The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have been defeated 54-12 by a rampaging North Queensland Cowboys Holden Cup side at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville.
The teams were sitting just two points apart ahead of the Cowboys heading into the round, despite the home side comfortably beating the Blue and Gold 34-12 in their earlier Round 2 encounter at Pirtek Stadium.
The Eels had no late changes to their side named earlier in the week, while the Cowboys saw Enari Tuala drop out of the side with Trey Kemp moving from the extended bench into the centres.
An early scare for the Eels with winger Jermaine Mati-Leifi down for an extended period after two minutes, but cleared by the trainer to remain on the field.
The visitors opened the scoring through debutant fullback Amanaki Manu, who received a slick pass from halfback Troy Dargan to score in the left corner.
Dargan added the extras to put the Eels in front 6-0 after six minutes.
The Cowboys were very strong returning fire, with fullback Kalyn Ponga scoring near the uprights and converting his own try.
Two minutes later, the Cowboys were over again off the back of a break from hooker Brandon Smith.
The next play second-rower Hiale Roycroft received the ball and stormed over the Eels defenders.
After a strong attacking set ending in a forward pass, the Cowboys weren’t going to make the same mistake twice, this time scoring through winger Marcus Jensen.
Cooper Bambling scooped up a loose ball that was coughed up by the Eels and ran 50 metres, before offloading to Jensen for a length of the field try.
Matt Price scored a try for the Eels to bring the scores closer, scooting over from dummy-half, with Dargan adding the extras.
A defensive lapse from the young Eels in the last five minutes of the half saw lock Jordan Kenworthy pick up a short ball under the posts and crash through the Parramatta defence.
Right on the siren, Ponga lined up to take a penalty kick form the sideline, which just fell short, but the Eels were ruled to be offside, providing Ponga with a second penalty opportunity, this time from right in front.
The Eels trailed at the halftime break 24-12.
The Cowboys came out firing in the second half, with two quick tries to winger Nathan Traill and second-rower Coen Hess, with halfback Cooper Bambling and Ponga both nailing a conversion each.
Nathan Traill wasn’t finished, scoring his second length-of-the-field try in the 57th minute, beating the Eels defence down the right side of the field for 80 metres.
Bambling scored a try of his own after picking up a ball that popped loose while the Eels were trying to escape the Cowboys in-goals.
Five-eighth Ty Carucci added insult to injury, scoring a late try to put the final score at 54-12.
North Queensland Cowboys 54 (Traill 2, Ponga, Roycroft, Jensen, Kenworthy, Hess, Bambling, Carucci tries, Ponga 8 goals, Bambling 1 goal)
Parramatta Eels 12 (Manu, Price tries, Dargan 2 goals)