In a dark night at 1300SMILES Stadium, the visiting Parramatta Eels have successfully completed a dual hit-run mission headlined by a 26-6 shutout of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys.
After the Eels’ under-20 side earlier stunned the young Cowboys 60-12, the senior team paid it forward for the Sydney-based club as halfback Corey Norman and fullback Clint Gutherson orchestrated a stunning enemy raid to emerge victorious in the Round 9 clash.
The Cowboys made over double the unforced errors of their opponents – many of them in prime field position – to cruel any chance of giving themselves victory against an Eels team full of running and aggression.
Things could have started brightly for the home side after the Eels gifted the Cowboys early possession, only for the Cowboys to hand it right back in what would be an unfortunate continuing theme throughout the 80 minutes.
The Eels would make what could have been a costly error only to have the Cowboys not make the most of the opportunity presented to them.
With Ray Thompson a late inclusion in the starting lineup and Blake Leary dropped, the Cowboys started brightly enough, defending stoutly as the Eels enjoyed the glut of early possession.
But multiple conceded penalties and an inability to defend stoutly on the edge led to best-on-ground Gutherson diving over out wide in the ninth minute.
The classy custodian would salute again 15 minutes later as the Cowboys’ completion rate kept dipping, and simple mistakes – John Asiata and Kyle Feldt both kicking out on the full, dropped ball – denied the hosts any momentum.
Gutherson was on-song with his kicking game and slotted a penalty right on half-time for a 14-0 lead.
It was more of the same in the second and slippery Eels reserve Will Smith dashed away in the 50th minute as the Eels grabbed a 20-0 lead that didn’t look like getting reeled in any time soon.
Veteran winger Antonio Winterstein grounded an Asiata grubber in the 65th minute but it was too little, too late, the result confirmed when Eels skipper Tim Mannah crossed minutes from full-time.
The Eels actually played the last 10 minutes with 12 men as half Kenny Edwards was sinbinned for slapping Cowboys leader Gavin Cooper.
The team will head into the rep bye weekend with a number of Cowboys selected in various teams, including injured NQ champion Johnathan Thurston, who trained all week in the hope of playing tonight, but failed to back up from yesterday’s training session.
PARRAMATTA EELS 26 (Clint Gutherson 2, Will Smith, Tim Mannah tries; Gutherson 4 goals, pen. goal) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 6 (Antonio Winterstein try; Kyle Feldt goal) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Crowd: 14,247.