The Panthers have stopped the runaway hype train in North Queensland, at least for now, with a dominant 22-0 win in Penrith.
Now that’s a combined 56 points to six win against second-placed Storm and third-placed Cowboys in recent weeks, putting them clearly at the top of the NRL hierarchy in their own right.
Co-captain Isaah Yeo split the line after just a few minutes, and had it not been for a brave defense on their own line through North Queensland and an incredible bombed effort by Izack Tago, it could have been a cricket score before the break.
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“We probably left a few behind, but all in all it was a solid first half,” coach Ivan Cleary said afterwards.
“We just couldn’t take advantage of the field position in the second half.”
Taylan May scored the lone try after the break as the Prime Ministers kept the upstart Cowboys at bay the entire time.
“We’re probably a little more aware of it this year,” Cleary said.
“You don’t realize how different training is for six weeks when these guys are gone, then they come back for a while and then they’re gone.
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“We definitely have more experience. It’s not easy, it won’t be easy – but it’s also exciting. It’s exciting for guys to have opportunities to play NRL and it’s exciting for our Origin players to have that arena to enter.”
But one player who might not be playing for the exhausted Panthers is backrower Viliame Kikau – who was twice put on record; for a dangerous throw and leave contact with the head respectively.
Panthers trying young gun bombs
Cleary believed a penalty was enough for the first.
“It was a bit dangerous, I don’t think it was anything too crazy,” he said, adding that he had not seen the second incident.
Five-eighth Jarome Luai also raised eyebrows after a shoulder attack on Scott Drinkwater, and could be in danger of missing the Blues’ opening against Queensland if heavily charged.
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