Gutsy Cowboys down Eels in finals stunner
THE Cowboys are just 80 minutes from their second grand final appearance in three years, after they defied belief with a stunning 24-16 victory over the Eels in Sydney.
North Queensland have set up a date with the Sydney Roosters next Saturday after an awe-inspiring performance that should have the remaining finals contenders shaking in their boots.
Three weeks ago, they were a serious chance of missing the top eight.
Now they are a serious chance to be there on grand final day next month.
They have been labelled everything under the sun this season - gutsy, injury-ravaged, brave, bruised, battered, courageous, tough.
But serious premiership contenders? It's not a tag that has come up a lot for the Cowboys.
However for those inside the club, it was never out of the question.
And what are they doing in this finals series is based off that inner confidence that they can go all the way.
Now the rest of the rugby league world is seeing that too.
First the Sharks, now the Eels have fallen at the hands of Paul Green's ultimate underdogs.
Will the Roosters be next?
After Saturday night's performance, it seems very possible.
There could be no end to this Cowboys juggernaut, which has been built on self belief and the desire to prove the doubters wrong.
Parramatta fans left ANZ Stadium in droves at the 75th minute of Saturday night's match, when Michael Morgan - this week declared the next King in the North by Johnathan Thurston - barrelled towards the line to seal the deal for the Cowboys.
It was the final blow in a second half that was all about North Queensland.
The Eels did not score after the break until the dying seconds, after John Asiata nabbed the first try of his NRL career in the 45th minute before Coen Hess (52nd minute) and Morgan added to the scoreboard.
The Cowboys were cool, calm and collected as they ran away with the victory.
Fortune did go Parramatta's way in the first half, after they scored two long-range tries to put the Cowboys behind on the scoreboard.
The first try came in the seventh minute when Semi Radradra ran 100m after snatching a Te Maire Martin kick from the air, while fullback Will Smith picked up a Michael Morgan grubber to go 90m to score in the 31st minute.
Despite going into the sheds down 10-6 at halftime, it was clear the Cowboys were putting the pressure on the Eels.
North Queensland was clinical in the first half, going into half-time with a 100 per cent completion rate.
They made just one error in the opening 40, which came when winger Antonio Winterstein was accidentally kneed in the ribs, causing him to drop the ball that he had just scooped up.
Green would have been pleased with their discipline in attack.
It was just a few missed opportunities that saw them trail Parramatta - but they certainly didn't miss those chances in the second half.