An epic defensive display and a hat-trick to Kyle Feldt have steered the Cowboys to a slashing 35-4 win over the Eels in Darwin on Saturday night.
With Reuben Cotter and Reece Robson tackling themselves to a standstill and Feldt snaring the fourth hat-trick of his career the Cowboys ensured Chad Townsend would celebrate his 200th NRL game in style.
The Cowboys opened the scoring through a Val Holmes penalty goal in the 17th minute and produced some strong defence to keep the Eels at bay before grabbing the first try of the night through Feldt.
Feldt's try came courtesy of a great long ball by Scott Drinkwater and took Todd Payten's men out to an 8-0 lead.
With half-time approaching the Cowboys extended their lead after Townsend put in a pinpoint kick for Feldt to leap high and complete his double. Holmes' sideline conversion made it 14-0 and the star centre then put the icing on a great first half by nailing a 35-metre field goal to make it 15-0.
Six minutes into the second half the Eels looked to have opened their account when Shaun Lane crashed over but replays showed he had lost the ball in attempting to get it down.
Flying Feldt grabs his second
A wild pass out of dummy half by the Cowboys in the 52nd minute looked to have cost them a try but Mitch Moses knocked on as he tried to regather the loose ball and the four-pointer to Will Penisini was ruled out.
The Cowboys made their way out of trouble and stretched their lead to 19-0 when Feldt completed his hat-trick after good lead-up play by Drinkwater and Peta Hiku.
With 18 minutes to play the Eels injected Bryce Cartwright into the game and he had an immediate impact setting up Hayze Perham for a try.
Perham gets the Eels back in it
Jason Taumalolo (187 running metres) then produced a trademark charge to put the Cowboys in the attacking zone again and Tom Dearden scored a fine solo try before Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow celebrated his return to the side with his second try of the season.
The Cowboys rubbed more salt in the Eels' wounds when Drinkwater grabbed a well deserved try after another slashing run by Tabuai-Fidow.
In his first game since round four 'The Hammer' played 15 minutes off the bench and made a strong case for a return to the starting side.
"It's a great headache to have," coach Todd Payten said post-match.
The Hammer comes back with a bang
"In the corresponding game against Parramatta last year we had a right edge where one was on debut, we had a guy out of position playing in the centres and we had Tommy Dearden playing his fourth game for the club and Heilum [Luki] in edge back row who had five games.
"This year we've got Hammer who's a Ferrari sitting on the bench and it's about giving yourself to the team and that's what our playes have done so far. I'm sure he'd prefer to start but he'll put the team first."
Match: Eels v Cowboys
Round 8 -
Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin
- Cowboys halfback Chad Townsend played his 200th NRL game, including 146 at Cronulla where he won a premiership and 46 at the Warriors.
- Reuben Cotter went the full 80 minutes after being promoted to the starting side and was a standout for the Cowboys with 125 running metres and 55 tackles.
- Kyle Feldt has scored 11 tries in his past seven games against the Eels and now has four career hat-tricks.
- Ryan Matterson led the way for the Eels forwards with 210 metres from 21 runs.
- Will Penisini had three tackle breaks and ran for 207 metres in another strong display for the Eels.
Plays of the Game
All three of Kyle Feldt's tries featured great skill from the prolific winger and his team-mates, most notably fullback Scott Drinkwater and halfback Chad Townsend. It was Drinkwater's ball that set up the first try but Feldt still had plenty of work to do to reel in the pass one-handed. He then flew high to latch onto a Townsend kick for his second and finished a scrum play close to the line for his third.
Kyle Feldt take a bow
What They Said
"At no stage did we talk about making a statement [in this game]. We just said we had an opportunity against a really good team to prove to ourselves that we are heading in the right direction. I think we over-sold it against the Roosters and we probably got into the game a little bit uptight so this week we put the focus on ourselves. We wanted to play the game the right way and control the ball and be good with our discipline but we didn't do it and we had to work really hard defensively because of it." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten
Cowboys: Round 8
"We have to be prepared, every team is coming after us. That's what happens when you put yourself up there... teams are coming after us and we have to be prepared to match that level of intensity every week. I know it's a long season but that's what our job is, we've got to match that intensity that teams are coming with against us." - Eels coach Brad Arthur
Eels: Round 8
The Eels square off with the Panthers in a massive western Sydney derby at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.
The Cowboys return to Townsville to host the Knights on Saturday night. Todd Payten's men are 2-2 at home this season and face the Knights, Storm and Dragons in their next three home games.