Kalyn’s call-up costs the Cowboys
Without Ponga on the park, North Queensland fall prey to the Panthers
THE UNDER-20S COWBOYS lost superstar-in-the-making Kalyn Ponga only two hours before their grand final qualifier – and were no match for the reigning champions as a result.
While North Queensland skipper Cooper Bambling refused to pin their 32-16 loss to the Panthers on their fullback’s late call-up to first grade, he agreed it certainly didn’t help their preparation.
“Probably a couple of hours before kick-off, Kane Linnett didn’t pull up too well and Payney [NYC coach Aaron Payne] got the phone call from Paul Green that KP [Ponga] would be needed – so that was a little hurdle we needed to get over and we couldn’t get over it,” Bambling says.
“But the whole year Kalyn hasn’t really trained with us, he’s only done the captain’s run, as he’s been training with the NRL team . . . that’s not an excuse.
“It definitely would’ve helped having that bit of class [in Ponga and Coen Hess] there, but like I said, we still had the talent in the room there to win the competition.
“Same thing happened to us last year. I was a part of that losing side and it’s a pretty disappointing way to go out, the game before the grand final.”
Minor premiers Penrith were in cruise control for most of the match. The second-half sin-binning of centre Braidon Burns sent a scare through the camp but they regrouped to career away again late.
Nathan Cleary’s 14 NRL starts meant he was unavailable to return to the side he started with this season, but fullback Dylan Edwards, who also made his NRL debut in 2016, insists they’ve shown since Cleary’s promotion they can cover for the prodigious halfback.
“The depth in our squad is outstanding, really,” he says. “Anyone that comes into our team just knows their role and does their job – it’s a real benefit to have that.”
As a member of last year’s premiership-winning team, Edwards insists they won’t be getting ahead of themselves going into the decider against the Roosters this Sunday.
“We’ve had to earn [our victories] each week, no team has given it to us, and we know we’ll have to be better again next week – but we’re all just hungry,” Edwards says.
“Our goal-line defence wasn’t good enough today, so we’ll work on that during the week and we’ll have to cut down our handling errors as well.”
TALENT TO BURN It’s try time for fullback Dylan Edwards as reigning premiers Penrith surge into their second straight decider.