On a tropical evening in Darwin, the Eels took their home game North and the Cowboys then took the 2 points East. Norman was back for the Eels, but Johnathon Thurston was back for the Cowboys and the difference he made was immediate and devastating.
Point 1: How good was the crowd:
Although the Eels may regret the result on the field, there was no mistaking the impact this had for Rugby League in the Northern Territory. The largest crowd to watch a game in the Capital showed a strong preference for the Cowboys, but they were sporting every teams jersey and celebrated each point like the most diehard local. Frequently we see these games not drag the crowds in, but both this and the Raiders/Panthers drew great support, proving the game is bigger than just the traditional homes.
Point 2: Thurston showed the magic:
Normally, when a player returns after a major injury, they are a shade off their game. It may take a couple of weeks to regain their touch and to resume normal service. This future Immortal displayed to every team, exactly why he has this label. 3 try assists to go alongside his individual effort, in which we see why you are never meant to buy a Thurston dummy. Alongside his leadership on the park, it was great to see him play the full 80 minutes, even with the result in the bag.
Point 3: Moses is not the Messiah:
A lot of pressure is on the young halfback, and it does not seem to be that he will be getting any soft treatment from his coach. His was an open-door policy, letting 6 tackles be missed and he was targeted by the Cowboys as the weak link in defence. He did not mentally recover from the perfectly legal hit put on by Coen Hess, but many other players wouldn’t either. The final kick was brought up as a demonstration of this, running dead and barely going higher than longer, and with most players for the Eels not chasing it down. With Gutherson sitting in the centres, how will the Eels line up when all players are available. The season is still in play, do they send Moses down a grade and look to go as deep as they can, or wave off this season and get him working better with his team.
Point 4: Discipline will cost the Eels more games:
Despite Vossy’s protestations on the number of penalties and for whom they are awarded to, we saw a number of incidents that would have earned a player 10 in the bin if correctly observed by the refs. With an obvious trip in the first half, it was clear that the game was not going to be unduly impacted by the removal of a player, even for such a clear offence. Although the final count was 7-4 against the Eels, there were several incidents that could have been called. Maybe sending the player to the bin earlier would not let the situation escalate?
Final Score: Cowboys 32 def Eels 6
Tries: Feldt (2), Thurston, Hess, Winterstein.
Conversions/Penalties: 6/7 Thurston.
Conversion: Gutherson 1/1.