DOWN & OUT
SEMI- FINAL HEARTBREAK PARRA BLOW TITLE CHAN CE
OVER to you, Roosters.
Sydney is in danger of a grand final blackout after Parramatta were blasted out of the premiership race last night by the most courageous Cowboys side ever assembled.
The Roosters now face the brave and brilliant Cowboys in a preliminary final at Allianz Stadium next Saturday night.
The boys from Bondi must overcome North Queensland to give Sydney fans a team to cheer for in the decider, with Melbourne and Brisbane to do battle in the alternate preliminary final at AAMI Park on Friday night.
However, given last night’s performance in front of 41,287 fans, the Cowboys won’t be without supporters after they dismantled an Eels side who coach Brad Arthur said produced their “worst final 40 minutes of the season’’.
“It’s very disappointing that we don’t go out on our terms,’’ Arthur said.
“They (Cowboys) taught us a lesson in semi-final football.
“They made us pay for our lack of composure.
“I’m extremely proud of this playing group to get here but it’s going to be a long pre-season, that is going to hurt them for a long time. “It’s a lost opportunity.’’ Leading 10-6 at halftime, the Eels imploded in the second half leaving their legion of supporters shattered and forced to continue their agonising 31-year wait for another premiership.
Rated $101 to win the title with the TAB earlier this year, the Cowboys are the fairytale story of the finals.
They scraped into eighth position through the results of rival teams only three weeks ago, yet they are stunningly just 80 minutes away from a grand final without their inspirational leaders Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
They’re now $10 to do the impossible and they can thank their general Michael Morgan, forwards Jason Taumalolo and Ethan Lowe and underrated five-eighth Te Maire Martin, who were all superb last night.
Shutting the Eels out 18-6 in the second half, the Cowboys’ runaway win was secured with tries in the final 40 minutes to John Asiata, Coen Hess and Morgan.
And such is the confidence within the group, coach Paul Green said his side not only boasts an internal belief but the game plan to beat the Roosters despite losing to them 22-16 only seven weeks ago.
“We’ve got some smart players, we’ve got some physical players, we can mix it with any team and we proved that through those losses,’’ Green said.
“In different parts of those games we were worrying the teams — even though we didn’t win those games, we were in those games.
“I knew if we were able to do it more consistently in games we could beat anyone.
“The players are committed and they believe.’’
The blue and gold army had arrived at ANZ in numbers and in the seventh minute they rode on the back of Semi Radradra — in his final match before switching to French rugby union — as one.
The Eels’ favourite Fijian raced 100m for his 24th try in 27 matches and it was in similar fashion that fullback Will Smith also raced 80m to give the Eels a 10-6 lead.
But the beauty of this Cowboys side is their attention to detail and, on the back of an extraordinary 100 per cent completion rate by halftime and 81.6 per cent at full-time, they simply strangled the misfiring Eels into self-destruction.
Even a converted Michael Jennings try at the death proved too little, too late.
Clockwise: Cowboys heavyweight Jason Taumalolo (main) on the charge last night; Eels forward Nathan Brown is on the end of a North Queensland gang tackle; the Cowboys celebrate their win; Parramatta’s Semi Radradra. Pictures: Brett Costello