DOWN & OUT

SEMI- FI­NAL HEART­BREAK PARRA BLOW TI­TLE CHAN CE

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SUNDAY SPORT - DAVID RICCIO ANZ STA­DIUM

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

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