Parramatta Eels have consigned the North Queensland Cowboys to yet another away loss for season 2014. The Eels won by 2 points, 18-16 in a pulsating 4 tries to 3 victory in front of 10,142 fans at Pirtek Stadium tonight.
The early signs were ominous for the Cowboys, who have been unable to record an away win at all this season, with the Eels making 60 metres on their first set. With the return of Jarryd Hayne, it was slightly surprising the Eels started underdogs with the bookies, even without their in form hooker Nathan Peats, out for the season with injury.
It was Corey Norman who should have put the Eels in front early on but a simple draw and pass proved too much for the pivot. Timmy Mannah was screaming for the pill on the inside and probably dreaming of avoiding the end of season nude run, to no avail. The Eels went over shortly afterwards through Junior Paulo hitting a gap at speed, opening the Eels account. From the next set Ken Edwards busted the defence and offloaded superbly inside to a flying Hayne who drew the fullback Morgan and set the Fijian flyer Semi Radradra free down the left. Things were looking bad for the Cowboys after conceding two tries in two minutes but they battled their way back into the contest through some strong forward play and simple footy which allowed them to score through James Tamou in the 23rd minute. Tamou's try came about from a burst of speed from Morgan who split the Eels defence and put Tamou over next to the posts. From that point it was the Eels with all the pressure, however after bombing two certain tries they finally chalked up their third of the night in the 37th minute with what looked a simple shift through the hands to the right. The Cowboys forgot to count and left the winger Ken Sio unmarked to touch down just inside the right touchline. The Eels went in to the break with a deserved lead 14 points to 6.
Jarryd Hayne stamped his class on the game with a swerving effort from a Pauli Pauli offload in the 42nd minute to give the home side a nice buffer of 12 points. Hayne really showed Morgan up for pace and swerve though he's showed better players than Morgan up throughout the years, and really looks to be almost back to his freak 2009 form. The ensuing quarter of the game was a mixture of end to end play and silly errors from both sides, however with the Cowboys trailing by two converted tries the mistakes hurt away side more. In the 64th minute the Cowboys scored through Antonio Winterstein who latched onto a Morgan long ball to touch down in the left corner. Thurston missed the conversion, meaning the Cowboys needed to score twice. In a frantic final 15 minutes the Cowboys ended up with a lot of ball yet the Eels held firm until the 78th minute when Morgan strolled through a gap. The Cowboys had one more shot and it was that man Morgan again with a break on the last play of the game with Thurston in support but Morgan's offload went forward and Hayne (of course - who else?) gleefully accepted the loose ball to ice the game.
So, the resurgent Eels march on in 2014, and will fancy their chances against the in-form Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium next week, while the Cowboys will head back North sans two competition points but with their heads held high and looking forward to the bye.