Moses leads Eels to hard-fought win over the Cowboys
Parramatta have breathed life into their stuttering NRL campaign by claiming a hard-fought 24-16 win over the North Queensland Cowboys.
Last year's grand finalists have endured a topsy-turvy start to 2023, and things took a further twist on Friday when new recruit Joe Ofahengaue limped off just seven minutes into his debut after signing from the Wests Tigers earlier this week.
The Eels were solid if unspectacular in front of 14,810 fans at CommBank Stadium, with a late try from halfback Mitchell Moses getting them home.
Parramatta (6-7) now enjoy a much-needed bye with the win moving them up to 10th spot on the ladder.
North Queensland, meanwhile, battled valiantly, with a late Kyle Feldt double looking to have given them a chance of leaving Sydney's west with a win until a rash offload from Coen Hess led to Moses' late try.
The Cowboys, smarting from last week's 66-18 humbling at the hands of the Wests Tigers, began in impressive fashion.
They looked confident whenever they moved the ball and an intricate display of passing allowed electric fullback Scott Drinkwater to dash in for the opener.
Ofahengaue, who was part of the Tigers side which thumped the Cowboys before Tuesday's switch to the Eels, hobbled off soon after and did not return.
Down a man in a forward rotation already without Junior Paulo (Origin duty), Ryan Matterson (calf), Shaun Lane (hamstring) and Reagan Campbell-Gillard (groin), Parramatta coach Brad Arthur needed his lesser-known men to stand up.
Makahesi Makatoa threw his weight around and fellow front-rower Wiremu Greig was able to draw the Eels back level, crashing in on the 18-minute mark as he enjoyed one of his best first-grade showings to date.
"I challenged the boys to own their effort and physicality," Arthur said.
"You can focus on who is out of the team, or you can focus on who is getting an opportunity.
"They did a great job. We are learning lessons as we go."
The scores were tied at 6-6 until the 55th minute, with Parramatta having two Sean Russell efforts chalked off.
The Cowboys looked like they might be able to withstand the barrage of Eels' attacks until Maika Sivo barged over in the corner.
Moses' kicking game had suffocated the Cowboys and forced them to bring the ball out of their own end.
Moses converted Sivo's try from the left hand touchline, repeating the trick when Russell slid in for a 63rd-minute touchdown on the other flank.
Feldt scored two tries in the final 10 minutes to send the game down to the wire, before Moses jinked his way over to seal the win for the Eels.
"We started poorly in the second half and Mitchell gives Parramatta a real luxury with his kicking," Cowboys coach Todd Payten said.
"I'm much happier with our application around the tougher parts of our game.
"There are positives but it's still a loss."