The high-flying Parramatta Eels have been dealt a reality check by the impressive North Queensland Cowboys, who put the sword to Parramatta in the second half, running out 35-4 in the Northern Territory.
Going into this game, Parramatta were considered out-and-out favourites but, as with the previous two games of the evening, it would be the underdog that came out on top – which now begs the question: just how good are these North Queensland Cowboys?
From the opening minutes, it was clear that the Cowboys were up for the game and, perhaps, had even been planning an ambush of their own up in their natural humid habitat.
Their defence was stout, frustrating the Eels who who were maybe expecting a less resolute opposition.
The scores remained locked for much of the opening and it was only a 17th minute penalty goal to Valentine Holmes that would open the scoring and hard tackling from the likes of Reuben Cotter and Reece Robson prevented Parramatta from retaliating.
It was in the 30th minute that Kyle Fedt (who appears to have a new lease on life this season), opened the scoring in the corner in all too easy circumstances.
Feldt would bag another just before half-time, leaping over an increasingly under-fire Hayze Perham, to plant down Townsend’s kick in the corner.
At half-time, the score read 15-0 to the Cowboys.
At this stage, Eels were well and truly in the game.
However, there was a sense that the humidity was beginning to fatigue the sweat-drenched players heading into the half.
If they were to comeback, Parramatta would have to start strongly in the second half and hold on tight.
Unfortunately for Parramatta fans, it was Kyle Feldt’s hat-trick try that opened the scoring in the second half, further demoralising the players – in particular Hayze Perham who was having a wayward game at win.
The injuries to Parramatta’s backline have clearly begun to take their toll, with the fill-in men not quite up to the defensive effort and structures needed.
Perham would be redeemeed somewhat with the next try, off some quick hands (including from the maligned Jake Arthur) but that would be all she wrote for Parramatta.
After 65 minutes, the conditions had taken their toll and there was no opportunity to wrestle momentum back – there was little momentum left in the game.
It was the perfect opportunity for the returning Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, in his first game back from injury.
The man they call “The Hammer” would then prove exactly why he won the fullback position in the off-season – after a remarkable stint from Scott Drinkwater in the last few games – setting up a try and scoring one of his own.
Drinkwater would finish it off with a try of his own, to extend the lead out past 30 points.
A massive win for the Cowboys who now must be seen as a genuine Top 8 side this year (and have snuck into the Top 4 for now).
Parramatta will have a great deal of soul-searching, the vaunted Premiership hopefuls taken to task by a team considered likely to miss out on finals just a few short weeks ago.
North Queensland Cowboys 35 (Feldt 3, Dearden, Tabuai-Fidow, Drinkwater) def Parramatta Eels 4 (Perham)
NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Chad Townsend (NQL)
2 Points – Reuben Cotter (NQL)
1 Point – Scott Drinkwater (NQL)