The Cowboys ride their way into the Grand Final
After scraping into the finals series, the North Queensland Cowboys are now just 80 minutes from premiership glory. Paul Green’s men advanced to the 2017 NRL Grand Final after beating the Sydney Roosters 29-16 in Sydney last Saturday night.
LGIAsuper Player Ambassador Michael Morgan got North Queensland off to the perfect start with a 40/20 kick in the 6th minute. The Cowboys were unable to convert the opportunity into points and the match turned into a real arm wrestle.
It wasn’t until the 18th minute that a mistake was made by either side, with an Isaac Liu drop ball gifting field position to the Cowboys. A penalty right in front of the posts saw Ethan Lowe register first points for North Queensland.
The home side’s ill-discipline was again on display moments later when Latrell Mitchell sent the restart out on the full.
With the Roosters’ big men tiring, Te Maire Martin chose the perfect moment to inject himself into the game. The elusive five eighth stepped inside Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves before racing away from Michael Gordon to score a sensational solo try. Lowe converted to extend the Cowboys lead to 8.
With North Queensland holding the upper hand, the Roosters needed a stroke of luck to get back into the contest. They received it in the 35th minute when Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill was penalised for obstructing Blake Ferguson as he attempted to field a cross-field kick.
Latrell Mitchell made the visitors pay in the following set when he snatched a Luke Keary bomb out of the air to score. Gordon converted and the Roosters went into the sheds trailing by just 2.
A Coen Hess error from the restart gave the Roosters first shot at points in the second half and they came close to scoring via Ryan Matterson only for the bunker to rule that an obstruction had occurred in the lead-up.
The home side wouldn’t be denied in the 45th minute when Pearce and Boyd Cordner combined to put replacement Connor Watson away for a cracking try. Gordon converted and the Roosters hit the lead for the first time in the match, 12-8.
In a see-sawing tussle, it was the Cowboys turn to hit back. Again it was Michael Morgan who delivered the big play, sending Kane Linnett over with a magnificent cut-out pass. Ethan Lowe slotted the conversion from out wide to put the Cowboys ahead 14-12 with 25 minutes left on the clock.
In a match where neither side gave an inch, the ease in which the next try was scored caught everyone by surprise.
Returning the ball from his own quarter, Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill fumbled the ball into the hands of Roosters interchange forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho who linked with Mitchell Aubusson to put Ferguson over in the corner.
O’Neill made amends for the error a few minutes later with a big hit on Ferguson forcing the ball loose. The Cowboys were quick to capitalise with Kyle Feldt grounding the ball in spectacular fashion after a sweeping backline movement. Lowe landed another booming sideline conversion and the scoreline read 20-16 in favour of North Queensland.
The drama continued when the Roosters kicked the ball dead for the second time in the game before conceding another penalty, this time for a strip. Lowe’s penalty extended the Cowboys’ lead to 6 with 10 minutes to play.
Enter Michael Morgan.
With the Roosters scrambling to get back into the game, Morgan put the result beyond doubt with an ice-cool one pointer in the 77th minute. But they weren’t done there.
Hard-working prop forward Scott Bolton was rewarded for a tireless display with a four pointer in the final minute of the match. Lowe converted and the Cowboys finished 13-point winners.