North Queensland’s season is OVER after Penrith dominate sorry Cowboys to win the NRL minor premiership
- Penrith have won the minor premiership again
- The Panthers dominated the Cowboys on Saturday
- North Queensland’s season is now over
Penrith have wrapped up the NRL’s minor premiership and ended North Queensland’s season in the process, with Jack Cogger impressing at No.6 in a 44-12 hammering of the Cowboys.
In his first audition for the five-eighth jersey since Jarome Luai’s shoulder injury, Cogger threw the last pass for three tries against a dispirited and sloppy North Queensland outfit.
The result settles the make up of this year’s top eight, with the Sydney Roosters and Canberra both now locked in for the finals.
It also reduces Sunday’s match between Cronulla and the Raiders as a battle for hosting rights of an elimination final in week one, with both certain to make the top eight.
Penrith will now face the fourth-placed Warriors in one qualifying final at BlueBet Stadium, while Brisbane will host third-placed Melbourne in the other.
Needing a win to steal the minor premiership off the Broncos and claim the JJ Giltinan Shield for the third time in four years, the Panthers barely looked challenged.
North Queensland spilled the ball twice on the attack in the opening 15 minutes, while Penrith made the most of almost every half opportunity they had in a 26-0 first half.
Most pleasing for the Panthers will be the performance of Cogger.
Star five-eighth Luai returned to training on Saturday and was able to run and pass, but is still not expected back until at least the preliminary finals.
In his place, Cogger was the star of the first half for the Panthers as he had a hand in each of the three first tries.
The 26-year-old put Stephen Crichton over in the fourth minute in with a long ball following a Sunia Turuva bust, before another long ball helped Turuva cross 18 minutes later.
The five-eighth then had a role in Penrith’s third when he went to the line and put Liam Martin through a hole to score.
Rookie hooker Luke Somerton, Nathan Cleary also bagged tries, while Brian To’o and Turuva finished with doubles as the Panthers ran away with the match in the second half.
The win guarantees Penrith a $200,000 pay cheque to be split between players and club, and preference of changerooms, jerseys and training timeslots at venues through the finals.
Most importantly, the Panthers are now primed for a shot at the league’s first three-peat in 40 years, with a near fully fit squad and hooker Mitch Kenny and second-rower Scott Sorensen set to return form injuries next week.
For North Queensland, this was a meek surrender that summed up their season.
After reaching last year’s preliminary final, they spent much of the season chasing their tail after a poor 2-5 start.
And while they clicked through the middle of the year, this was their most disappointing performance since the 48-point flogging from Wests Tigers in May.
Griffin Neame and Zac Laybutt both crossed in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but ultimately there was too much to do to save their season.