North Queensland Cowboys withstood a big Penrith Panthers comeback to win only their third game of the season 26-20.
The Cowboys were creating plenty of chances early and finally took one when James Maloney was too concerned with Johnathan Thurston allowing Michael Morgan to sneak through.
North Queensland went back-to-back when Ben Hampton got on the outside of his marker before stepping inside the fullback.
A minute after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was sin-binned for striking on Kyle Feldt, Thurston and Gavin Cooper combined for the Cowboys’ third try.
But the Panthers were to get on the board before half-time. A move to the left involving Isaah Yeo found Tyrone Phillips. The winger stepped inside and found the line.
The comeback continued when Wallace snuck a try from dummy half with Shaun Fensom in the bin for a professional foul. Wallace scored again when Watene-Zelezniak batted a kick back towards his hooker.
In an almost exact copy, the Cowboys halted the comeback. Coote’s kick was batted back by Justin O’Neill to Thurston.
But the Panthers weren’t done. A great Sione Katoa break set up the position. Maloney kicked to the corner on the next play for Phillips to get a double but it wasn’t to be enough.
Panthers: Watene-Zelezniak, Crichton, Yeo, Whare, Phillips, Peachey, Maloney, Leota, Wallace, Campbell-Gillard, Kikau, Harawira-Naera, Fisher-Harris; Interchanges: Katoa, Hetherington, Tamou, Ellis
Tries: Philipps 2, Wallace 2; Goals: Maloney 2
Sin-bin: Watene-Zelezniak (31) – striking
Cowboys: Coote, Feldt, O’Neill, Hampton, Winterstein, Morgan, Thurston, Scott, Granville, Bolton, Cooper, Hess, Taumalolo; Interchanges: Martin, Fensom, Jensen, Lowe
Tries: Morgan, Hampton, Cooper, Thurston; Goals: Thurston 5
Sin-bin: Fensom (46) – professional foul
Full match reports of all this weekend’s NRL games will feature in Monday’s League Express.