Penrith loss compounded by injury to another star player

Panthers 20 Cowboys 26

Penrith's loss to North Queensland was compounded by a fracture to one of Trent Merrin's fingers.

The injury woes somehow continued for the mountain men as Merrin broke down during the warm-up on a chilly night in Bathurst.

Frustrated spectator: Trent Merrin watches from the sidelines on Friday night.

The hard-hitting forward revealed the bone in his finger had pierced through the skin and he would require surgery on Monday.

Injured teammates, including Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards, could only look on in horror from the sidelines.

Merrin was rushed to Orange Hospital where medical staff were deciding whether to operate immediately.

"They're not sure if it's a dislocation or a fracture of his finger, so they need to get it cleaned up tonight,'' Penrith coach Anthony Griffin said.

"Somehow or other he's got his hand in a bad place in a contact drill, and he's put his bone through his finger.''

The Panthers showed plenty of ticker to claw their way back from 20-0 down, including doubles to skipper Peter Wallace in his 100th game for the club and Penrith newcomer Tyrone Phillips.

Buy any hopes of a third miracle victory in the dying minutes at the venue ended with a 26-20 loss.

Griffin said his team coughed up too much ball in the opening half hour.

While the injuries could not be ignored, Griffin said ''we had a team out there tonight that was capable of winning that game''.

"They tried their backsides off, undoubetedly, but we just handed them their points too easily,'' Griffin said.

By the time the record 10,287 fans thawed out, they would have complained the Panthers were dudded by a few close calls.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak being given ten minutes in the sin-bin for swatting Kyle Feldt with an open palm on the half hour hurt the home side.

Watene-Zelezniak chased hard after a James Maloney bomb, only to brace for contact with a leaping Lachlan Coote.

Coote hit the deck as an angry Feldt charged in and yanked Watene-Zelezniak by the collar.

Referee Ashley Klein later told skipper Wallace it didn't matter if it was ''an open-handed punch or slap, you can't strike another player''.

Wallace later said: "I said to the ref at the time, 'that doesnt happen if they don't run in first'.

"It wasn't a punch as such or a strike. He's reacted to them running in, and it more of a push if anything.''

Wallace was also unlucky to be pinged for collecting Coote high early in the second half, which halted all the momentum Penrith had started to enjoy.

Johnathan Thurston scored at the other end of the field not long after.

Penrith were right in it until the dying minutes, especially when James Tamou stripped the ball from Jake Granville to give the Panthers possession and then a penalty with 90 seconds on the clock.

But the Panthers spilled the ball and the grandstand finale was over.

The Panthers will begin to welcome some of their star talent in the coming weeks, including Cleary.

They will head to Newcastle next Friday with plenty of confidence and still entrenched in the top four.

When they trailed 20-0, it looked like being an absolute Bathurst bloodbath.

But a decent whack on Justin O'Neill by Corey Harawira-Naera, then Phillips' first try on the stroke of half-time, kept the game interesting.

Phillips did well to bounce off Michael Morgan and Coote to bag his first try in the Panthers colours.

Wallace bagged a rare double in the space of two minutes, including a diving effort out of dummy-half then an easy four-pointer when Watene-Zelezniak leapt highest for a Maloney kick.

Phillips also scored one of the easiest tries he will collect in first grade when Maloney put up a cross-field kick with no Cowboys defenders around.

North Queensland started with plenty of energy as they chased just their third win of the season.

They had plenty of joy down Penrith's leaky left edge, especially Maloney, who was caught out a few times.

While Maloney had missed five tackles midway through the first half, Thurston had been bumped off as many times by the hard-running Penrith forwards, including Kiwi pair James Fisher-Harris and Harawira-Naera.

Cowboys hitman Jason Taumalolo ran for 233m and had seven tackle busts.

NORTH QUEENSLAND 26 (G Cooper B Hampton M Morgan J Thurston tries J Thurston 5 goals) bt   PENRITH 20 (T Phillips 2 P Wallace 2 tries J Maloney 2 goals) at Carrington Park, Bathurst. Referees: Ashley Klein, Peter Gough. Crowd: 10,289.

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