The NRL’s top team, and some would say surprise 2020 package, the Paramatta Eels looked to continue their excellent start to the season with a game against tenth placed North Queensland Cowboys.
The Eels were the bookies favourites with both sides making a couple of changes to the line-ups from round seven. The Eels brought in David Gower and Jai Field but were without the inspirational Mitch Moses, while the Cowboys called on the services of Reuben Cotter and Valentine Holmes.
The Cowboys were on-fire last time out to defy the odds and beat the Newcastle Knights, and the pre-game feeling was that the Eels would need to be on top form to pick up the win.
After a tit-for-tat opening ten minutes the Eels turned defence into attack with a neat passing move from right to left which found Michael Jennings in an acre of space to go over. Clinton Gutherson smashed his conversion between the sticks for a 6-0 lead.
In eighteen the Eels were in again when a twenty metre Gutherson bullet miss-out pass went directly into the hands of Maika Sivo who went ten metres to ground in the left corner. Gutherson hit the near upright with his conversion attempt, the ball bouncing away from the goal.
It was 16-0 after twenty-seven minutes as Waqa Blake took a cross-field kick from Dylan Brown to roll over the line to score. The decision was referred to the ‘Bunker’ but they saw no issue and awarded the try. Gutherson added the goal and the Eels were already starting to run away with the game.
Ninety-seconds before the break the Cowboys finally broke the Eels line with Scott Drinkwater finding Tom Opacic to bust between two tacklers and dive over from three metres out. Feldt pushed his kick wide of the uprights and his side went into the shed trailing by 4-16.
Under a minute separated the Eels return to the field and their first second half try as Jai Field took a kick knock-back from Brown to run the angle and walk in for a four-pointer. Gutherson added the conversion to push the lead to 22-4.
It was all too easy on fifty when Sivo got his brace as he took a floated pass from Shaun Lane to again score in the corner. Gutherson converted from the touchline for 28-4, the game already beyond the Cowboys and now simply a matter of how big the winning margin would be.
Sivo’s hat-trick came just after the hour as the free-scoring winger took another massive miss-out pass from Dylan Brown which left him with a two-metre walk in. Gutherson was again accurate with the boot, again from the touchline, for 34-4, it was turning into a nightmare evening for the Cowboys.
With seven minutes remaining Sivo increased his personal haul to four tries thanks to a tap pass from Brad Takairangi allowing him to walk in at the corner, on a big overlap, and score with a big grin on his face. Gutherson again converted from the touchline for 40-4. The Eels were simply clinical.
A Gutherson penalty in the seventy-ninth minute gave a final score of 42-4, a complete performance from the Eels.
The very impressive Paramatta were in devastating form as they demolished a Cowboys who were on a high from last weeks win. Lightning fast and skilful in attack the Eels prospered wide with Sivo grabbing a hat-trick and stand-in kicker Gutherson being deadly with the boot. People are now mentioning the Eels as possible Grand Final contenders, they are the real deal in 2020.
Paramatta Eels: Gutherson (7G), Sivo (4T), Jennings (T), Blake (T), Ferguson, Brown D, Field (T), Campbell-Gillard, Mahoney, Paulo, Lane, Matterson, Niukore. Subs: Stone, Gower, Kaufusi, Takairangi.
North Queensland Cowboys: Holmes, Feldt, Opacic (T), Marsters, O’Neill, Drinkwater, Clifford, McGuire, Robson, Molo, Wright, Hess, Taumalolo. Subs: Hampton, Cooper, Hola, Cotter.
Referee: Ben Cummins.
Ground: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney.