Panthers 4 Cowboys 36

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Cowboys crush Penrith

North Queensland smashed the Panthers on Sunday night, winning 36 to 4 in Penrith.

PT1M29S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rqnq 620 349

As it happened / Match stats

It's a contradiction to label one of the preseason premiership favourites as semi final darkhorses, but that's exactly what North Queensland have become.

You wouldn't have thought a 36-4 win against Penrith on Sunday night was enough evidence to suggest their slim finals hopes are still alive, but when you combine that with an eye-catching victory against the high-flying Rabbitohs last week, there is merit to the claim.

Devastating best: Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston.

Devastating best: Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston. Photo: Getty Images

Time
80.00
Team
PEN
Score
4
Team
NQL
Score
36
Penrith versus North Queensland
View Match Statistics
Players Simmons Tries 1 Tries 6 Players Winterstein, Tate, Feldt, Thompson(3)
Players Walsh 0/1 (0%) Conversions 0 Conversions 6 Players Thurston 6/6 (100%)
Players Penalty goals 0 Penalty goals 0 Players
Players Field goals 0 Field goals 0 Players

The Cowboys' eighth win of the season, inspired by a five star performance from five eighth Johnathan Thurston, moves them to 20 points (11th) and four points outside Canberra on the cusp of the top eight.

Since the club announced this season would be coach Neil Henry's last at the helm, the Cowboys have won back-to-back matches and will play three of their last four games at home.

The Queensland-based club would need to win their remaining games to stand any chance of snaring an unlikely finals berth, but they have a reasonably friendly run home.

They play the Titans at home next Saturday, before games against the seventh-placed Knights (h), sixth-placed Sharks (a) and the 15th placed Tigers (h).

Thurston proved why he was so heavily pursued by the Panthers, playing a hand in five of his side's six tries and kicking six from six with the boot.

In what was Sam McKendry's first NRL game since breaking his neck against the Eels in round seven and Lachlan Coote's first game back from a pectoral injury he suffered against the Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium in round two, the Panther struggled to find the form which saw them challenging for a finals berth mid-way through the year.

Ivan Cleary's men were in the top eight a month ago but after their fourth consecutive loss on Sunday night, the Panthers have now slipped to 12th position on the ladder.

While they are on the same points as the Cowboys, their season has spiraled out of control and aren't playing anywhere near as well as their opponents on Sunday night.

They travel to New Zealand next week for a clash against the Warriors, who they thrashed 62-6 at Centrebet Stadium back in round 10.

The Panthers then finish the season with games against the Broncos (h), Bulldogs (a) and Sea Eagles (a).

Things didn't begin well for the Panthers, who conceded the first try of the match when Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein burrowed his way over in the corner.

The home side took their time to get into the groove but they were rewarded for their persistence in the 30th minute when a loose pass from Coote found its way to David Simmons, who crossed for his 17th try of the season.

But Brent Tate ensured the Cowboys would go into the break with a 12-4 advantage after busting the line and beating fullback Matt Moylan for North Queensland's second try.

A pin-point accurate kick from Thurston presented rookie Kyle Feldt with his first career try, diving on to the loose ball and scoring in the same motion to give the Cowboys an 18-4 lead.

Another kick - this time from Robert Lui - led to the Cowboys' next try, with Ray Thompson scoring a controversial try after the video referees deemed there wasn't a knock on from Feldt.

Thurston then produced his famous show and go which saw him break through the line and link with Thompson, who then bagged a hat-trick moments later after his third try in 12 minutes.

NORTH QUEENSLAND 36 (R Thompson 3 K Feldt B Tate A Winterstein tries J Thurston 6 goals) bt PENRITH 4 (D Simmons try) at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Adam Gee. Crowd: 6,611.