A few individual highlights in an otherwise underwhelming effort was enough to see the Cowboys down the Panthers 14-8, booking a spot in the finals along with the Rabbitohs and consigning the Storm to an early exit.
Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt tiptoed down the touchline to open the scoring just a minute into the match before Jason Taumalolo, a standout in the team's opening game, scored a powerful solo try. Getting the ball just over 10 metres out he cannonballed off several defenders, bouncing his way through to the line in a show of brute strength.
By now playing for nothing for pride, the Panthers at least got on the board late in the half when a cross-field chip from Adrian Davis was well marked by Joshua Jay in the corner.
Some razzle dazzle on the siren from Javid Bowen and Kyle Feldt, who grubbered ahead for himself following Bowen's risky pass, came to naught as the referee ruled chaser Michael Morgan hadn't grounded it, leaving the half-time margin at 14-4.
Some enterprising play from Panthers elders Kevin Kingston and Nathan Smith, when the former's short ball and the latter's midfield grubber led to a run by Kieran Moss, put Penrith in position to force a drop-out. They capitalised when an angled short kick from Adrian Davis was beautifully picked up by Chris Smith on the fly, although he looked to have hurt himself in the grounding of the try.
A good run from Tautau Moga, who shrugged off three Panthers on a strong run to the line, restored the Cowboys' advantage to 14-8 with four minutes to go. Despite some near misses there were no further points, meaning the Panthers finished winless and the Cowboys joined the Rabbitohs in the final with the Storm also missing out on differential.
Cowboys forward Gavin Cooper was looking forward to his side's upcoming quarter-finals clash with Parramatta – and in-form playmaker Chris Sandow.
"We are in the finals now and anything can happen. It will be a battle of the hotel, we have shared our hotel with the Eels for the last few days and it will be a good game," Cooper said.
"Chris Sandow is a crafty little dude, I have known him for a while and we will have to be on our game against him."