The Parramatta Eels have stopped the North Queensland juggernaut in its tracks with a physically dominant 20-16 win at Pirtek Stadium tonight.
Leading 14-6 at the break, the Eels did enough in the second half as the Cowboys completed at well below their best (less than 70%) and gave away cheap possession too often in dangerous field position.
The Eels victory stops the NQ streak at five matches, including the last three games of the 2015 finals series, the World Club Challenge and last week’s win over Cronulla.
The Cowboys were also on the end of a hefty penalty count (10-3) and could face further pain with co-captain Matt Scott placed on report for an alleged crusher tackle.
Jason Taumalolo scored with less than a minute left and a 20-16 scoreline gave the Cowboys a sniff with 27 seconds left, but some enterprising play broke down with Antonio Winterstein failing to reel in a tough pass and the Cowboys’ fate was sealed.
In a game that never reached any great heights in the first half, the Eels took the dressing-shed lead 14-6 thanks to tries to hooker Nathan Peats and reserve Kenny Edwards.
As the Cowboys struggled with a completion rate just over 60%, the Eels enjoyed better field position, with Peats’s enterprising blind-side efforts in the 21st minute negating Ethan Lowe’s opening salvo for the Cowboys in the 17th.
Lowe latched on to a smart ball from co-captain Johnathan Thurston to power over for his second try in as many games, with the Cowboys 6-2 lead short-lived thanks to Peats.
Edwards extended the margin to 14-6 after showing great strength to breach the Cowboys’ defence.
With Scott rallying his troops at half time despite having a face cut stitched, the Cowboys drew first blood in the second stanza as Justin O’Neill sped through the slightest of gaps for a 14-10 scoreline.
More errors from the Cowboys ensued and after Scott was placed on report for an alleged crusher tackle, the visitors had it all to do after Michael Gordon potted the easy penalty for a 16-10 lead to the home side with less than a quarter of the game remaining.
That pain deepened as boom centre Brad Takairangi barged over for what would be the sealer in the 61st minute as the home side enjoyed a 22-10 lead.
PARRAMATTA EELS 20 (Nathan Peats, Kenny Edwards, Brad Takairangi tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals, 2 pen. goals) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 16 (Ethan Lowe, Justin O’Neill, Jason Taumalolo tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals) at Pirtek Stadium.