AN 80th minute disallowed try to Parramatta winger Vai Toutai was the difference between heartache and jubilation at Parramatta Stadium tonight as the North Qld Cowboys defeated the Eels 14-10 in front of 9157 fans.
With just one second left on the clock the Eels shifted the ball to the right hand side where halfback Chris Sandow and fullback Jarryd Hayne combined to put Toutai over in the corner. Unfortunately for the home side, Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein put enough pressure on Toutai to force him to drop the ball.
Less than a week after suffering a demoralising 44-12 loss to Penrith, Eels coach Ricky Stuart could not fault the effort of his team with Jarryd Hayne in particular a standout.
The match started with heavy hearts as both sides formed separate team huddles as they held a minute silence following the death of Cowboy Alex Elisala last weekend.
The Eels didn’t take long to get on the board with centre Ryan Morgan opening the scoring after just 70 seconds of play. His side marched down the field before halfback Chris Sandow’s kick into the in-goal was weighted perfectly. Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen tried to shadow the ball dead but wasn’t aware of the presence of Morgan who snuck in from his blind side to force the ball centimetres in from the deadball line.
From that moment the first half was all the Cowboys but some resolute Parramatta defending kept them in the contest. Fullback Jarryd Hayne came up with two trysaving tackles throughout the opening 40 minutes when he held Tariq Sims and Gavin Cooper up.
In the 10th minute Ashley Graham scored the Cowboys first try after a simple second-man play found Bowen on the outside of his man. He lobbed the pass to his winger who scored untouched.
At the 28-minute mark, Chris Sandow had the opportunity to put the home side ahead with a penalty goal but he hooked the attempt to the right of the posts. In the shadows of halftime Johnathan Thurston was responsible for winger Antonio Winterstein’s try. Thurston took the Parramatta defence on before throwing a cut-out pass which found Winterstein on the chest. He won the race to the corner despite Hayne’s best efforts and the Cowboys went to the break leading 8-4.
The Eels first half defensive effort was backed up in the second stanza and the small but vocal crowd were on their feet in the 51st minute when favourite son Fuifui Moimoi crashed over beside the posts after charging onto a Matt Keating inside ball. Following Sandow’s conversion the Eels faithful dared to dream of an unlikely victory.
Cowboys centre Brent Tate set up an enthralling finish when he scored a simple try from the base of the scrum in the 68th minute. Unfortunately for Hayne it was his missed tackle that would ultimately prove the difference after he took treatment from the trainer moments before the try.
Hayne tried to win the match for the Eels with the fulltime siren sounding, but Antonio Winterstein would provide enough pressure to force Toutai to drop the ball and help register a rare Cowboys win in Sydney.
Next week the Eels host the Broncos on Saturday evening while the Cowboys have the ultimate test when they tackle the rampant Rabbitohs on Friday night.