Not a happy hunting ground for the Parramatta Eels in the past, 1300 Smiles Stadium has long held some dark memories for the blue and gold but they finally got one over the stadium and the North Queensland Cowboys, with a comfortable win.
Winning just one out of their last ten at the venue, the Eels burst out of the blocks against a Cowboys side that was missing numerous key players in Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville.
Their loss was further compounded by a potential AC joint/scapula injury to Gavin Cooper, who will face a nervous wait for the prognosis.
The completion rate was the difference as the Eels completed at an impressive 82% compared to just 65% for the Cowboys.
The Eels came out firing as some deft play from Corey Norman on the left edge saw him break the line before he found Clint Gutherson on the inside to score.
The Cowboys had a perfect chance to hit back soon after but the ball was dropped over the line by Gavin Cooper, just as they looked like they would be regaining some momentum.
They would rue that miss as the Eels left edge again lit up the play, this time Michael Jennings making the break that led to a second try for Gutherson.
Leading 14-0 at the break and with all the momentum, the Eels continued it as they scored again on the back of another Jennings break, before Nathan Brown and Will Smith finished the play off to score.
The Cowboys had their chances in the attacking zones but failed to hold onto the ball at crucial times and it cost them dearly.
The sole Cowboys try was against the run of play as a smart cross-field kick by make-shift half John Asiata caught the Eels defence off-guard, that saw Antonio Winterstein score with a good finish.
The direction of Corey Norman is always a telling factor behind any Eels win and coach Brad Arthur praised his play-maker as well as that entire side.
“Corey’s a class player and he’s got Michael Jennings outside him and Semi and Manu Ma’u inside him so they’re pretty handy players,” Arthur said.
Cowboys coach Paul Green lamented the simple fundamentals as one of the key reasons as to why they lost.
“Some simple things in our game that we just didn’t do,” Green said.
“I’m not sure that we… were prepared to match them physically at the start although defensively we put ourselves under pressure with an error in the first set. And that was from one of our Test players.”
Defence is the key and an important aspect for Arthur and his Eels and despite some inconsistent defence for his team this year, he praised his team’s resilience and resolve.
“We were really happy with the defence part of it. We had to defend four of five sets on out try line and it’s what’s needed against very good teams,” Arthur said.
3. Corey Norman
2. Michael Jennings
- Nathan Brown
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.