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Cowboys still dreaming of NRL finals

Johnathan Thurston

Departing North Queensland coach Neil Henry is adamant his side can beat any team in the NRL top eight - now the Cowboys just have to complete the miracle and sneak into the finals.
Cowboys still dreaming of NRL finals
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, August 11 AAP - Departing North Queensland coach Neil Henry is adamant his side can beat any team in the NRL top eight - now the Cowboys just have to complete the miracle and sneak into the finals.

The Cowboys kept their faint finals hopes alive with a 36-4 pummeling of Penrith on Monday night, a victory which while mathematically beneficial will most likely end up another frustrating reminder of what might have been for the Cowboys in 2013.

The win left them four points behind eighth-placed Canberra, the task not impossible given three of their last four games will be at home.

With Johnathan Thurston at his mesmerising best with a hand in five of his side's six tries - which included an 11-minute hat-trick to hooker Ray Thompson - the Cowboys looked like the side that many had tipped to be a force in this year's premiership.

It backed up last week's big win over South Sydney - both victories coming after Henry had been told he would not be required at the club in 2014 - and enough to have some of the sides in the top eight looking over their shoulder.

"There's a lot of hard work to do. We've got to win every game," Henry said.

"We'll roll up our sleeves and go for 80 minutes each week and see where it takes us.

"We've got some resolve to say `it doesn't matter who we're playing, if we play our best football we can beat any team in the competition'."

On Sunday night's display, that is certainly the case, with Thurston thriving on the back of some dominant work from Test prop Matt Scott and James Tamou.

It looked like being a good night for the Panthers as they welcomed back Lachlan Coote for the first time since tearing his pectoral muscle in round two, while Sam McKendry also made his return from a broken neck against Parramatta in round seven.

But it was the Cowboys who started strongest with Antonio Winterstein doing well to crash over out wide, before Coote made an immediate impact with the pass to set up David Simmons' reply.

But a Brent Tate try off a Thurston long ball just before halftime and winger Kyle Feldt's first NRL try eight minutes after the restart sunk the home side.

Thompson scored his hat-trick in the space of 11 minutes starting just before the hour mark, Penrith having now lost four games in a row as they remain marooned on 20 competition points.

"It just wasn't to be ... maybe the mojo, we just didn't have it tonight," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.

"There were periods in the game where we were well in it but we just couldn't capitalise and in the end it just took its toll on our belief."


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