Maloney stars for Panthers in win

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.

The Panthers were looking to turn their recent slow starts around, with strong defence forcing an early error before a penalty gifted them an easy two points.

The Cowboys tried to hit back with an attacking set courtesy of a penalty, but they couldn’t take the points despite two more penalties and a repeat set.

They let the pressure off with an error, before a penalty piggy-backed the Panthers into a strong attacking position. Maloney then caught the outside defenders out as he sent Viliame Kikau over for the first try.

The visitors scored their second in the 21st minute with a freakish sequence of play that saw the ball bounce off two sets of feet, only to find the hands of Maloney, who dived over.

The ball control and discipline of both sides went missing as half-time approached, and it came to a head for both sides when James Tamou was sin-binned due to the Panthers’ repeated infringements.

The Cowboys’ kick for touch carried them into attacking position, and they finally executed with Kyle Feldt diving over the line close to the edge to score the Cowboys’ first four-pointer in the 35th minute.

The Panthers had the last laugh going into half-time, with a Maloney kick drawing a penalty after Michael Morgan tackled a chaser without the ball.