The Toyota Cowboys remain without an NRL win away from home in 2014 after a late rally fell just short in their round 13 match against Parramatta tonight.
The Eels scored an 18-16 victory after racing to a 10-0 lead in the opening stages to keep alive their winning run at Pirtek Stadium that stretches back to round 21 last season.
North Queensland, who remain outside the top eight, are now 0-6 away from Townsville this year, with the total losing margins against Manly, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Parramatta totalling a mere 12 points.
With their State of Origin players about to head back into camp for game two on Wednesday week, the Cowboys have a bye in round 14 followed by a Monday Night Football clash against Newcastle when they will get another chance to get rid of their away demons.
The Cowboys fielded an unchanged squad of 17 with Joel Riethmuller as 18th man. The Eels were also 1-17 with Jarryd Hayne and Willie Tonga back in their lineup. Luke Kelly was hooker with Nathan Peats gone for the year with an ACL tear.
After not conceding any points to Melbourne last Saturday night, the usually reliable Cowboys defence let in two tries in the first 12 minutes to a rampant Eels lineup determined to reverse their round eight loss to North Queensland.
The last line of defence for the Cowboys, Michael Morgan, was called on to stop a runaway Corey Norman in the ninth minute but his strip of possession led to a goalline dropout and the Eels went through the NQ defence once again a couple of tackles later.
Front-rower Junior Paulo found room up the middle and crossed near the posts, giving Chris Sandow a simple conversion and Parramatta a 6-0 lead after 10 minutes.
Soon after, the NRL’s leading try-scorer cashed in on an Eels break down the left, taking the final pass from Jarryd Hayne for his 11th of the season.
Luckily for NQ, Sandow failed with the simple conversion attempt, leaving the margin at 10.
After a horror few minutes, the Cowboys settled and forced two goalline dropouts without being able to open their account.
The visitors’ first try eventually came with 22 minutes left in the half.
Brent Tate and Matthew Wright kept the play alive before Michael Morgan weaved his way through and found James Tamou on his inside.
The Test and Origin prop slid over untouched and the Cowboys were back to four down with JT’s conversion.
A try disallowed for a forward pass saved NQ from being further behind and Radradra almost had a double in the 32nd minute when the Cowboys were unable to clean up a towering high ball – one of several the Eels threw up as last-tackle options, especially in the first 40.
A spilled bomb led to Parra’s third try, three minutes before half time.
Morgan wasn’t able to handle a huge floater from Hayne and Ken Sio dived over out wide in the resulting set of six deep in NQ territory to make it 14-6.
The Eels had a 55%-45% edge in possession in the first half.
The Eels added to their lead two minutes after the restart, Hayne winning the race to the corner after interchange forward Pauli Pauli’s offload unlocked the Cowboys defence yet again.
Sandow’s missed conversion left the difference at 12.
After both Brent Tate and Matthew Wright went close in the same set for the Cowboys, Junior Paulo was held up over the line by three NQ defenders.
Bench men Robert Lui and John Asiata were thrown into the contest for the first time and the Cowboys were eventually next to score, thanks to a superb 20-metre cutout pass from Michael Morgan that found Antonio Winterstein and he dived in near the corner post.
JT’s kick from the sideline missed to the left leaving the Cowboys eight behind with 15 minutes left.
With time running out, NQ front-rower Ashton Sims was put on report for a swinging arm on Eels forward Kenny Edwards.
It looked over for the Cowboys when they had a potential try to John Asiata denied after Antonio Winterstein wasn’t able to get his foot on an attempted grubber kick, the video refs confirming the on-field 'no try' call.
However, Michael Morgan was able to give his side some hope by wriggling over with 90 seconds left and after JT nailed the kick from touch, the margin was down to two.
The desperate Cowboys had one last shot and Morgan was again the centre of attention, breaking free down the right in the final few seconds but the ball went to ground and a relieved Parra emerged with another homeground victory.
Michael Morgan topped the metres-gained count with 160m, with Matt Scott’s 130 metres the best of the NQ forward pack.
Ethan Lowe finished with a game-high 40 tackles.
COWBOYS: 1 Michael Morgan, 2 Matthew Wright, 3 Brent Tate, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Johnathan Thurston (c), 7 Ray Thompson, 8 Matt Scott (c), 9 Rory Kostjasyn, 10 James Tamou, 11 Ethan Lowe, 12 Jason Taumalolo, 13 Scott Bolton. Interchange: 14 Robert Lui, 15 Glenn Hall, 16 Ashton Sims, 17 John Asiata.
EELS: 1 Jarryd Hayne (c), 2 Semi Radradra, 3 Will Hopoate, 4 Willie Tonga, 5 Ken Sio, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Chris Sandow, 8 Tim Mannah (c), 9 Luke Kelly, 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Kenny Edwards, 12 Manu Ma'u, 13 Joseph Paulo. Interchange: 14 David Gower, 15 Peni Terepo, 16 Lee Mossop, 17 Pauli Pauli.
COWBOYS 16: James Tamou, Antonio Winterstein, Michael Morgan tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals
EELS 18: Junior Paulo, Semi Radradra, Ken Sio, Jarryd Hayne tries; Chris Sandow 1 goal