Arguably the match of the round, in many respects, it lived up to the billing. Ultimately, it was the North Queensland Cowboys who maintained their 100% record at home, with a 32-16 win over the Parramatta Eels.
The game was a closely fought affair as expected for 66 minutes, before the game was mired in what many deem as a controversial moment and a game-changer.
With an opportunity to score in sight for the Cowboys, the Eels five-eighth Corey Norman raced through and impeded the Cowboys attacker from getting to the ball and making an effort to score.
As a result, referee Gerard Sutton did not hesitate and sent Norman to the bin for professional foul. Fans were up in arms with the decision not because it was the wrong call, but because it has been inconsistent.
Even Eels coach Brad Arthur wanted clarity on the incident and the consistencies involved with it.
“I just need to ask [Tony Archer] what the ruling is and if it is going to happen continually,” he said.
“It’s disappointing, with 14 or 15 minutes to go, that we couldnâ€™t see two really good teams fight it out to see who could get on top at the end.
“Everyone has been robbed of a good game of football.”
Before that incident, it was level-pegging, as both sides challenged each other. The Cowboys raced to a 14-0 lead at the break, before the Eels had a resurgence of their own at the start of the second half.
In the end, down a man for ten minutes, the Cowboys pounced with some solid attacking play, scoring two tries to seal the win and maintain their top 4 spot. Despite the Eels loss, they do remain in the top four due to their for and against.
Whilst the game did have that controversy, Arthur also lamented his side’s poor ball control.
“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.”
In a sign as to how confident the Cowboys are as a unit, prop and captain Matt Scott thought they were in the drivers seat and would go on to win regardless.
“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.”
Player of the Game:
3. Michael Morgan.
2. Kieran Foran
1. Johnathan Thurston
North Queensland Cowboys 32 (Michael Morgan 2, Gavin Cooper, Lachlan Coote, Antonio Winterstein tries; Johnathan Thurston 6 goals) def. Parramatta Eels 16 (Semi Radradra 2, Michael Jennings tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: Cowboys 14-0. Crowd: 19,308. Holden Cup: Cowboys 54-12. Sin bin: Corey Norman (Parramatta Eels â€“ obstructing kick-chaser), 65th minute.