The NYC Cowboys’ finals chances are over in 2014 after losing 38-16 to Penrith at Sportingbet Stadium tonight.
Looking for a fourth straight victory, North Queensland led only briefly in the first half as they tried to maintain a perfect winning record at under-20s level on the Panthers’ home ground.
Still in 12th place on the ladder, the Cowboys, who were missing the attitude in defence they displayed in round 22’s outstanding win against Wests Tigers, are now eight points out of the top eight with only three rounds remaining.
There was little wrong with NQ’s completion rate (82%), but too many missed tackles killed their chances of a victory.
A dropped high ball backed up by a penalty gave Penrith a great chance to post the first try and they didn’t let it slip with centre Waqa Blake stretching out an arm to score in the fourth minute.
The Cowboys hit back with a Ty Carucci try, converted from near the sideline by Corey Jensen, after the Panthers couldn’t control a high kick from Cooper Bambling that held up in the strong wind.
However, they were behind again soon through an unfortunate piece of luck.
The restart kick off came back to the Panthers off the left goal post and a few tackles later, Sione Katoa went in for the home team who led 10-6.
With the possession count clearly in their favour, the advantage jumped to 10 when Chris Smith beat three defenders to touch down under the posts.
Needing to stay in touch, it was a nice right-foot step from Josh Chudleigh that paved the way for North Queensland’s next try.
He broke through the Panthers defence on halfway and ran 30 metres before being brought to ground.
Two tackles later, Corey Jensen stormed through some flimsy defence from 10 metres out.
However, it was a short respite for the Cowboys.
Blake grabbed the second leg of his double to get the Panthers to the 20-mark with half an hour gone.
NQ lost halfback Cooper Bambling to a shoulder injury just before half time, forcing a backline shuffle that gave Yamba Bowie a chance in the halves to replace his former St Brendan’s College teammate.
The second half started with two Cowboys front-rowers – Patrick Kaufusi and Jack Brock – leaving the field for concussion tests and a potential try to fullback Yamba Bowie disallowed for obstruction.
Kaufusi was able to return but Brock’s night was done.
After more than half of hour of scoreless football, the points drought was broken by Penrith’s Brent Naden, who finished off a 60-metre move down the left flank to put his team ahead by more than two converted tries.
Josh Chudleigh ate into the lead thanks to a fantastic Kaufusi offload close to the line with 13 minutes left, but any chance of a comeback was thwarted by a try to Penrith’s Logan Geyer soon after.