Sydney Roosters 31
Tries: Daniel Tupou 2, Mitchell Pearce, Michael Jennings, James Maloney
Goals: James Maloney 5
Field Goals: James Maloney
North Queensland 30
Tries: Ethan Lowe, Gavin Cooper, Johnathan Thurston, Robert Lui, Matt Scott
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 5
Field Goals: nil
North Queensland have been controversially knocked out of the NRL Finals series following their 31-30 loss to the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium tonight.
James Maloney’s field goal with five minutes remaining put the Roosters ahead after they surrendered a 30-0 lead after half an hour. The Cowboys with just over a minute to go went down the right hand side. Kyle Feldt’s offload brushing Robert Lui’s elbow as it bobbled on the ground to a running Johnathan Thurston. Thurston went on to beat Michael Jennings’ tackle on his way to the try line. Replays confirmed it did hit Lui’s elbow but he was facing his own line and the ball bounced across field. Video officials Bernard Sutton and Luke Patten confirming the no try on-field decision and the Cowboys season was finished.
Sydney Roosters dominated possession in the opening period of the match and were first to score after three minutes when Mitchell Pearce took Michael Morgan’s low kick on the full, then scooted ninety metres to the try line.
In the space of twelve minutes the Cowboys season looked headed towards the exit with four unanswered tries. Daniel Tupou scored a double. His first from a cut-out pass by Maloney down the blind side was confirmed after the video officials checked the grounding. Jennings scored two minutes later when he chased a Maloney grubber kick through that hit the left hand post where he forced the ball in front of Morgan. Tupou took Jennings’ pass one handed as he went on a long run to the try line. A mistake by Morgan at the back gave the Roosters the feed on the Cowboys line. Maloney crashed over from close range and it appeared the Bondi club were cruising to victory with a thirty point lead.
The tide turned five minutes before half time with a rare mistake by veteran fullback Anthony Minichiello off Thurston’s kick. Ethan Lowe was on the spot to grab the ball and put the Cowboys on the board. Two minutes later Gavin Cooper strolled over the line and the Cowboys would head into the break eighteen points down and with half a chance of winning the game. In the lead-up to the Cowboys try Ray Thompson’s pass out of dummy half way forward, remarkably missed by the linesman.
North Queensland came out of the sheds with plenty of spirit and determination. On the hour scores would be level at thirty-all with the game on a knife edge. Repeat sets of six saw the Roosters cave in as Man of the Match Thurston scored a great individual try from close range.
Minichiello’s night went from bad to worse after he deliberately tapped back a ball going into touch. Thurston’s kick was from outside the forty metre line and there was no need for the ball to be played at. Minichiello’s proceeded to pass to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck which went along the ground and fell in the path of Lui who was awarded a try after review.
The Cowboys lifted in defense too and pulled off a certain try scoring opportunity when Tautau Moga’s ankle tap on Maloney saw his pass go forward.
Sixteen minutes into the second half and scores were level. Lui put Morgan into a gap before Thurston was felled. The Cowboys received a repeat set moments later that led to Matt Scott scoring, dragging defenders on the way to the try line.
On the hour James Maloney missed a penalty conversion from out wide after the Roosters received a penalty for Moga taking out Tupou chasing a kick through.
Thurston looked certain to break the deadlock when he got through the Roosters defense and kicked wide, only for the ball to go into touch. He had Morgan inside as support but opted to kick wide. That could have been where the visitors won the game.
Mistakes mounted up for both sides as fatigue and pressure set in. With six minutes remaining Morgan lost possession on half way which was compounded by a controversial penalty to Sonny Bill Williams where it appeared he lost the ball stone cold in the tackle. This led to Maloney slotting over the match winning field goal. North Queensland erring from the kick-off by going short when a longer kick would have put pressure on the defending Premiers.
An epic game where the Cowboys fought back and almost stole victory from the jaws of defeat. Thurston was outstanding on the night. Special mention goes to Jason Taumalolo and Matt Scott who got the Cowboys important field position as they crept their way back into the game.
For the Roosters Pearce and Maloney were red hot on their way to a match-winning lead but went missing as the Cowboys staged one of the greatest finals fightback’s. Boyd Cordner was good and Tupou produced some excellent skills in scoring a double.
The Roosters now face South Sydney in the Qualifying Grand Final next Friday night at ANZ Stadium.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)