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Alex Mitchell

Defence killed Panthers in Cowboys loss: coach Cleary

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary wasn't happy with the defensive effort in the loss to the Cowboys. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary admits his second-line talents got taught a lesson in the 27-23 golden-point loss to North Queensland.

Missing a host of stars including key members Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo, the Panthers had no troubling scoring points on Friday but lacked their trademark defensive polish in a tough loss in Townsville.

It's far from alarm bells for the reigning premiers, but coach Cleary was filthy with the defensive effort that he'd expected to be delivered, regardless of personnel.

"There's no question about our effort, some young guys did come up with some really good stuff," he said.

"But as a group, as a club, we pride ourselves on our resilience in defence and being cleaner and not offering up opportunities, controlling things a little bit better than that.

"That's a good lesson for those guys."

Their makeshift halves combination of Jack Cogger and Jaeman Salmon looked good at times, the latter influential in building their 20-12 halftime lead with a bruising run to score himself before setting up another for Tom Jenkins.

But it was the controlling play of Cogger that caught Cleary's eye, the former Newcastle and Canterbury halfback assisting one try before slotting a clutch field goal to send the game to golden point.

Cogger is set for an extended run in the side with star half Nathan Cleary not due back from his hamstring injury until round 21.

"(Cogger) played well," Ivan Cleary said.

"Since he's come in he's done a really good job and tonight will only help him and only help us.

"Just getting more used to things without Yeo and Luai, that's a fair bit of the combination they're missing.

"I feel like that's not the reason we didn't win ... they scored too many tries too often."

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