Cowboys finish on a high

Round 26
North Queensland Cowboys 22 v Parramatta Eels 8
at Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Shayne Hayne
Crowd: 18,351

Match Summary:

The North Queensland Cowboys have finished their 2006 season with a 22-8 victory over the finals-bound Parramatta Eels in Townsville tonight.

Both teams fought hard in the first forty minutes to overcome the tough conditions, as sporadic heavy showers made an expansive game too risky. Jarryd Hayne was able to open the scoring in the 15th minute before the Cowboys hit back through local hero Matt Bowen, capitalising on an Eels error in front of their own posts. A second try to Hayne gave Parramatta a tight 8-6 lead at the break, despite the Eels enjoying 58% of the ball.

Strangely, two completely different teams seemed to emerge from the sheds for the second half - well not quite, but the Eels seemed to have fallen asleep while the Cowboys rediscovered some of their best form. The Cowboys dominated field position to score three second half tries while holding the visitors scoreless.

All three second half tries featured plays reminiscent of the Cowboys early-season form, and will pose plenty of "what-if's" for their fans. Matthew Bowen in particular seemed to rise an extra few gears, combining well with the returning Johnathan Thurston and lively hooker Aaron Payne. Much has been made of the Eels lack of prop forwards, and the Cowboys duo of Shane Tronc and Ray Cashmere certainly rolled up their sleeves to press home the forward advantage.

The Eels will be disappointed with their effort, but will at least have a chance to redeem themselves when the finals kick off next weekend. Unfortunately, unless they can unearth a couple of fit front-rowers, it's hard to see them going much further in the competition. Nathan Hindmarsh, Wade McKinnon and Jarryd Hayne were easily the Eels best players on display.

On a side note, the match was refreshingly devoid of any major refereeing controversies. Shayne Hayne can certainly book himself in a gig for next weekend - but let's hope it lasts!

North Queensland Cowboys: 22
Tries: Matthew Bowen(2), Aaron Payne, Neil Sweeney
Goals: Josh Hannay 3/4
Parramatta Eels: 8
Tries: Jarryd Hayne(2)
Goals: Mark Riddell 0/1, Brett Delaney 0/1

By the Clock:
Good evening and welcome to Dairy Farmers Stadium as we kick off the final round of regular season NRL action! Tonight we've got the finals-bound Eels up against the Mad Monday-bound Cowboys.

Late changes: The Cowboys welcome back Johnathan Thurston in the halfback spot, pushing Aaron Payne to hooker and David Faiumu drops out of the squad. For the Eels, Luke Burt takes Michael Vella's bench spot.

KICK OFF - We're underway!

5 min: Solid start by both teams, nothing fancy. There's been a bit of rain around, and that may slow things up a bit.

6 min: The Cowboys receive a scrum win in a good attacking position, but they spill the ball while trying to spread it wide.

8 min: Wade McKinnon takes a great catch right next to his own posts, defusing a very high Matt Bowen bomb. The Eels receive a penalty straight away for an offside infringement.

11 min: The Eels receive their first real attacking chance, and Mark Riddell decides to try a grubber kick on the third tackle that hands the ball straight back to the Cowboys.

13 min: Carl Webb has copped a knock while making a tackle and is looking very dusty.

15 min: TRY Parramatta Eels
As the rain starts again, Jarryd Hayne opens the scoring with a well-worked try in the corner. Both teams have started to throw the ball around and are creating some good gaps, and the Eels have managed to take advantage first.
Mark Riddell misses the conversion.
Eels 4-0

19 min: Johnathan Thurston tries a neat-looking chip & chase, but the Eels go straight on the counter attack through Wade McKinnon. The crowd thinks Thurston may have been tackled without the ball, but play continues.

23 min: VIDEO REF - possible Cowboys try ...

23 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Luke O'Dwyer loses the ball twenty metres out from his own line, and Matt Bowen is on hand to pick up the scraps and run away for a try under the posts.
Josh Hannay slots the conversion.
Cowboys 6-4

27 min: Steve Southern is (harshly) penalised for tackling Tim Smith after he had chipped the ball ahead - Eels now have a good opportunity 20 metres out.

29 min: Plenty of possession for the Eels here - they've forced a second consecutive line drop-out from the Cowboys.

31 min: VIDEO REF - possible Eels try ...

31 min: TRY Parramatta Eels
Jarryd Hayne collects a double, doing very well to chase through a Dean Widders grubber kick and then get underneath Ashley Graham to get to the ball first.
Brett Delaney misses the kick from out wide.
Eels 8-6

34 min: The Eels have had ALL the ball for the past seven or eight minutes - another line drop-out coming up now from the Cowboys. Another heavy shower also coming down.

37 min: From halfway, Matt Bowen kicks ahead for Matt Sing to chase - but Eric Grothe manages to get himself in the way, and Sing can't regather the ball.

HALFTIME: Cowboys 6 Eels 8

The weather is playing it's part to keep both teams pretty even tonight. Nathan Hindmarsh is putting in his usual superman effort for the Eels, and Wade McKinnon has been very sharp at the back. The Cowboys are trying hard through Thurston & Bowen, but are finding it tough to break through some determined Eels defence.

Possession: Cowboys 42% Eels 58%
Completion: Cowboys 13/18 Eels 14/20
Missed tackles: Cowboys 11 Eels 3
Line breaks: Cowboys 0 Eels 3

The second half is underway!

44 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
A great Cowboys try! Johnathan Thurston creates some space deep inside his own territory and offloads to Ashley Graham, who steams 45 metres upfield and produces a neat pass in traffic for Neil Sweeney to score the try.
Josh Hannay adds the extras.
Cowboys 12-8

50 min: Another promising Cowboys raid comes unstuck as Aaron Payne passes the ball straight to the touch judge.

52 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Another Cowboys special! Shane Tronc takes a neat inside pass from Aaron Payne and finds a huge gap before offloading to Matt Bowen to finish off with his second try of the night, right under the posts.
Josh Hannay's conversion is successful.
Cowboys 18-8

56 min: Wade McKinnon saves another Cowboys try by hoofing the ball dead.

57 min: Matt Bowen is denied his third try by a matter of inches - but the Cowboys are still able to force another Eels drop-out.

63 min: The Eels are starting to panic a bit now, while the Cowboys are playing a good patient game.

64 min: Johnathan Thurston is all set to score under the posts, but Shayne Hayne rules the pass he received from Matt Bowen was forward.

67 min: John Morris kicks straight upfield on the second tackle well within his own half for no apparent reason.

70 min: CROWD - 18,351

71 min: Some more sparkling Cowboys attack is only just denied by some desperate Eels defence. This time, Brett Delaney makes a try-saving tackle on Matt Sing.

71 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Shane Tronc comes up with a nice offload to Aaron Payne, who weaves his way through several tired defenders from thirty metres out to score a great individual try.
Hannay misses the conversion from out wide.
Cowboys 22-8

FULLTIME: Cowboys 22 Eels 8

A completely different Cowboys team came out to play in the second half tonight, outscoring the tiring Eels 16-0 after halftime.

Possession: Cowboys 49% Eels 51%
Completion: Cowboys 28/41 Eels 25/37
Missed tackles: Cowboys 26 Eels 19
Line breaks: Cowboys 4 Eels 3

----------------------------------------- players of the match:
3 - Matthew Bowen (Cowboys)
2 - Wade McKinnon (Eels)
1 - Shane Tronc (Cowboys)