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Fulltime score: Finals Week Two North Queensland Cowboys 24 def. Melbourne Storm 16 Match summary: The Cowboys have advanced to the Preliminary Final against Parramatta after defeating the Melbourne Storm 24-16 at Aussie Stadium tonight. The Cowboys led 16-0 at half time.
Melbourne had the early field position and possession, but failed to show the strength in attack they had showed for most of the season. Greg Inglis was denied an early try after a knock on was ruled from Matt Geyer. The Cowboys then struck three times in 11 minutes with tries to Matt Bowen, and a double to Ty Williams - including an intercept off Scott Hill. The Cowboys showed very impressive scrambling defence in the half to hold the Storm scoreless.
The Storm came out with all guns ablaze in the second half, with a very dodgy try to Manly bound centre Steve Bell. Dally M winner Jonothan Thurston added a penalty goal after 51 minutes to make the difference two converted tries again. The Storm ran the ball on the last tackle which resulted in an impressive try to Matt King.
When Matt Orford dummied his way over the line with 10 minutes to go it was all on at 18-16.
However, the Cowboys kept a cool head, getting two line dropouts, before David Faiumu scored with very little time to go, ending Melbourne's season, and Robbie Kearns' career. The crowd of 16,810 was impressive given earlier estimates, but the atmosphere was sorely lacking.
The result means that the Cowboys will play the Eels next Sunday afternoon at Telstra Stadium.
Storm v Cowboys match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game
Scorers: MELBOURNE STORM 16 Tries: Bell, King, Orford Goals: Smith (1/1), Orford (1/2) NTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 24 Tries: Williams 2, Bowen Goals: Hannay (2/3), Thurston (2/2)
Venue: Aussie Stadium Crowd: 16,810 Referee: Paul Simpkins Half Time: 16-0 Cowboys.
Live commentary: Robbie Kearns is out tonight for the Storm. These two teams are going to fight it out for the chance to play Parramatta for the right to play in the 2005 Grand Final.
A decent crowd on hand at Aussie Stadium.
0 min: We kick off at Aussie Stadium!
4 min: Melbourne with the early field position, but nothing comes from it.
6 min: NO TRY - Storm Greg Inglis is denied after it is ruled that Geyer knocked the ball on.
9 min: The Cowboys defend their line well, after giving away two penalties.
11 min: TRY - Cowboys In thier first visit inside the Melbourne 20, Matt Bowen dummies his way through to score. Hannay nails the difficult kick. Cowboys 6-0.
16 min: Since the first try possession and territory have evened up.
19 min: TRY - Cowboys The Cowboys expose a lack of numbers out wide for the Storm and Ty Williams scores out wide. Hannay misses the sideline conversion. 10-0 Cowboys.
22 min: TRY - Cowboys Scott Hill throws a pass right to a flying Ty Williams who takes the intercept and scores after a 50 metre run. Hannay converts from in front. 16-0 Cowboys.
28 min: NO TRY - Storm Bell is held short of the line. The Storm are very, very limp in attack. Still 16-0.
30 min: Bowen sets off on one of his trademark kick returns. He offloads to Payne who loses the ball in an Orford tackle.
34 min: King challenges for the high ball, comes up with it but is stopped short of the line.
36 min: NEWS - Hannay in pain, clutching at his shoulder.
HALF TIME: The Cowboys lead a very limp Storm team 16-0 at half time. The Storm have shown little enterprise in attack. As have the Cowboys. The Cowboys simply made the most of their chances.
Given the way this Storm team plays, a 16-0 defecit at half time is more likely to end up 40-12 than a brave fightback. But we shall see in the second half.
40 min: The second half kicks off!
42 min: NEWS - Hannays night is over. Dislocated shoulder.
44 min: Inglis puts up possibly the highest bomb in Rugby League history. He regathers but fails to make further inroads.
46 min: A decent kick from Orford sees Bowen captured in the in goal.
47 min: TRY - Storm Bell crosses the line. He knocked on, but the try was already awarded. Smith converts. 16-6 Cowboys.
50 min: Thurston stips the ball from Webster 5 out from the Storm line.
51 min: PENALTY GOAL - Cowboys Following the strip, Thurston kicks a penalty goal for a Storm indiscretion. Cowboys 18-6.
54 min: Rauhihi is penalised in possession after punching a Storm defender. Storm go hot on attack.
55 min: NO TRY - Storm Sing stips the ball off Smith in the in goal area. 20 metre restart ruled for some reason. 18-6 Cowboys.
60 min: Bowen kicks out on the full. Melbourne get the ball 40 out. King manages to lose the ball however.
64 min: TRY - Storm The Storm run the ball on the last tackle, and Matt King completes a breathtaking move to score right out wide. Orford misses the conversion. 18-10 Cowboys.
65 min: CROWD: 16,810
68 min: Orford chips for Geyer, he kicks ahead for Inglis and Sing somehow knocks the ball dead.
69 min: TRY - Storm Orford slips through the line and scores. He converts. Big finish coming. 18-16 Cowboys.
75 min: The Cowboys force a line drop out off a great kick.
77 min: The Cowboys force another line drop out!
78 min: TRY - Cowboys The Cowboys keep the ball alive and Faiumu scores out on the left. Thurston converts, and the Cowboys will advance! 24-16.
FULL TIME: The Cowboys win a scrappy contest 24-16 after the Storm put in a strong second half fightback.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - J Thurston (Cowboys) 2 - P Rauhihi (Cowboys) 1 - L O'Donnell (Cowboys) -----------------------------------------