Cowboys v Panthers: Five key points
Morgan steers the ship for North Queensland, Panthers capitulate to end their winning streak and Gavin Cooper has a happy 250th.
Morgan steers the ship
With Johnathan Thurston absent with a season-ending shoulder injury there was an obvious lapse in the Cowboys' attacking ability, but in terms of keeping cool under pressure Michal Morgan stepped up to the plate and took control of the game. With his team trailing with three minutes remaining lesser players might have cracked under pressure, but having been there and done it before Morgan looked perfectly at ease keeping his team in the Panthers' end before delivering the match-winning kick for Kyle Feldt. Throughout the second half Morgan was notably vocal, reminding his teammates to keep calm in the dying stages. The performance will surely have Morgan firming as the starting five-eighth for Queensland in Game Three.
Cowboys interchange the difference
Down by six points with 10 minutes to go, the Cowboys needed a shift in momentum and the return from the bench of Scott Bolton, Coen Hess and Jason 'Hulk' Taumalolo proved the difference. The key moment was when that trio and Gavin Cooper drove Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards back into the in-goal to force a dro-out. From there the Cowboys camped in the Panthers' end of the field and didn't leave until they had points, and their determination, discipline and patience won them the game. Hess in particular had a standout performance, running for 231 metres, beside teammate Taumalolo who ran for 217.
Penrith's second-half capitulation
Although they didn't play spectacular footy by any means, the Panthers' first half was at the very least consistent and they shut out the Cowboys for the first 40. How to explain their second half capitulation may be coach Anthony Griffin's headache for this week, given they completed at only 56 per cent in the second half and as a result had just 37 per cent of possession. With such little ball in the second half they were lucky to get as close as they did, and the Panthers have some soul searching to do if they're to play finals football this year.
Cooper's happy 250th
More than 80 tackles in four days and 160 minutes of football will have Cowboys captain Gavin Cooper sleeping soundly on Saturday night. The effort is more impressive given he was needed to lead his team on Saturday, and rose to the occasion to help keep the Cowboys calm as the clock wound down. The come-from-behind win was the best possible way for Cooper to celebrate his 250th game in the NRL.
Panthers' winning streak comes to an end
After four straight wins catapulted them into the top eight, the Panthers' streak was ended in North Queensland. The loss comes off the back of a game against the Canberra Raiders two weeks ago in which the Raiders had equally poor discipline, but the Panthers will need to work on the basics if they are to challenge for a top-eight finish.