The North Queensland Cowboys pulled off a thrilling late 14-12 win over the Penrith Panthers at 1300Smiles Stadium on Saturday in Gavin Cooper's 250th NRL game.
A stunning try to a leaping Kyle Feldt in the corner was followed by a superb sideline conversion from fill-in goalkicker Ethan Lowe to secure victory for the Cowboys, who were missing star playmaker Johanthan Thurston.
The Penrith Panthers held a 6-0 lead at the break with both teams struggling in attack in the first half. The visitors' first points came when Corey Harawira-Naera ran onto a Matt Moylan short ball and straight into a gap to score down the right edge.
But after dominating possession and defending superbly in the first half the Panthers seemed to capitulate in the second, completing at just 57 per cent for early in the second stanza to invite the Cowboys into their end.
It didn't take long for Morgan to make use of the opportunity, going himself to turn a half-break into an offload for Corey Jensen to slide over and level the scores.
Morgan continued to relish in his leadership role with good decision-making translating to good execution to put Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards under pressure below the high ball, forcing a knock-on. Poor discipline from the Panthers gave the Cowboys the lead, with a penalty for a hand on the ball in the ruck allowing Lowe take the two points from directly in front.
Poor discipline, this time from the Cowboys, invited the Panthers back into the contest with Nathan Cleary slicing between the Cowboys defenders to retake the lead for the Panthers.
North Queensland came up with a huge play at just the right moment to regain momentum, with Morgan putting a speculating bomb over the Panthers' heads. Penrith fielded the kick, only for the visitors to be driven back into their own in-goal by a determined Cowboys defence on the next tackle.
The Cowboys seemed determined to set up camp in the Panthers' end for the last 10 minutes, and their persistence paid off after three penalties. A cross-field kick from Morgan came into the fingertips of a high-flying Feldt, who grounded the ball in the corner to level the scores. A clutch kick from Lowe from the sideline to make it three from three gave the Cowboys the lead with a couple of minutes remaining.
In true Panthers fashion the visitors refused to die and after regaining possession off a short kick-off seemed certain to score, only to knock on in the last play of the game.
North Queensland Cowboys 14 (Jensen, Feldt tries, Lowe 3 goals) def. Penrith Panthers 12 (Harawira-Naera, Cleary tries; Cleary 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: Panthers 6-0. Crowd: 17,876.
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Michael Morgan. 2 points: Jason Taumalolo. 1 point: Nathan Cleary.