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Thurston missed as Eels beat Cowboys

NZN 28/04/2017 Rohan O'Neil

The late scratching of star halfback Johnathan Thurston was a blow the North Queensland Cowboys couldn't recover from as they slumped to a 26-6 loss at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.

Thurston was expected to make a sorely-needed return for the Cowboys but his troublesome calf flared up late this afternoon and he was forced to watch on helplessly as North Queensland were thoroughly outclassed by the visiting Eels.

North Queensland have now dropped three of their six home games this season and their night went from bad to worse when stand-in skipper Gavin Cooper appeared to injure his shoulder in the dying minutes of the contest.

Corey Norman was again instrumental for a red-hot Parramatta outfit, while fullback Clint Gutherson bagged two tries and was a perfect four from four with the boot in the Eels' dominant display.

Eels firebrand Tepai Moeroa was denied a try by the video referee after just four minutes but it was only a short reprieve for the Cowboys as Gutherson produced an acrobatic finish to open Parramatta's account minutes later.

While Parramatta looked dangerous on every play the Cowboys never got out of first gear as error after error cruelled any attacking opportunities for the hosts.

Thurston's absence was again sorely missed as makeshift halves pairing Morgan and John Asiata struggled mightily with their kicking game.

The Eels continued to enjoy the majority of possession and they made the Cowboys pay when star centre Michael Jennings tore the Cowboys defence to shreds and he found Gutherson to complete his double and helping Parramatta to a 14-0 haltime lead.

North Queensland's woeful handling returned early in the second half and the on-song Eels quickly made them pay when debuting half Will Smith dashed over for a soft try minutes later.

The Cowboys finally showed some signs of life when winger Antonio Winterstein pounced on a grubber in the 64th minute but a comeback never looked likely and Eels captain Tim Mannah's late try wrapped up the game.

After a rough run of form earlier this season the Eels take a three-game winning streak in to the representative break next week, with coach Bard Arthur full of praise for his side's commitment in defence.

"We've just had an adjustment to our attitude; effort is not enough to win a game of footy, you need to find more and we're finding it," he said.

"I was very happy with the defence, there were a lot of extra efforts, in particular from our forwards and that's what's needed against very good teams.

"We thought we might get some opportunities if we completed above 80 per cent, which we did, and we've got some fast outside backs with fast feet through the middle so that worked well."

Cowboys coach Paul Green was left to rue another insipid home performance and refused to point to the team's mounting injury toll as an excuse.

"I'm not sure that we were prepared to probably match them physically at the start," he said.

"We can use the excuse that we have some inexperienced guys and some young guys in the team at the moment but that's not the reason we aren't playing as well as we can.

"When you've got players out you definitely need to make sure everyone is contributing and that's probably not happening at the moment.

"The things that we need to do well to build our game are not happening and that's not due to a lack of experience."

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