The Cowboys upset the Eels 35-4 behind star presentations from Kyle Feldt and Scott Drinkwater at TIO Stadium in Darwin.
The Cowboys topped the Eels with a hat-trick from winger Kyle Feldt and a superb defence.
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The Cowboys opened the scoring with a penalty goal to Valentine Holmes after the Eels defensive line rushed in too early.
Scott Drinkwater continued his brilliant run of form with a superb cut pass for Kyle Feldt to produce a brilliant one-armed catch to score and make it 8-0.
The Cowboys were dominant after Feldt latched on to an accurate kick from Chad Townsend to seal a first-half brace and make it 14-0.
Holmes netted a long-range field goal to send the Cowboys up 15-0 at halftime.
Feldt picked up where he left off in the second half with another brilliant finish to score his 109th try in his 162nd game to seal a memorable hat trick.
Hayze Perham put a tough night in defense behind him to score a try to set up a nervous finish for the Cowboys at 19-4.
Tom Dearden and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Drinkwater scored late tries to put the icing on the cake for the Cowboys’ best win in years to seal a memorable 35-4 victory.
Here are the main takeaways from the game.
DRINKWATER SHINES AS COWBOYS DEFENSIVE TURNUP IS COMPLETED
Based on his performance against the Eels, it’s hard to believe Scott Drinkwater spent the early rounds of the season as a reserve and he has now well and truly cemented the No.1 shirt.
Drinkwater had 119 rushing yards, one offload, four line jump assists and three assists in a superb display to lead the Cowboys to a convincing win.
However, the brilliant victory was built on a defensive unit that is chalk and cheese to what they served in 2021.
Braith Anasta hailed the Cowboys’ performance on defense as their best since making the 2017 Grand Final.
“The Cowboys’ defense was amazing and their offense was pretty special as well,” Anasta said.
“The attack was great, but it was the defense that set it up.”
“It was one of the best football games the Cowboys have played in a long time,” Cronk said.
“They defended for 35 minutes in the first half. They have their one chance and discover Drinkwater’s skills.
“He catches Feldt’s eyes. Eels left winger Hayze Perham flies over football and a little wink and nod between Drinkwater and Feldt ala Benji Marshall at the time.
“He throws it over and Feldt puts the ball down.
“He then scores another one at the end of that half. An exceptional performance by the Cowboys all at the back of the defense.
“I thought it was a brilliant performance by the Cowboys.”
Benji Marshall noted the Cowboys’ incredible turnaround from last season to this year under Todd Payten.
“The Cowboys defense has been solid,” Marshall said.
“They were the worst in the competition in defense last year and they turned it to be one of the best.”
Michael Ennis was full of praise for Drinkwater, who took a chance and left Origin star Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to settle for a place on the bench after returning from injury.
“Drinking water has been very good,” Ennis said.
“It was a brutal opening 20 minutes from the Eels who got closer on several occasions.
“But a Cowboys trader-type performance. Just hold on and defend your line for long stretches.
“They came down the other side and Drinkwater’s class made the difference.
“Feldt has been very good on that right side.”
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FREAK FELDT BURNS EELS WITH A GLITTERING HAT TRIP
Kyle Feldt continued his pursuit of Matt Bowen as the Cowboys’ all-time leading try scorer with a special hat trick to put the game away for the Eels.
Feldt had 158 yards, four tackle jumps, three line breaks and three tries in a special display worthy of one of the game’s most reliable finishes in the past 10 years.
Feldt’s first down saw him throw a hand and fire a special pass from Drinkwater to score the first down of the night.
“Drink the water sniper and it’s a wonderful catch from Feldt,” Ginnane said.
“Kyle Feldt with inspector gadget arms gives the Cowboys their first try.
“He’s the Cowboys’ leading try scorer in each of the last six years. What a brilliant catch that was.
“Only the great Matt Bowen stands before him as the Cowboys’ all-time leading try scorer.”
Michael Ennis praised Drinkwater’s creativity combined with Feldt’s superb finishing skills in arguably the test of the night.
