Eels thump injury-hit Cowboys
The Parramatta Eels defeated the North Queensland Cowboys 26-6 at 1300SMILES Stadium in a dominant display against a team that badly missed stars Johnathan Thurston, Jake Granville, Lachlan Coote and Matt Scott.
The Cowboys will also be sweating on the captain Gavin Cooper who left the field after injuring his shoulder late in the match.
The Cowboys completed only 25 of their 38 sets, a 66 per cent completion rate compared to the Eels' 82 per cent.
The Eels made an ideal start to the match, with Corey Norman dummying to beat the Cowboys' right side defence before passing back inside to fullback Clint Gutherson who crossed in the corner.
The Cowboys appeared to swing momentum 10 minutes later, when a towering kick from Michael Morgan was caught cleanly by Semi Radradra, before the Cowboys defenders forced the ball from his grip in a strong tackle. They went only inches short of converting the field position into points when Asiata snuck through a gap close to the line, but Cooper dropped the makeshift half's flick pass virtually in the in-goal.
The Eels struck back almost immediately, once again splitting the Cowboys wide open down the right side with Michael Jennings dummying past Michael Morgan before sending the ball inside for Gutherson to score his second of the night.
The Eels saw out the first half with a penalty goal to stretch their lead to 14-0 at the break.
North Queensland started the second half in considerably better fashion than the first, quickly falling into the arm-wrestle with the Eels. Despite this the Eels were too full of running and Michael Jennings split the defence again with a scoot from dummy-half, feeding the ball to Nathan Brown who sent Will Smith clear to dive over and stretch the Eels' lead to 20-0 after the successful conversion.
The hosts continuously failed to dominate field position, even when they managed to get into the Eels' half, with continuous errors costing them attacking opportunities throughout the night.
The Cowboys' first genuine opportunity in the second half came when the Eels gave a penalty for a careless high tackle, giving the Cowboys possession in the visitors' red-zone. North Queensland eventually managed to execute successfully when Asiata caught the Eels out of position with an inch-perfect chip kick, which Antonio Winterstein pounced on to post the Cowboys' only points with only 15 minutes to go in the game.
The home side seemed a certainty to score again when Eels bench forward Kenny Edwards was sin-binned for slapping, but their next fifth-tackle option failed to pay off when Ponga dropped Michael Morgan's grubber.
The Cowboys defended the set but were unable to get the ball out of their own end, and an errant offload from Kyle Feldt found Eels hands before Eels captain Tim Mannah crashed over off a short pass from dummy-half.
The Cowboys finished the game in a worse way than they started it, with Cooper landing awkwardly on his shoulder attempting to catch a short kick-off before leaving the field in pain with five minutes remaining. The loss leaves the Cowboys at just one win from their last four games.
Eels 26 (Clint Gutherson, Will Smith, Tim Mannah tries; Clint Gutherson 5 goals) def. Cowboys 6 (Antonio Winterstein try; Kyle Feldt goal) at 1300 Smiles Stadium. Half-time: 14-0 Crowd 14,247.