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Ever since their Round 9 loss away to the Broncos, the Panthers have picked up maximum points, putting together four consecutive victories and enjoying two byes in-between – results that have lifted them from 14th to eighth on the ladder over the last seven weeks.
Running into the Cowboys in Townsville was looking like one of their toughest challenges since going down to the Broncos, but with Johnathan Thurston injuring his shoulder in Queensland’s thrilling win over New South Wales in Wednesday’s State of Origin, it’s highly unlikely that the superstar halfback will be playing for North Queensland on Saturday.
Which gives Penrith a great opportunity to extend their winning streak to five matches and leapfrog the Cowboys on the ladder, adding further momentum to their mid-season charge up the table.
However it will still be a big test for the Panthers, who’s last four wins have come against teams outside the top eight.
North Queensland meanwhile will be ruing the loss of Thurston, who at the time of writing is yet to be officially scratched, but surely it’s only a matter of time before he’s confirmed as out.
Thurston returned from injury just a fortnight ago and was sensational in taking down the Eels in Darwin, so it’s a big blow for Paul Green, especially during the Origin period.
The Cowboys are also attempting to bounce back from last week’s heartbreaking 23-22 golden point loss away to Melbourne.
If Thurston was playing, I’d certainly back the Cowboys at home. But with Thurston out and Penrith confident on the back of their winning run, I think the Panthers can edge this and continue their climb up the ladder.
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston 8. John Asiata 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Ben Hampton 15. Coen Hess 16. Shaun Fensom 17. Corey Jensen 18. Kyle Laybutt 19. Kalyn Ponga 20. Javid Bowen 21. Braeden Uele
Penrith Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Waqa Blake 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Rein 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Corey Harawira 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Trent Merrin 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Leilani Latu 16. Tim Browne 17. Viliame Kikau 18. Kaide Ellis 19. Sione Katoa 20. Sitaleki Akauola 21. Bryce Cartwright