The Penrith Panthers have sent the NRL one of the most brutal warnings of the season as the defending champions showed off their ruthless side.

It may only be round 12 but as each week goes past, the 2022 season looks more and more like the Penrith Panthers’ to lose.

The Panthers were absolutely clinical as they defeated the Cowboys 22-0 at home in front of another strong crowd in Sydney’s west.

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Coming into the game, North Queensland had been the season surprise packets and were looking for a sweep of some of the biggest teams in the competition after demolishing the Eels in Darwin and thrashing an understrength Storm in recent weeks.

The Panthers have only lost one game this season — a 22-20 loss to the Eels in round 9 — but have dominated most other games.

There are some potential factors behind the dominant result that some may point to — it was the Cowboys first game in Sydney this season, while the Panthers were buoyed after Royce Simmons Big Walk for dementia ended before the opening whistle at BluBet Stadium. He is expected to raise $700,000 for dementia, including $100,000 donated by the Panthers Group before the game.

But met with the cold hard facts of the play on the field, the Panthers are just in a different stratosphere this season.

The Panthers led 16-0 at halftime but it may as well have been 30-0 after the dominance the defending premiers showed.

Countless repeat sets and an absolute mountain of possession gave the Cowboys no chance.

North Queensland’s handling also cost them dearly.

Much of the game, the Panthers had more than 60 per cent of possession, finishing with 57 per cent.

On the Cowboys side, 15 errors and a completion rate of just 60 per cent cost them dearly but the Panthers were on another level.

NRL great Cooper Cronk said the game was set up in defence for the Panthers as they didn’t allow the Cowboys into the game.

“In terms of the defensive display from Penrith tonight, their line speed, they’re moving together, their decision making,” Cronk said. “The Cowboys, for a team that’s won six in a row, in five of them scoring 30 points or more, they have no answers attacking the best defensive team in our competition. They’ve been forced sideways through the defensive speed Penrith have played at.”

After the game, Michael Ennis said the Cowboys were “gutsy” despite conceding the 22 points as the Panthers flexed their muscles.

Benji Marshall added: “At least they (the Cowboys) know where they’re at now. There’s a little bit of a gap between the Panthers and the rest of the competition.”

In his post match press conference, Cowboys coach Todd Payten said he was disappointed his did “didn’t fire our best shot”.

But he was positive if the Cowboys were on their game.

“We’ll walk away knowing we can beat them if we get our fair share of possession,” Payten said. “There were moments in that first half where I thought we really worried them with the ball but we couldn’t find the patience or the last pass.”

Even early in the first half, former NRL star Isaac Luke was gushing the Panthers’ praises after an impressive first half display.

However, not only are the Panthers dominating in first grade, but the reserve grade side sit on top of the ladder.

Is there anyone who can stop the Panthers?

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