Penrith has clinched its third minor premiership and extended its historic winning streak to 14 matches with a comfortable 32-12 triumph over North Queensland in Townsville.
- The Panthers previously won the minor premiership in 1991 and 2003
- They have won 16 of 18 matches so far this season
- The triumph over the Cowboys featured six tries, while Nathan Cleary kicked four conversions
The Panthers previously claimed the minor premiership in 1991 and 2003 before winning the grand final in both seasons.
They secured the JJ Giltinan Shield in the penultimate round of the regular season, having recorded 16 wins from 18 matches.
Despite resting captain James Tamou and injured star Apisai Koroisau, the in-form Panthers were never threatened by a cumbersome Cowboys side.
The visitors did much of the damage in the first half when they established a 20-0 lead at the break before completing their assignment in the second term, as they became the first team other than the Roosters and Storm to claim the minor premiership in eight years.
The only serious blemish is the possible suspension for strike second rower Viliame Kikau, who was put on report for a high tackle on North Queensland fullback Valentine Holmes in the first half.
Kikau, who has already been suspended for a match this season for dangerous contact, has 50 carryover points and could be looking at another ban should he be hit with a grade-two charge.
He was arguably the Panthers’ best, carrying the ball for a team-high 180 metres and scoring a try and setting up another.
It was one-way traffic from the kick-off, with winger Brian To’o on the end of a Dylan Edwards grubber in just the fourth minute and then Kikau rampaged through three defenders for Stephen Crichton to score soon after.
Josh Mansour and Jarome Luai also scored for the Panthers in the first half.
Kikau continued the carnage soon after half-time when he took a Nathan Cleary kick, before the Cowboys finally got on the scoreboard through Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in the 61st minute.
Retiring Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper, playing his final home match in Townsville, played a crucial part in the build-up to the try.
The four-pointer proved a consolation, with Brent Naden finishing off a 50-metre kick-return that included a Cleary line break to score the Panthers’ sixth try of the night.
Kyle Feldt added a second Cowboys try late in the match.
Cleary kicked four conversions for the Panthers, who wrap up their regular-season campaign against Canterbury on Saturday week.