Rugby League returns to Darwin on Saturday night when Parramatta Eels host North Queensland Cowboys.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Parramatta’s season hit their lowest ebb at the mid-point of the season with a loss to 2017 wooden spooners in Newcastle by 30-4 at ANZ Stadium last Saturday. Mitchell Moses was among a host of Eels injured during the game, decimating their bench inside the final ten minutes of the game. It’s been a frustrating year for Eels fans with their sides last win coming on April 29 when they edged out Wests Tigers 24-22.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
In round 13 they may have been without stars Michael Morgan, Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper, but it didn’t matter as the Cowboys beat a disappointing Manly outfit 26-12 at Lottoland. An exceptional performance from Jason Taumalolo in running 234 metres and scoring the opening Cowboys try. Before that, two single point losses with Jake Glanville’s last-minute penalty costing victory over South Sydney while Cameron Munster slotted a field goal in their dour loss to Melbourne.
It’s the long-awaited return of Jarryd Hayne from injury who’s been out with a hip injury since their round 4 demolition of Manly. Corey Norman will seek redemption after his sanction by the club for an off-field incident by replacing Mitchell Moses in the halves. Tim Mannah returns from a fractured eye socket in replacing bench player Suaia Matagi.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
The Cowboys are expecting their three Queensland State of Origin players to play on Saturday night. Matt Scott returns from suspension. Ben Hampton and Mitchell Dunn are out of the seventeen man squad after solid efforts against Manly.
It’s the second consecutive year that these two sides have met in Darwin and given the current form of both sides, North Queensland could end up giving Parramatta Eels a hiding similar to their 32-6 win in 2017.
This should have been a marquee match given the way Parramatta gained in momentum at the back-end of last season and the North Queenslander run to the NRL Grand Final. Sadly, both sides have struggled with form and now the mind games about Brad Arthur’s future are starting to bubble on the surface. Of late, the Cowboys have shown competitiveness, shaking a couple of the top eight sides before rattling Manly at Lottoland. Of all the teams in the lower half, maybe the Cowboys have the best chance of pulling off a late run up the ladder.
At this stage of the season it looks like the Cowboys have more points in them than the Eels. This is not underestimating the talent in the Eels backline with Bevan French and Michael Jennings now joined by the Hayne Plane. When you look at the Cowboys side you look at someone like Kyle Feldt who goes constantly under the radar with an excellent record at the top-level, scoring 55 tries in 87 matches for the Cowboys. This makes the Cowboys dangerous when you include Morgan and Antonio Winterstein.
Any chance of an upset falls to captain Clint Gutherson who needs to take control of the game with Corey Norman returning from a controversial time on the sidelines through injury.
North Queensland Cowboys are yet to lose at TIO Stadium in their two outings while Parramatta have won three from four.
Parramatta Eels: 1 Bevan French, 2 Josh Hoffman, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Jarryd Hayne, 5 George Jennings, 6 Clint Gutherson (c), 7 Corey Norman, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 10 Peni Terepo, 11 Manu Ma’u, 12 Brad Takairangi, 13 Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14 Reed Mahoney, 15 Tim Mannah (c), 16 David Gower, 17 Marata Niukore. Reserves: 18 Siosaia Vave, 19 Suaia Matagi, 20 Jaeman Salmon, 21 Raymond Stone
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Michael Morgan, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Enari Tuala, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Sam Hoare, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Shaun Fensom, 15 Kane Linnett, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Ethan Lowe. Reserves: 18 Lachlan Coote, 19 Ben Hampton, 20 Mitchell Dunn, 21 Javid Bowen, 22 Francis Molo.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday June 9, 2018
Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin
Kick-off: 7pm (local), 7:30pm (AEST)
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s really difficult to reason why there would be an upset here given the Eels poor showing against the Knights.
Cowboys by 16