The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have been defeated 42-14 by the North Queensland Cowboys in front of a vocal Townsville crowd at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
Both sides ran out with slight changes: with Gavin Cooper ruled out through injury, Joel Reithmuller moved to the Cowboys’ starting side, and with Mitch Allgood out of the Eels side as a precautionary measure after suffering a concussion in Round 7, Taniela Lasalo joined the Parramatta bench.
In the early stages it was one-way traffic for North Queensland. Taking control of a messy attacking set in just the 5th minute, Jonathan Thurston grubbered to score himself and give his side a 6-0 lead after converting.
Brent Tate put on a clean offload to send Matt Scott crashing over for a try early in the half, and following on from a penalty, the Cowboys spread the ball wide to Curtis Rona to score on the right edge.
But with the Cowboys sitting on a comfortable 18-point lead, fullback Jarryd Hayne found a gap in the defensive line to move his side downfield. And on the next tackle, the Eels attack sent the ball right from Chris Sandow to Ken Sio to score the Eels’ first of the night.
Rona was disallowed a second try - losing the ball as he tried to fight off Semi Radradra and ground it - and thanks to a David Gower offload and a short pass from Sandow, Eels young gun Pauli Pauli scored his first ever NRL try next to the posts.
Sandow’s kicking game helped keep the Eels in touch trailing 18-12, and when the Cowboys gave away a penalty in the 39th minute, Parramatta took the two points and headed to the sheds trailing 18-14.
After the break, both sides continued to struggle with handling errors in the humid conditions. The Cowboys capitalised on some good field position on the back of a penalty to send the ball to Kane Linnett for his first try of the season, but when Chris Sandow scooted across the line with the ball his try was disallowed by the video referee and deemed a knock-on.
Making metres on the very next set the Cowboys grabbed another thanks to Linnett via a grubber kick from Thurston, and headed to Rona’s wing one more time to lock in a commanding 22-point lead.
A final try to Michael Morgan sealed the 42-14 victory for the Cronulla Sharks.
The Eels now have two weeks before they next hit the field, taking on the Cronulla Sharks at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta, on Monday May 12 for the Johnny Mannah Cup.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 14 (Sio, Pauli, Sandow: 2/2 Penalty goals: 1/1)
North Queensland Cowboys - 42 (Thurston, Scott, Morgan, Linnett 2, Rona 2. Thurston 7/7)