The North Queensland Cowboys have ended the Parramatta Eels’ season in stunning fashion and booked themselves a place in the preliminary final next week, with a 24-16 win in front of over 40,000 fans at ANZ Stadium.
1. Courageous Cowboys defy critics
Coming into the match at long-odds for the second week in a row, the Cowboys enjoyed the lack of expectations from fans and critics alike. And yet, unbelievably they have proved themselves once again. Written off against the defending Premiers just last week, the Cowboys were seen as easy pickings for a top four Eels side that pushed Melbourne to their limits just a week prior. However, the Cowboys have shown that in rugby league, you never quite know what you’re going to get, bundling another heavier-fancied opponent out of the competition. They’ll take on the Roosters next week for a place in the Grand Final, and if the past two weeks are anything to go by, the Roosters have every right to feel nervous.
2. Au revoir Semi
Since 2014 he’s been a fan favourite, amassing a plethora of tries for the Blue and Gold, but Semi Radradra has played what could be his last game in the NRL, as he now departs for French rugby. He left the Eels fans with one final highlight, scoring a 100 metre try on the back of a North Queensland kick. The four-pointer was Semi’s 10th try from his last five games, an incredible effort that typifies why it won’t just be Eels fans that will miss watching the flying Fijian.
3. JT who?
After Johnathan Thurston succumbed to a season ending shoulder injury in State of Origin two, many were willing to strike out the Cowboys’ Premiership hopes completely. The Cowboys were able to pick up former Panther Te Maire Martin while many players have taken the leap to stand up and own the leadership role within the Cowboys team. Michael Morgan has reached near career best form to steer the Cowboys ship around, forcing three goal-line dropouts against the Eels, as well as grabbing a try and an assist.
Ethan Lowe typified the Cowboys’ spirit all night, chasing anything that moved and always keeping himself in the right place at the right time. And of course, hulking lock Jason Taumalolo had a big part to play, registering a standard 211 metres against a quality Eels forward pack.
4. Red hot Eels implode
On the back of some impressive pre-finals form and an excellent showing against competition heavyweight Melbourne, many pundits were believing the Eels had what it took to do damage in the 2017 finals series. Due to qualifying for a top four finish, the Eels were given a second chance following their narrow loss to the Storm, however this defeat sees them bundled out of their first finals series since 2009. The pressure of the scoreboard appeared to be getting under the skin of the Eels as they began to throw forward passes and failed to complete sets within their own half. The Cowboy’s eventually put Parramatta to the sword with a game-sealing try from Morgan.
5. Race for the Premiership takes shape
With North Queensland claiming the second semi-final, the preliminary finals have taken shape. The Storm will take on the Broncos at AAMI Park while the Cowboys will go head-to-head with the Roosters. As mentioned earlier, the Roosters could be sweating on having to verse this season’s giant killers. Sharks and Eels fans will be cheering on the Roosters to take revenge against the Cowboys, with the Roosters also being the only Sydney-based team left in contention. We could be on-track to see a repeat of the 2015 Grand Final, but that would require Broncos and Cowboys victories over the Storm and Roosters. But with the way the finals series has been so far, who knows how the story goes from here.
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