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North Queensland Cowboys v Parramatta Eels

Friday, April 28, 7:50pm (AEST), 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville

The Cowboys did enough to get the job done over the last-placed Knights last week on the back of a two-try effort from teen sensation Kalyn Ponga. They’ll need to be better against the Eels, who are coming off a win in the Western Sydney derby and have won their last two. Keep an eye on team news, but it’s unlikely Johnathan Thurston will make his return from a calf injury here. The Eels will be without Brad Takairangi after he picked up a knee injury in last week’s win over the Panthers. Kenny Edwards is tipped to take the No.6 jersey with Clint Gutherson still at fullback while Bevan French is out.
The Cowboys have won 7 of their last 9 against the Eels including five straight in Townsville, all by margins of 14-plus. The spoils were shared in 2016, with the Eels winning the Round 2 clash 20-16 in Sydney, while the Cowboys took the honours 32-16 in Round 8 at Townsville. Both Michael Morgan and Semi Radradra scored doubles in the Round 8 clash. It’s worth noting that Johnathan Thurston has played in the last 7 matches that the Cowboys have won over the Eels.
The Cowboys are amazingly sixth on the ladder with their 5-3 record despite playing poorly for most of the year. Following two straight losses they won 24-12 at home against Newcastle. North Queensland have conceded 26 in four of their last six. Parramatta have put to bed a four-game losing streak to win their last two against Wests Tigers and Penrith at home. They are now 4-4 and enter this off their best defensive showing.
Key Matchup
Michael Morgan v Corey Norman. Morgan has struggled for consistency throughout the season and made three errors against the Knights last week. He’s never been an organiser and is eagerly awaiting the return of Johnathan Thurston. Norman was sensational in the win over the Panthers, scoring two tries and having a hand in another. The Eels need Norman to fire if they’re to make the finals this season and he could prove the difference in Townsville, especially if Thurston doesn’t play.
Stats That Matter
North Queensland are 5-3 ATS with a 5-3 under number while Parramatta are 4-4 ATS with a 5-3 under record. The Cowboys have won 7 of their last 9 against the Eels including five straight in Townsville, all by margins of 14-plus. Three of the last four matches have totalled margins of 48 or more. The Cowboys have scored 32 or more in 6 of their last 9 against the Eels. The Cowboys have won 4 of their last 5 when favoured at home by 3.5 or fewer but are 2-3 ATS in those matches. The Cowboys have covered just 1 of their last 6 as a home favourite after conceding 12 or fewer. The Eels have covered just 5 of their last 15 interstate games but three of their last four. They are 3-0 ATS as a small interstate underdog of less than a converted try. The under is 17-7 when a small interstate underdog conceding 12 or fewer points. The under has hit in 7 of the last 9 games in Townsville.
Final Thoughts
The Wolf was impressed with the Eels’ defensive effort against the Panthers and think it will hold them in good stead for the trip to Townsville. They have the pack to match the Cowboys and have a clear advantage (if Thurston doesn’t play) with Corey Norman calling the shots. Eels definitely the value play as outsiders here.
How It’s Shaping Up
Eels by 4
Best Bet
Parramatta ($2.15)

Other Recommended Bets
Parramatta 1-12 ($3.50)

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