Cowboys v Eels: Five key points
Thurston gets one over Scott, Feldt's Origin chances fade, and the Eels cause dilemmas with their defence. The key points to come from the Cowboys' win over the Eels on Saturday night.
Feldt falters in Origin race
The past two days have not been kind to Kyle Feldt's 2016 Origin fate, with Broncos strike weapon Corey Oates turning in a good performance against the Rabbitohs on Friday, including one of the best finishes of the season. Meanwhile, Feldt was thoroughly outpointed by Eels winger Semi Radradra the next night.
Defensively, Feldt just could not manage to get the 'Semi Trailer' to the ground, and even with ball in hand the Fijian torched the Queensland Origin hopeful in his length-of-the-field try.
Eels forced problems with jamming defence
Parramatta's eager defence was exposed in the first half with a couple of copybook tries targeting the area around the play-the-ball, but gave the Cowboys difficulty in sweeping movements designed to get outside backs involved.
In both first-half tries the Cowboys feigned movements toward the Eels' outside backs before a straightening of attack (Thurston's inside ball and Morgan's right-foot step) brought about points as Parramatta's focus was on the men outside.
While the Cowboys dismissed two of the Eels' breakaway tries as "unlucky", they came from bad reads. On both occasions centre Michael Jennings came out of the line, first putting a hit on Morgan – which forced the ball loose for Radradra to pick up and scoot away – and then intercepting a Thurston cut-out ball to Justin O'Neill.
Thurston gets one on Beau Scott
Bragging rights are up for grabs every time these two face off, and the Cowboys maestro has claimed the points this time around.
Thurston expertly played himself as bait in the first try of the night, getting into first receiver and running across field to draw Scott out from marker. The Eels veteran took off after the halfback which opened a huge hole right next to the ruck, which Thurston saw and capitalised on with a neat short ball to a line-running Gavin Cooper.
The two are likely to face off again in just over a month when State of Origin Game I rolls around.
Eels left to rue poor completions
Parramatta is a bottom five team in completion rate, and ball control bit them again against the Cowboys. They have completed over 80 per cent just once all year, and were looking good on the back of a tidy first half before a multitude of second-half errors saw the game fall apart. They scored all three tries in the second stanza, but it was either rocks or diamonds throughout the final 40 minutes.
"The second half we made eight errors and all of them out of red zone, so that was disappointing," coach Brad Arthur said post-game.
"That first half we only made a couple of errors and completed above eighty per cent but in the second half our completions were 50 per cent and you just can't do it against any team, let alone a very good side like the Cowboys."
Cowboys expected to win even before sin-binning
Post-game co-captain Matt Scott gave an indication of the current level of confidence within the Cowboys group at the moment, declaring that he expected that his side would walk away with the two competition points the moment the starting forwards re-joined the field. Corey Norman had not yet been sin-binned, the Eels were on a 16-0 scoring run and North Queensland had failed to complete half of their attacking sets in the first 20 minutes of the second half; but a couple of sets into his second stint Scott felt like his side would again grind out a win.
"I thought when I got back on the field with about 20 minutes to go, with Jimmy (James Tamou) and Jase (Jason Taumalolo), I felt us get a bit of ascendency again," Scott said.
"I felt pretty comfortable, I think that was probably a bit of a turning point. Of course it's hard to defend with 12 [players], but I felt like before that we were getting on top of them."