NRL Round 11 – North Queensland v Penrith
In addition to injured players, this round both teams were missing their State of Origin stars which often means that a clubs depth is further tested. It also means that opportunities come for players who are on the fringe of playing regular NRL.
The Panthers had a short week and travelled north after their golden point thriller against St George on Monday night. The Panthers have had some issues scoring points this season and were scoreless for over a half of football on Monday night, so how they were going to back up was going to say a great deal about their mental toughness.
For the Cowboys, this time of year raises the question of whether they can win without Thurston and their other Origin players. Matt Bowen is expected to carry the burden that the unavailability of Thurston creates.
North Queensland mental strengths:
1 They took advantage of their opportunities to convert field position into points, often due to errors from Penrith 2 They kept in the contest despite the lead changing a number of times 3 They didn’t panic when they were 4 points behind with 10 minutes to play 4 They overcame the loss of a player to injury, finishing with only 16 men
North Queensland mental vulnerabilities
1 Discipline; in the early minutes of the match it cost them a try and often kept the Panthers in the match 2 Some controlled aggression is required from Ashton Sims who conceded early penalties and was running on emotion at the end of the match. Sure he dives on a spilt ball to score the winning try however this does not hide the fact that he displayed mental vulnerability well before Tariq broke his leg.
Penrith mental strengths:
1 They were able to score some points after having trouble doing so in recent rounds and backed up well of a short turnaround and long trip north 2 Only one of their 5 tries came from a kick, with 4 coming off some expansive play 3 Managed to stay in the contest right up to the final stages of the match 4 Competed well despite being without their captain due to Origin
Penrith mental vulnerabilities:
1 Errors cost them and undermined their good work with the ball (Walsh kicking out on the full lead to Cowboys first try; dropped balls early in yardage sets; dropped balls when in good field position) 2 Allowed some soft tries to be scored against them, especially Bowen’s 1st try
These teams seemed evenly matched; what the Cowboys gave away in terms of poor discipline the Panthers returned with their errors. Taking out the Origin players certainly levels the playing field given that the Cowboys are in the top four and the Panthers are in the bottom four.
It will be interesting to see how the Panthers develop over the remainder of the season as they certainly have the effort and competitive attitude to trouble teams. What they are lacking is some skill execution under pressure, which I am sure they are working on.