Penrith’s Finals hopes are in tatters after Ivan Cleary’s side produced an embarrassing performance to lose 24-10 to the Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Cleary’s decision to order a mid-season re-build – which included offloading experienced NRL players Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Waqa Blake – is under serious question with the Panthers now set to miss the Finals for the first time since 2016.
Penrith would now need to beat defending Premiers the Roosters next week and Newcastle in the final round, plus hope results go their way, to make the play-offs.
But the way they played tonight, Penrith would be lucky to secure victory in either of those games.
The Panthers were woeful against an opposition that had very little to play for. North Queensland were the better team from the opening minutes and never let a fumbling Penrith into the contest.
The Cowboys opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Kyle Feldt scored out wide, and took a 12-4 lead into the break.
Penrith’s inept performance was best exemplified when Feldt scored his second try of the game – an easy run from a 20 metre restart that the Panthers barely even tried to contest.
Coach Ivan Cleary said he was still hopeful of a positive finish to the season.
“We’ve just got put in a better performance – it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.