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Cowboys v Eels preview

Cowboys v Eels
1300SMILES Stadium
Saturday, 5.30pm

Did anyone happen to see Cowboys coach Paul Green walking nude down Pitt Street over the long weekend? Probably not, considering we haven't seen any videos going viral online.

Speaking of going viral, here's another sordid word circulating around rugby league circles – obstruction. Yep, we've said it – obstruction. Hands up if you've heard that word mentioned over the past week or two?

Confusion surrounding the video referees' interpretation of this grey area continues to swell after two incidents stemming from the weekend ensured that the 'O' word would rear its ugly head again.

Funnily enough, the two sides at the centre of these controversial decisions over the weekend are going to battle at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.

Trailing 18-14 against the Tigers, the Eels were denied what would have been a crucial try in the 72nd minute to Will Hopoate through an obstruction call. Despite the conjecture surrounding the Parramatta no-try decision, the video referee made the correct call because there was contact between the Eels' David Gower and Tigers' defender Luke Brooks in the lead-up play.

The Eels did have other opportunities to win the game after that no-try decision but their wastefulness in attack narrowed their chances to strike back with time remaining.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys had a try incorrectly scored against them by Manly's Kieran Foran, with replays showing that Jamie Buhrer had clearly impeded the Cowboys' defensive line. The NRL has since conceded that the incorrect decision was made to award the try.

Anyway, that's enough about two games already run and won. Now let's get back to Saturday's clash…

The big question is whether the Eels can repeat their draining effort against the Tigers, played in front of 50,000 fans in a finals-like atmosphere, as opposed to playing the Cowboys in front of 15,000 in Townsville. They have a five-day turnaround as opposed to North Queensland, who will have had an eight-day break since their 26-21 loss to the Sea Eagles on Good Friday.

Green stated that the Cowboys' failure to close out the Manly game when they were in a winning position was the catalyst for the five-point loss and not the incorrect try decision. North Queensland had the game seemingly in their control on a number of occasions but poor ball control and slack defence at key moments cost them the two points. If the Cowboys are calling on the referees to be consistent, they also need to respond on the field with consistency in their own performances.

In team news, the Cowboys have dropped halfback Robert Lui, with utility Ray Thompson promoted from the bench. Kane Linnett returns after missing out against the Sea Eagles at the expense of Kyle Feldt, while Anthony Mitchell and Joel Riethmuller come on to a six-man Cowboys interchange bench. The Eels have brought Pauli Pauli into the starting back-row, with Kenny Edwards out with a broken hand, while prop Peni Terepo joins the bench.

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Watch Out Cowboys: Without Jarryd Hayne it's hard to see how the Eels would actually be able to score points. Now of course they have Chris Sandow, Corey Norman and some talented outside backs but it's Hayne who is the glue that keeps everything together for the Eels and if you're a Parra fan, you'd have to fear what would happen without their courageous custodian.

Hayne was simply sensational in a losing side on Easter Monday. The 26-year-old scored two tries, made two line breaks and also chimed in with a try assist, further highlighting how invaluable he is to the Eels. He has scored five tries so far this season and will need to be at his breathtaking best to help guide his side to a win over the Cowboys in Townsville.

Watch Out Eels: After going four rounds without crossing the stripe, veteran Cowboys' centre Brent Tate has rediscovered some try-scoring form, bagging four tries in the past three games. The 32-year-old still knows how to find his way over the line and will be looking to keep posting four-pointers in order to keep himself in the Queensland selectors' eyes with State of Origin only five weeks away.

Tate has also contributed four line breaks, 14 offloads, 15 tackle breaks and one try assist this season. His battle with fellow Queenslander Willie Tonga will be a fascinating one.

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Plays To Watch: The Eels have strike power out on both flanks but it's on the right edge where they particularly enjoy running the footy. The proof in the pudding was their performance against the Tigers, with both of Hayne's tries scored in the right corner. Hayne also set up a try with a kick to right-winger Ken Sio, while Hopoate's 'no try' was also 'scored' on the right edge as well.

Despite Sio and Hopoate only scoring five tries between them this season (compared to 10 tries in seven games for left winger Semi Radradra), they still remain a threat and when Hayne links up with the Eels' attacking line, the Cowboys must keep on their toes and remain switched on in defence.

Where It Will Be Won: Completion rates. Surprisingly the Eels, despite their razzle-dazzle tendencies with ball-in-hand, are leading the competition in least errors conceded per game, averaging 9.1 per match. They bucked that trend on Monday with 13 errors and a completion rate of only 61 per cent; however their season average for completions is 74 per cent, with a total of only 64 errors over the first seven rounds.

The Cowboys on the other hand are averaging 13.6 errors per game – second worst in the comp. Their season average for completions is just over 72 percent, which may not seem like a lot of difference compared to the Eels but when you factor in that they have made 33 more errors than Parramatta so far this season, it all adds up.

The History: Played 29; Cowboys 12, Eels 16, Draw 1. The Cowboys may have won the past three clashes between these sides but prior to that the Eels had won five straight games over North Queensland dating between 2008 and 2011. The Eels haven't enjoyed travelling to Townsville in recent times, conceding 82 points in their past two clashes at 1300SMILES. The last time Parramatta tasted victory in North Queensland was a 24-18 win in Round 7, 2010, before that they hadn't won in Townsville since Round 17, 2000.

What Are The Odds: There has been more than three times the amount of bets on the Eels with Sportsbet.com.au, despite them being $2.50 underdogs. Hardly any interest in the Cowboys at $1.53.

Match Officials: Referee - Ben Cummins; Assistant Referee - Gavin Reynolds; Touch Judges - Michael Wise and Clayton Sharpe; Video Referees - Chris Ward & Luke Patten.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 5.30pm (AEST).

The Way We See It: The result of this game is dependent upon whether the Eels can continue their promising early season form and win another rare away game. Their last trip to Queensland was a rewarding one, as they beat the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, but the heat and humidity of Townsville and only a five-day turnaround will hinder the Eels' chances of notching up their fifth win of the year. The Cowboys will be itching to play again after the fiasco against Manly and should prove to be too strong on their home turf. Cowboys by 10 points.

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