Cowboys crush Panthers 36-4

It was a win that kept their season alive, but in reality North Queensland's 36-4 pummeling of Penrith will likely end up another frustrating reminder of what might have been for the Cowboys in 2013.

The Cowboys backed up last week's impressive win over South Sydney with another convincing display, co-captain Johnathan Thurston at his mesmerising best with a hand in five of his side's six tries.

Three of those four-pointers were scored by hooker Ray Thompson - the back-to-back victories coming in the wake of coach Neil Henry being told he is unwanted at the end of the season.

But he may yet have a farewell to remember, with the Cowboys now on 20 competition points, four points behind eighth-paced Canberra.

Cowboys crush Panthers 36-4 . Getty Images
The Cowboys have a relatively friendly run home with three of their remaining four games in Townsville, but they would need a stack of results to go their way in what would be a Steven Bradbury-like charge should they make the top eight.

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.

A Brent Tate try off a Thurston long ball just before the 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.

AAP
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