Streak over as Cowboys damage Panthers hopes
With emotions running high at 1300SMILES Stadium, a battered and bruised North Queensland were the last team standing as the Cowboys snapped a five-game losing streak.
With several players spending time in the sheds, and after enduring at least three reshuffles on the field, the Cowboys wouldn't be denied running out 24-10 victors.
Matt Scott would have been cheering on from his hotel bed in Brisbane, as the home side aimed up in the middle of the field led by an inspirational Jason Taumalolo in front of 10, 523 fans.
After not being expected to take the field 24 hours prior, the Tongan lock proved almost unstoppable charging the ball through the heart of the Panthers defence.
He was followed by top performances from ageing veteran Scott Bolton (11 carries, 97m) and warhorse prop Jordan McLean (15 carries, 129m).
From the opening whistle the Cowboys looked in control and they would make it count on the scoreboard inside the opening 10 minutes as Kyle Feldt crossed the stripe on the end of a scrum play.
The ball spread through the hands to a hard-running Tom Opacic before he was able to squeeze a last-gasp offload to his unmarked winger.
It was the first of two for Feldt who would later produce a dagger to the heart of the Panthers fans with a runaway 80m effort off an Opacic quick tap.
Exciting fullback Scott Drinkwater came up with a massive play late in the first half with a try-saving one-on-one tackle on a runaway Panthers forward Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
Panthers appeared to hit back late in the half when rookie winger Brian To'o soared across the stripe after a backline movement from the visitors found him in open space.
But North Queensland would land one final blow before the halftime siren as young gun Murray Taulagi scored his first try in Cowboys colours.
It would be the crafty work of five-eighth John Asiata that it set it up for the speedster after he grubbered through the line to find a flying Jordan Kahu, who flicked the ball out the back to his winger.
The second half descended into a slugfest between the two sides as they amped up the physicality.
Feldt would blow open the game with his solo effort against the run of play but Panthers' Isaah Yeo would hit back almost immediately for the visitors.
The towering lock regathered an uncontested bomb, before chipping over the top of Drinkwater to touch down under the posts.
In fitting fashion, the machine Taumalolo would have the final say landing the killer blow with a barnstorming run from close to the line.
The 118kg lock forward was going to be hard to stop from short range, and even three Panthers defenders were no chance as he extended the lead to 14 points with minutes remaining.
NORTH QUEENSLAND 24 (K Feldt 2 M Taulagi J Taumalolo tries J Kahu 4 goals) d PENRITH 10 (B To'oI Yeo tries N Cleary goal) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Phil Henderson. Crowd: 10,523.