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 Moses Leota; Interchange: 6 Tyrone May, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 15 Bryce Cartwright, 17 James Fisher-Harris

Tries: Mansour, Cleary 2, Tamou; Goals: Cleary 4

Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Javid Bowen, 14 Ben Hampton, 7 Michael Morgan (c), 15 Shaun Fensom, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Coen Hess, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo; Interchange: 8 John Asiata, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Sam Hoare, 20 Patrick Mago

Tries: Linnett, Morgan, Taumalolo; Goals: Lowe 2

Full coverage of all the weekend’s NRL matches will feature in Monday’s issue of League Express, available in the shops and online from Sunday evening.