Cow­boys round up an­other up­set win

Manawatu Standard - - SPORT - STEVE ZEMEK

A cou­ple of months ago they were $101 out­siders but North Queens­land are dar­ing to dream of the great­est pre­mier­ship up­set in NRL his­tory.

The un­der­dog Cow­boys are just 80 min­utes away from the un­like­li­est of grand fi­nal berths and have de­clared them­selves ca­pa­ble of con­tin­u­ing their gi­antkilling streak in Satur­day’s pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal against the Syd­ney Roost­ers.

Mel­bourne will host Bris­bane on Fri­day to de­cide the first berth in the big show on Oc­to­ber 1.

After pip­ping reign­ing pre­miers Cronulla in a golden point thriller, the Cow­boys brought Par­ra­matta’s fairy­tale sea­son to a crash­ing halt with a 24-16 semi­fi­nal vic­tory at ANZ Sta­dium on Satur­day night.

On match-eve coach Paul Green de­scribed the Eels as ‘‘cer­tain­ties’’ and rev­elled in the fact his side were con­tin­u­ally be­ing writ­ten off.

The Cow­boys scraped into the fi­nals in eighth and only after Can­ter­bury up­set St Ge­orge Illawarra in the fi­nal round.

After be­ing widely dis­missed by the book­ies and pun­ters, their dream re­mains alive head­ing into week three of the fi­nals.

Asked if they could up­set the Roost­ers, Green said: ‘‘Yes. We’ve got some smart play­ers, we’ve got some phys­i­cal play­ers, we can mix it with any team.

‘‘We’ve proven that through those losses [over the last six weeks of the reg­u­lar sea­son]. In dif­fer­ent parts of those games, we were wor­ry­ing teams. Even though we didn’t win, we were in those games.

‘‘I’ve said all along that our game was good enough, but we just weren’t do­ing it for long enough. For a cou­ple of rea­sons and I knew if we could do it more con­sis­tently, we can beat any­one.’’

The Cow­boys must find a way to turn­around a six-point loss to the Roost­ers suf­fered seven weeks ago in which they flagged badly in the sec­ond half.

The Townsville side - who were handed a hor­ror in­jury toll over the clos­ing two months of the reg­u­lar sea­son - lost five of their fi­nal six reg­u­lar round games. That stretch led many to be­lieve that the

side was run­ning out of legs with­out skip­pers Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston.

Stand-in cap­tain Gavin Cooper de­clared the side had grown since they last met the Roost­ers and were ca­pa­ble of book­ing their sec­ond grand fi­nal ap­pear­ance in three years.

‘‘For a half of footy we were pretty good and the sec­ond half they blew us off the park and we didn’t know didn’t know how to change mo­men­tum in that game,’’ Cooper said of their last meet­ing with the Roost­ers.

‘‘We fought hard late. We play very sim­i­lar types of footy.

‘‘A big thing is con­trol and when mo­men­tum starts to swing, and Parra swung mo­men­tum at the end of the first-half there, our boys recog­nised it and were able to wres­tle it back.’’

The Roost­ers are back­ing Al­lianz Sta­dium to be the burial ground for North Queens­land.

While the Cow­boys’ two gal­lant wins have come at neu­tral venues, the Roost­ers will very much en­joy home-ground favouritism as they chase a first grand fi­nal berth since hoist­ing the tro­phy in 2013. The Roost­ers have won their past 10 clashes at Al­lianz, un­beaten since March.

It’s the best home record in the league, su­pe­rior even to the Mel­bourne’s two de­feats at AAMI Park and where Roost­ers coach Trent Robin­son ex­pects his side to ex­cel after a price­less week off to phys­i­cally and men­tally recharge.

‘‘Part of play­ing your footy is know­ing your sur­round­ings. Hav­ing to play here, we’ve made it a bit of a fortress so we want to con­tinue that,’’ Robin­son said.

Robin­son is chuffed to have vir­tu­ally a full-strength out­fit avail­able. He is con­fi­dent of winger Daniel Tupou be­ing avail­able after suf­fer­ing a groin strain in the Roost­ers’ 24-22 win over Bris­bane.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Will Smith of the Eels makes a break and beats the tackle of Jake Granville of the Cow­boys to score a dur­ing the NRL semi­fi­nal in Syn­dey.

PHOTOS: GETTY IM­AGES

The dream con­tin­ues for the writ­ten off North Queens­land Cow­boys, left, but it’s sea­son over for the Par­ra­matta Eels, right.

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