Point scoring extravaganza likely as Panthers meet Cowboys

Paul Alamoti in action against Manly. Photo: NRL Photos.
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The Panthers emerge from a Round 16 bye to take on the Cowboys at BlueBet Stadium this Sunday, the latest in a string of Sunday afternoon matches facing Ivan Cleary’s men in this middle part of the season.

These two sides have already met once this season, with Penrith emerging 26-20 victors up in Townsville in late April.

The Cowboys came home strong that night but the Panthers had already done enough to secure the win.

That was a tough part of the season for the Cowboys. They’d just come off the back of a 42-6 hiding at the hands of the Sharks, while the Dolphins pipped them the next week.

Inconsistency has without doubt plagued their season. It was only a few weeks ago they managed to upset the high flying Roosters 18-16 at Allianz Stadium, but then backed it up with an awful performance at home against the Warriors, losing 42-12.

Brian To’o celebrates a try against the Warriors. Photo: Megan Dunn.

They got things back on track before last weekend’s bye, with a 34-16 win over Canberra.

Sitting in eighth spot, the Cowboys would be identifying this next couple of weeks as critical to their season.

If they can snatch an unlikely win over the defending Premiers in Penrith, it may just kickstart their season at the back end.

The Panthers will be sweating on the fitness of Dylan Edwards, Isaah Yeo, Brian To’o, Liam Martin and Jarome Luai, who all played for the Blues against the Maroons in Origin II on Wednesday night.

While Penrith’s depth has proven strong this year, it would be tested significantly if any more than one or two of those guys didn’t back up – especially given Nathan Cleary remains out.

With a decent gap between Wednesday’s game and this match on Sunday, you’d think most of the Penrith Origin five would be running out on Sunday arvo.

It’s worth noting that Penrith will need to tighten up their defence to contend with the Cowboys on Sunday.

The Panthers celebrate a try. Photo: NRL Photos.

Todd Payten’s side has scored the third most points in the competition (381) and the second most tries (67), which proves that despite their up-and-down scorelines, they’ve got few issues in crossing the line.

Penrith’s steel-like defence, which you could rely on to only concede two tries a game during this recent Premiership run, has been exposed a few times this season – and the Cowboys are the type of side who could take advantage of any lapses in concentration and pile on points very quickly.

But North Queensland’s own defence is problematic without question.

They’ve conceded 515 missed tackles this year, and have conceded more points than any other side in the top eight. In fact, you have to go all the way down to the 14th placed Rabbitohs before you find a team that has conceded more.

So where does this all land?

On a sunny Sunday, with a bit of chill in the air, I think it all points to a try-scoring extravaganza. I’d be stunned if there’s less than 50 points in this game.

The Panthers muscle up in defence. Photo: NRL Photos.

Whichever team turns up with a better defensive attitude, and can get the best of the momentum in the middle part of the game, will walk away with the win.

At home, the Panthers should be too strong – especially if most of the Origin players back-up.

Tip: Panthers by 12.

Penrith and North Queensland play at BlueBet Stadium on Sunday, June 30 at 4.05pm. The game is live on Channel Nine and Fox League.

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