Cowboys keep up the shock treatment
NORTH Queensland moved within 80 minutes of the unlikeliest NRL grand final appearance in modern history following a shock 24-16 semifinal win over Parramatta.
The Cowboys pulled off one of the biggest boilovers of the year in front of 41,287 at ANZ Stadium.
The Cowboys only snuck into eighth spot when St George Illawarra was beaten by Canterbury in the last round, but will now take on the Sydney Roosters next Saturday for a spot in the season decider.
The Townsville side was effectively written off after cocaptains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott were ruled out for the year, but continues to defy the odds.
Halfback Michael Morgan was outstanding, dictating terms with his kicking game before scoring the match-sealing four-pointer five minutes from full-time.
The Eels melted under the pressure, making 13 errors and completing just 26 of 39 sets as a season which promised so much came to a disappointing end.
Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo solidified his reputation as the best forward in the competition, running for 236m from 21 runs and making 33 tackles.
The Cowboys took the lead for the first time five minutes after the break when the Eels allowed a Morgan torpedo to bounce and John Asiata snatched it out of the grasp of Will Smith.
The visitors went further ahead when Te Maire Martin turned it inside for Coen Hess, setting off an all-in push and shove.
Eels hooker Cameron King appeared to lead with his knees as Hess grounded the ball and was lucky not to incur an eight-point try, while Manu Mau’u struck Ben Hampton in the neck but was not punished.
Earlier, the Eels took a 10-6 lead into half-time thanks to two runaway efforts off North Queensland kicks.
Semi Radradra raced 100m to open the scoring in the seventh minute when Martin found him on the full before Smith scooped up a poorly placed Morgan kick.