“A breathtaking vision of Scotty Drinkwater,” Ennis said.
“We talked about his creativity and what he brought to this Cowboys team.
“In the blink of an eye, he just floats it above.
“The Cowboys get a big reward for their defensive resolve and Scott Drinkwater, the power back, puts it on a plate for Feldt in that right hand and Feldt one of the big finishers, he gets another one.
“It was a beautiful ball. A great balloon from Drinkwater.
Feldt’s second try saw him edge past Hayze Perham who had a difficult night at the office on the left wing.
“Kick for Feldt and yeah he’s got two,” Ginnane said.
“Cowboys steal. He was one of the best with high balls near the try line.
“King Kyle Feldt and Cowboys up 12.”
Ennis blasted the Eels for giving a classy finisher like Feldt so much room to work his magic.
“You can’t give Kyle Feldt that much room,” Ennis said.
“A beautiful kick across the pitch from Townsend in his 200th game. He lands perfectly.
“Again Perham the target caught in the field. He just gets the weight spot. And he knew he was in trouble Perham.
“He tried to recover and Feldt flew through the air.”
Benji Marshall was full of praise for the Cowboys’ dominating performance, with Feldt putting the icing on the cake.
“It was a great first half from the Cowboys,” Marshall said.
“It was a half built on the defense. At one point, they had 20 tackles inside their 20 and showed resilience to fight it off.
“Feldt scored a brace. They came down the other end and Drinkwater Pass was a great upper pass. It was almost a no-looker. I like this.
“But the second from Townsend who put in a nice precise kick just to the point.
“He landed right on Feldt’s head and Hayze Perham doesn’t spend much time on the wing and that time he got caught.”
Valentine Holmes also produced a near-perfect display with the boot and fired a basket at halftime to continue her strong start to the year.
“To end the half, it was Valentine Holmes who put in a field goal and he’s one of the best in the business,” Marshall said.
“It didn’t look great but he just nailed it in the middle. It was a bit of a hesitation and a slide and it went straight through the posts.
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COST OF EEL INJURIES TAKES TOLL ON ATTACK
The Eels’ horrific string of injuries to the outside of the back finally caught up with them with their offense struggling to make a dent in the Cowboys’ defense.
Dylan Brown did a great job helping plug a hole in the crosses, but the decision to move him from the halves screams to take away a strength from him to repair a weakness.
Brown was solid again with 123 yards rushing, one assist and 20 tackles with a single miss in the crosses, but his performance paled in comparison to what he produced in five-eights.
Jakob Arthur struggled to impose his will on the contest and that left Mitchell Moses with too much to do in arguably his worst game of the season.
Moses and Brown were the form halves of the competition before Brown had to be moved on to help with the Eels’ back injury crisis.
The move clearly took away their offense, which struggled to create many real chances against the Cowboys.
Moses admitted his team’s problem was not capitalizing on their position on the pitch and their territory, especially at the start of the first half.
“They certainly defended well, but we didn’t take a chance,” Moses said.
“We created chances in the first half there, but one or two assists and we score and it’s a different game.
“I think it happened two or three times in the first half. Every game we lost this year, we did the exact same thing. We talked about it and addressed it and all our losses in are the consequence.
The Parramatta Eels host the North Queensland Cowboys in a blockbuster clash at TIO Stadium.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow returns for the Cowboys in a new role off the bench, with Jake Granville moving to the 18th man.
Reueben Cotter and Tom Gilbert come off the bench to start with Coen Hess and Heilum Luki on the pin.
The Eels will again play regularly against Dylan Brown in five rounds in the crosses alongside Will Penisini due to their injury crisis at outside backs.
Jake Arthur again ranks five-eighth alongside Mitchell Moses in the halves.
Bryce Cartwright retains his place on the bench after being traded to Mitch Rein in recent weeks with Wiremu Greig named as the 18th man.
The third Eels and fifth Cowboys will be desperate to win to keep up with the top four.
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