The Parramatta Eels have put in a clinical performance in Townsville to come away 26-6 victors over the North Queensland Cowboys in Round Nine of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
Eels Head coach Brad Arthur made one late change to his side an hour before kick off, with Will Smith named in the halves to make his Club debut alongside Corey Norman forcing Kenny Edwards back to the bench in place of David Gower.
The Eels looked to have made the Cowboys pay for their early errors, when forward Tepai Moeroa backed his way towards the try line. With 5-6 defenders holding up the forward, he planted the ball and claimed a try.
However the referees sent the try upstairs, and Smith was ruled to have impeded the Cowboys defenders and the on-field decision was overturned.
But it didn’t’ take long before the Eels possession was rewarded with points, when the Blue & Gold put on a short side play on the halfway line.
Manu Ma’u found half Corey Norman swinging around the back, and as he sliced through the line, he found fullback Clinton Gutherson looming in support. Gutherson had plenty of work to do when he received the ball on the 20m line, and as he danced and swerved through the Cowboys scrambling defence, he dove for the corner to plant it for the first points of the game.
He converted his own try from the sideline to give the Eels a 6-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes.
The Eels were over again in the 26th minute, with the Blue & Gold finding space again down the Cowboys right edge defence.
Smith danced across the line and had the Cowboys clutching at the evasive five-eighth. A quick play the ball found Michael Jennings charging towards the line, and with Norman in support, he dummied, sliced his way through the line before drawing the fullback. The centre offloaded to Gutherson in support as he streaked 20m to cross for his second converted try of the evening.
The Eels threw another trick shot at the Cowboys, when Norman intentionally chipped early in the tackle count for his left winger, Semi Radradra. Radradra looked like he was going to claim the ball and charge towards the line, but as the ball found the ground, the referee blew the whistle as Radradra was ruled to have been taken out early without the ball.
The Eels opted for a quick tap and continued to press the attack looking for another try as the half time siren approached.
However a few play the balls later, a penalty for a high shot on forward Moeroa gifted the Eels a shot at two, and Gutherson knocked over the penalty to extend the lead 14-0 after 40 minutes.
The second half resumed and the Eels looked to pick things where the first half ended.
A quick play the ball saw Michael Jennings with room to move with no markers out in front of him. The centre streaked down field, offloading to forward Nathan Brown in support who offloaded to Smith, who ran 30m to score a try to the right of the posts.
The try was converted by Gutherson with the Eels pushing their lead to beyond three converted tries after 51 minutes, 20-0.
The Eels defence was holding strong, and led by Kaysa Pritchard, the Eels were punishing the home side with some brutal defence.
It took a kick over the top from Cowboys John Asiata in the 65th minute of the clash and a desperate individual effort from Antonio Winterstein to put the first points on the board for the home side, as he grounded the ball just inside the dead ball line.
With 10 minutes remaining, a dropped ball on the Eels try line saw the Eels and Cowboys come together in a heated exchange. A slap from forward Kenny Edwards saw the referee send him to the bin, leaving the Blue & Gold to 12 men on the field for the final stanza.
However the Eels won a scrum against the feed on the Cowboys 20m line to put the side on the attack.
And it was a hard running line from captain Tim Mannah, who charged towards the line to crash over fullback Kalyn Ponga to score a converted try and put the Eels further ahead.
The try was Mannah’s fifth of his career, with the crucial try putting a stamp on the Eels performance and securing a 26-6 victory.
Parramatta Eels 26 (Tries: Clint Gutherson (2), Will Smith, Tim Mannah; Goals: Clint Gutherson 4/4; Penalty: Clint Gutherson 1/1)
North Queensland Cowboys 6 (Tries: Atonio Winterstein: Goals: Kyle Feldt 1/1)