Parramatta were too good for North Queensland Cowboys tonight in Townsville, beating the Cowboys, who were again without Johnathan Thurston, by a convincing 26-6 scoreline.
Thurston, recovering from injury, had been expected to play but remained on the sidelines for the Cowboys, while Ray Thompson replaced Blake Leary at hooker and Ben Hampton joined the bench.
Will Smith came into the Parramatta side at stand-off for his club debut, with Kenny Edwards moving back to the bench.
The Eels came to Townsville with a record of having won just one of their last eleven matches at 1300SMILES Stadium.
But they took the game by the scruff of the neck, and by half-time were leading 14-0, with all their points coming from fullback Clint Gutherson, who scored two tries and three goals and the Cowboys clearly missing the influence of Thurston.
In the second half Smith extended the Eels’ lead with a try after a Michael Jennings break, and Gutherson’s goal giving them a 20-point margin.
The Cowboys looked as though they may be able to stage a late fightback when Antonio Winterstein touched down a superb 64th minute John Asiata kick into the in-goal with Kyle Feldt adding the conversion.
And there was more anxiety for the Eels when Kenny Edwards was sinbinned for slapping an opponent.
But it was Eels veteran Tim Mannah who secured the game for Parramatta on 75 minutes, scoring a rare try, with Gutherson’s goal sealing a 6-26 result that should elevate the Eels into the top eight.
Cowboys: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 John Asiata, 7 Michael Morgan, 8 Patrick Kaufusi, 14 Ray Thompson, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper (c), 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo; Interchange: 15 Ethan Lowe, 16 Ben Spina, 17 Corey Jensen, 19 Ben Hampton.
Eels: 1 Clint Gutherson, 2 Semi Radradra, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Kirisome Auva’a, 5 Josh Hoffman, 19 Will Smith, 7 Corey Norman, 8 Suaia Matagi, 9 Kaysa Pritchard, 10 Tim Mannah (c), 11 Manu Ma’u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Nathan Brown; Interchange: 6 Kenny Edwards, 14 Beau Scott (c), 15 Daniel Alvaro, 17 Siosaia Vave.
A full review of all the weekend’s NRL action will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express