The North Queensland Cowboys moved within a game of the NRL grand final with an impressive 24-16 victory over the Parramatta Eels infront of 41,287 fans at ANZ Stadium.
Morgan the saviour
Michael Morgan has been simply brilliant since Jonathan Thurston was ruled out with a shoulder injury earlier in the season. Morgan is now reaping the rewards by playing a big part in his side’s finals run. Given little chance of progressing to the preliminary final, the Cowboys stepped up their game and it was all lead by Morgan’s brilliance. With a controlled kicking game and knowing when to run the football, the classy halfback put on a clinic. Morgan scored a try, assisted another, made four tackle breaks and kicked for 465 metres. The sky is the limit for Morgan, who now has the chance to rewrite history and lead his side to another grand final triumph; without Thurston many said it was impossible, but Michael Morgan is in that good form anything is possible.
Eels out in straight sets
The Parramatta Eels have bowed out of the 2017 NRL finals series in straight sets after finishing top four. For Parramatta, it was their first finals since they made the decider in 2009 and the occasion may have got to them. Parramatta are now the only team this decade not to make a preliminary final. The Eels were so good against Melbourne the week before and were expected to blow the Cowboys out of the water; however, they were simply not up to standard and paid the price. After Semi Radradra’s heroic opening try, where he ran the length of the field, it looked like it was their day – but with only 45% of the ball and completing their sets at 74%, in comparison to the Cowboys completing at 85%, it was always going to be an uphill battle. Parramatta had a great end to the season and with a young spine to work off next season, they should be back next season bigger and better after a taste of finals football.
Cowboys so clinical
The Cowboys are so good aren’t they? The North Queenslanders made their third consecutive preliminary final and haven’t missed the playoffs since 2010. They can now make their second grand final in three years and they’re doing it after finishing in eighth place. With an injury list longer than a weekly grocery list, the Cowboys weren’t even supposed to be here, but they have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. With a terrific completion rate and their ability to force repeat sets to build pressure on opposition teams, they have become a complete football side. No Jonathan Thurston or Matt Scott (their co-captains who lead them to the 2015 premiership), they have very worthy replacements in Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo who could bring the premiership trophy home. Sydney Roosters watch out, the Cowboys are coming.
Bye Bye Semi
Semi Radradra ended his Parramatta career in ironic fashion, bowing out in the semi-final. Radradra made a name for himself in blue and gold and won’t be forgotten quickly. The flying Fijian’s ability to break tackles and score amazing tries – as highlighted not only on Saturday against the Cowboys but throughout the season – will be dearly missed. Parramatta coach Brad Arthur never ruled out a Radradra return when asked if Radradra was coming back in the post-game press conference. Semi was Parra’s best performer on the night, he ran for 211 metres, made five tackle breaks and he scored an absolute peach of a try. It will be big boots to fill when Parramatta line up a replacement next season, but just quietly, with French rugby concluding just before NRL round 10, we may just see Semi in blue and gold again sooner than you think.
North Queensland Cowboys – 24
Tries: Kyle Feldt, John Asiata, Coen Hess, Michael Morgan
Goals: Ethan Lowe 4/4
Parramatta Eels- 16
Tries: Semi Radradra, Will Smith, Michael Jennings
Goals: Mitchell Moses 2/3
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