Bril­liant Mor­gan in­spires Cow­boys

Sunday News - - LEAGUE - ADRIAN PROSZENKO

AND you thought North Queens­land’s last grand fi­nal ap­pear­ance was a fairy­tale story.

For just the third time in his­tory, a Syd­ney club will not con­test the grand fi­nal. While ev­ery­one has seem­ingly been wait­ing for next week­end’s coro­na­tion of Mel­bourne, no one has told the Cow­boys. The odds will again be stacked against them, but that is how they like it.

In a game in which the lead changed on four oc­ca­sions, the men from Townsville fin­ished it in front when the siren sounded. They again did so with­out their tal­is­man Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, even if the lat­ter threat­ened to make the most un­ex­pected of come­backs. Ex­pect seven more days of spec­u­la­tion on a po­ten­tial re­turn.

The Cow­boys should not be here. Had the Dragons held on against the Bull­dogs in round 26, their Mad Mon­day would have been held be­fore the fi­nals. Now they have a sec­ond pre­mier­ship in their sights.

Ac­cord­ing to Roost­ers coach Trent Robin­son, Michael Mor­gan is the best player in the world right now. Based on per­for­mances like this one, it is hard to ar­gue. There is class in ev­ery touch of the footy. The pass he threw for Kane Lin­nett to score mid­way through the sec­ond half was the per­fect fol­low up to the play be­fore, a Ja­son Tau­malolo hit-up which at­tracted four de­fend­ers who strug­gled to get back into the line.

The try as­sist was just one of sev­eral big Mor­gan plays in­clud­ing a 40-20 and count­less re­peat sets from his boot. Fit­tingly, he kicked the field goal that sealed the deal and sent North Queens­land troppo. There were some fa­mil­iar he­roes for the visi­tors. Kyle Feldt, who knows how to get the ball across the line on a big day, did it again. The Cow­boys winger planted the ball down in the south-western cor­ner, with the foot­ball touch green grass mil­lisec­onds be­fore the painted line. There may be more pro­lific tryscor­ers, but none fin­ish as well on the big stage.

The Roost­ers have risen from 15th on the lad­der last year af­ter win­ning 12 games by six points or less. Yet the Cow­boys proved the closers when it mat­tered, keep­ing their heads and set­ting up a tan­ta­lis­ing clash with the Storm.

There were mo­ments of bril­liance from the Chooks. Mitchell Pearce made sure Mor­gan didn’t have it all his own way when ran to the line, at­tracted the in­ter­est of a de­fender that should have re­mained dis­in­ter­ested, to put Boyd Cord­ner into a gap for Con­nor Wat­son to fin­ish.

But ev­ery time they threat­ened to kick away, they Cow­boys clawed their way back.

The speed of the game was in­tense from the out­set. There wasn’t a penalty or a dropped ball un­til Roost­ers for­ward Isaac Liu un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally dropped the Stee­den com­ing off his own line. That oc­curred in the 17th minute. The early pace should have The Sun-Her­ald GETTY IMAGES favoured the Roost­ers, fresh af­ter a week off. How­ever, the visi­tors, in spite of their ex­er­tions in the open­ing weeks of the fi­nals, ap­peared to have more en­ergy and com­po­sure. The half­time score flat­tered the Roost­ers. There were few mis­takes but the Tri­colours made most of them.

A high tackle in front of their posts gave the Cow­boys a penalty and first points. From the restart, La­trell Mitchell kicked out on the full. It was a sin he would com­mit twice. Te Maire Martin made them pay. The young play­maker was lan­guish­ing in re­serve grade for Pen­rith as late as June, be­fore field­ing a call from Townsville.

About 24 min­utes into the game, he came up with a play that was rem­i­nis­cent of the man he was re­plac­ing.

Ri­val de­fences are still fall­ing for Johnathan Thurston’s showand-go for 15 years af­ter his de­but, but they should also watch out for the one on his un­der­study.

Martin dum­mied, squeezed through Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Har­g­reaves, and then stepped the full­back in a play that JT would have been proud of.

Ki­wis and Cow­boys en­forcer Ja­son Tau­malolo charges through the Roost­ers de­fence last night.

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