NRL: Eels dominate injury-ravaged Cowboys 26-6

North Queensland's Antonio Winterstein is tackled by Parramatta's Kirisome Auva'a during last night's 26-6 win for the Eels over the Cowboys in Townsville. Photo / Getty Images.
North Queensland's Antonio Winterstein is tackled by Parramatta's Kirisome Auva'a during last night's 26-6 win for the Eels over the Cowboys in Townsville. Photo / Getty Images.

Rugby league fans can probably forgive Paul Green for wanting to hold Johnathan Thurston back from this Friday's Test match.

After the Cowboys' humiliating 26-6 loss to Parramatta, it was more clear than ever just how desperately the 2015 premiers need their fearless leader back.

Thurston was a chance of returning from a calf injury for the clash in Townsville, but was a late withdrawal after he pulled up sore from Thursday's captain's run.

The Eels knew exactly where to hit North Queensland, firing constantly at their underperforming right edge to score two tries against Justin O'Neill and Kyle Feldt in the first half.

But it was their attack where the Cowboys fell flat.

Even when Kenny Edwards was sin-binned for a slap on Gavin Cooper in the 70th minute - the first time it's occurred since the rule was brought in - the home side failed to capitalise on a 12-man Eels team.

Green said afterwards that a number of experienced players did not do their jobs against the Eels and he was "very disappointed" with his side's performance.

He would not go into how much the team needed Thurston but conceded his star player will travel to Canberra for medical tests with the Kangaroos on Sunday.

However, he was still of the belief that Thurston should not play for Australia if he is not completely fit.

"If he's not 100 per cent fit ... he shouldn't be playing," he said.

"He probably risks being out for longer.

"I understand it's Australia. I'm sure all things considered, the right decision will be made.

"It's about what's best for the player. If a guy is not fit, they're taking a massive risk going into a big game like a Test match."

It seems like a harsh stance from the Cowboys coach, but it might be exactly what his side need.

If Thurston was to aggravate the injury in the Test match, the Cowboys would be in massive trouble.

Michael Morgan has struggled to stand up in his place and while bench forward John Asiata has put in an admirable effort at five-eighth, he is too inexperienced and out of place to be North Queensland's leading playmaker.

The side's shining light last night was fullback Kalyn Ponga, who put in every effort to bring his side back into the game but was effectively running on one leg as he struggled with an ankle injury.

With a number of Cowboys players in line to be in the first Origin camp of the year in just two weeks' time, it is fair to say North Queensland need Thurston, and they need him fast.

- news.com.au

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