31 March, 2018, 12:00 am
The Penrith Panthers have routed the North Queensland Cowboys, with James Maloney orchestrating a clinical performance that made the home side look lethargic by comparison.
The Cowboys’ woes were compounded by injuries to Jordan McLean and Javid Bowen. It was a night that had few bright spots.
For the Panthers, it was extremely good news as it proved there is life after Nathan Cleary.
The western Sydney team lost their halfback, playmaker, and chief goalkicker last weekend with a knee ligament strain, but showed no sign of loss on Thursday night at 1300Smiles Stadium.
reps last warning
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said several players are on their last warning as they look to break their winless start to the season when they face the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles on Saturday night.
Stuart confirmed Blake Austin won’t be a late call-up to the final 17, which is set to be boosted by the return from injury of Joe Tapine with Aidan Sezer pairing Sam Williams in the halves.
The coach backed Austin to fight his way back into first grade but said the 2015 Dally M five-eighth of the year may not be the only demotion if costly late errors continue for the Raiders.
Sea Eagles: The Sea Eagles have no other injury concerns heading into the Raiders clash after news Jorge Taufua would miss the next two months with a broken collarbone. There was speculation Jackson Hastings could move into the starting side this week with Lachlan Croker to make way, but Trent Barrett hosed down those suggestions at the side’s final training run on Friday.
Raiders: Ricky Stuart indicated the side was likely to be 1-17 should in-doubt trio Aidan Sezer (back), Iosia Soliola (ankle) and Joseph Tapine (finger) get through captain’s run on Friday morning.
Dragons: The Dragons are not affected by injuries to start the season and are again expected to be 1-17 for the clash with the Newcastle Knights on Sunday.
Knights: Chris Heighington is set to take his place in the line-up after being a late withdrawal against the Roosters.
Nathan Brown could make a late change after indicating his disappointment over his players’ efforts in last week’s loss, with speculation Nathan Ross could make way for Ken Sio. Connor Watson is set to miss six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury, not the 12 weeks initially feared.