Gritty Eels hold out Premiers
The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have defeated the reigning premiers, the North Queensland Cowboys, 20-16 on Saturday night in a thrilling Round 2 clash in Parramatta.
Discipline and completions were the message from Head Coach Brad Arthur after last week’s loss against the Broncos, and the Eels had a controlled start to their game against the defending Premiers.
Parramatta’s defence in the opening half seemed to have shaken up the Cowboys as the home side forced an error in the third minute of play when Matt Scott lost control of the ball in the ruck.
The Eels continued their strong start after receiving back-to-back penalties. Captain Kieran Foran opted to take the two points early and as Michael Gordon knocked them over, the Eels were ahead 2-0 after five minutes.
The Blue and Gold were composed in the opening passages of play, not making an error or giving away a penalty until the ninth minute.
Semi Radradra was brutal in defence as the Cowboys looked certain to score in the 13th minute through Kyle Feldt. The flying winger reached him before he could ground the ball, sending Feldt flying over the sideline as the Blue and Gold army erupted.
It was a very physical game but the dominance in defence from the Eels looked to shut down the reigning Premiers and, in particular, their Captain Johnathan Thurston.
An error from Brad Takairangi saw the Cowboys have their first real attacking opportunity.
In the 18th minute, the Cowboys were able to penetrate Parramatta’s defence after the visitors forced a line drop out. Johnathan Thurston threw a pass, flat and short to Ethan Lowe, who crossed just to the side of the posts. Thurston added the two as the Cowboys took the lead 6-2.
The Eels hit straight back as an error off the first set from the Cowboys gave Parramatta a chance to start their set 30 metres out. Nathan Peats jumped straight out of dummy half on the fifth tackle to crash over the line. The conversion was successful from Michael Gordon, as the Eels reclaimed the lead 8-6.
The Eels continued to play some exciting football as Corey Norman made a break up the centre of the field but as he offloaded to Peni Terepo, he was unable to control it, costing the Eels some field position.
Parramatta’s defence started to take its toll on the Cowboys, who only completed 7/12 in the opening 31 minutes of play.
The Eels received another penalty after Semi Radradra was taken out while chasing a Norman bomb. As a result of some more attacking field position, Kenny Edwards steamrolled through the Cowboys defensive line for the home side’s second try of the night.
The Eels led 14-6 after 40 minutes.
The defending Premiers came out sharp in the second half as the Eels did well in defence to hold them out early on after repeat sets on the try line.
Momentum swung when Manu Ma’u was penalised and placed on report after a dangerous tackle on Kyle Feldt. Michael Moran set up Justin O’Neill who did well to break through the defence and score in the corner. Thurston was unable to convert as the Eels led 14-10.
The Cowboys continued to look threatening in attack as Scott Bolton made a break up the field however constant offloading eventually forced a knock on as possession returned to the Eels.
Another penalty for the Eels gifted them an attacking set 30 metres out. Matt Scott was placed on report for a dangerous tackle on Kenny Edwards. The Blue and Gold elected to take the kick and Gordon added another two, taking the score out to 16-10 after 54 minutes.
Clinton Gutherson stepped up to collect a spiralling Cowboys bomb but was forced in goal once he landed.
The Cowboys looked certain to score off the line drop out but great sliding defence from the Eels forced another error from the Cowboys.
The visitors were penalised again in the 61st minute for a high shot on Radradra as the penalty count started to rise.
A great attacking set led by the halves and a short pass from Junior Paulo sent Brad Takairangi over soon after. The Eels led 20-10 with less than 15 minutes remaining.
The intensity of the game seemed to take a toll on the players as errors started to creep into the game in the last 10 minutes.
Nathan Peats was removed from the field after his arm collided with the knee of Taumalolo while he was making a tackle.
A knock on by Gutherson off a bomb saw the Cowboys have one minute and 11 seconds to try to put some points on the board if they had any chance of a comeback.
The points came through Taumalolo and Thurston converted in less than 20 seconds for his side to have one last attempt at stealing the win, as the Cowboys trailed 20-16.
The Cowboys had two plays to get 90 metres down the field and while all the hearts of the Blue and Gold supporters were in their mouths, the Eels were able to hold on for their first win of the season.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 20 (Peats, Edwards, Takairangi. Conversions: Gordon 1/3. Penalty goals: 2/2)
North Queensland Cowboys - 16 (Lowe, O’Neill, Taumalolo Conversions: Thurston 2/3)