PARRAMATTA Tries: Goals: NORTH QUEENSLAND Tries: Goals: Crowd: Referees: THE Cowboys are just 80 minutes from their second grand final appearance in three years, after they defied belief with a stunning 24-16 victory over the Eels in Sydney.
North Queensland have set up a date with the Sydney Roosters next Saturday after an awe-inspiring performance.
Three weeks ago, they were a serious chance of missing the top eight.
Now they are a serious chance to be there on grand final day next month.
They have been labelled everything under the sun this season – gutsy, injury-ravaged, brave, bruised, battered, courageous, tough.
But serious premiership contenders? It’s not a tag that has come up a lot.
However for those inside the club, it was never out of the question.
First the Sharks, now the Eels have fallen to Paul Green’s ultimate underdogs. Will the Roosters be next? After last night’s performance, it seems very possible.
There could be no end to this Cowboys juggernaut, which has been built on self belief.
Parramatta fans left ANZ Stadium in droves at the 75th minute of last night’s match, when Michael Morgan – this week declared the next King in the North by Johnathan Thurston – barrelled towards the line to seal the deal for the Cowboys.
It was the final blow in a second half that was all about North Queensland.
The Eels did not score until the dying seconds of the second stanza, after John Asiata nabbed the first try of his NRL career in the 45th minute before Coen Hess (52nd minute) and Morgan added to the scoreboard.
The Cowboys were cool, calm and collected as they ran away with the victory.
Fortune did go Parramatta’s way in the first half, after they scored two long-range tries to put the Cowboys behind on the scoreboard.
The first try came in the seventh minute when Semi Radradra ran 100m after snatching a Te Maire Martin kick from the air, while fullback Will Smith picked up a Michael Morgan grubber to go 90m to score in the 31st minute.
Despite going into the sheds down 10-6 at halftime, it was clear the Cowboys were putting the pressure on the Eels.
Gavin Cooper of the Cowboys tackles Kenneth Edwards of the Eels during the NRL semi final between the Parramatta Eels and the North Queensland