Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Fulltime score: Finals Week Three ? Grand Final Qualifier North Queensland Cowboys 29 def. Parramatta Eels 0 Match summary: The North Queensland Cowboys have produced the second upset of the weekend, defeating the Parramatta Eels by 29 points to nil, and booking a place in next weekend?s Grand Final against the Wests Tigers.
Yet another unpredictable result in a very unpredictable season saw the highly fancied Eels toppled by a much more enthusiastic Cowboys outfit, which sets up a Grand Final that will be a fitting finale to such an incredible season, both the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys set to make their first Grand Final appearances.
The opening quarter of the game was reminiscent of a traditional Semi-Final type battle and looked set for a close contest with no score on the board after 20 minutes.
Matt Bowen opened the scoring at the 23rd minute, running through a yawning gap in the Eels? defensive line, crashing over under the posts and giving his side the first points of the afternoon and a 6-0 lead.
Successive tries from impact player Rod Jensen and halfback Brett Firman in the space of just 5 minutes, gave the Cowboys an 18-0 lead at the break and sent the Parramatta crowd into a state of disbelief.
The Eels crowd came into the game early in the second half, with Cowboys backrower Luke O?Donnell placed on report for a late tackle on Eels halfback Tim Smith, the crowd then lifted and were desperate for the Eels to stage a remarkable comeback and force their way into the decider.
But it just wasn?t to be for the Eels and Ty Williams put the issue beyond doubt with a superb try in the corner, giving the Cowboys an unassailable 22 point lead.
A field goal for Thurston and a further try for Hannay, were the icing on the cake as the Cowboys kept the Eels scoreless to charge their way into the Grand Final, winning by 29 points to nil.
And then there were two, it?s now down to the Tigers and the Cowboys to do battle for the title, and who would have thought for that to be the case at the start of the season? The Tigers were 10th at the end of Round 11 and the Cowboys were thrashed by 50 points in week one of the finals series.
Next weekend?s game will be a fitting farewell to a season of unpredictability, and no matter who holds the trophy aloft at 8.50pm next Sunday night, season 2005 will go down as a season of insanity.
Eels v Cowboys match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game
Scorers: PARRAMATTA EELS 0 Tries: Goals: NTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 29 Tries: Bowen, Jensen, Firman, Williams, Hannay Goals: Hannay 4/6 Field Goals: Thurston
Venue: Telstra Stadium Crowd: 44,327 Referee: Stephen Clark Half time: Cowboys 18-0
Live commentary: Today the Parramatta Eels will meet the North Queensland Cowboys at Telstra Stadium, for the right to meet the Wests Tigers in the Grand Final. Conditions are overcast in Sydney with floodlights already taking effect on the ground. Rain could be possible later on.
Eels: As-per-program from 1 to 17. Nathan Hindmarsh has been ruled out after speculation that he may have been a late inclusion.
Brett Firman moves to the bench.
Johnathan Thurston moves to halfback.
Justin Smith comes off the bench and moves to five eighth.
Jacob Lillyman is omitted from the side.
Rod Jensen replaces Lillyman on the bench.
0 min: KICKOFF!, the second Grand Final Qualifier is underway
3 min: NEWS-Eels on the attack early with a mistake-riddled start by both teams.
7 min: NEWS-Tim Smith puts in an outstanding kick across field for Eric Grothe, but Grothe is unable to control the ball and loses it over the line. Still no score on the board.
11 min: NO TRY-Controversial decision from Stephen Clark, ruling that Matt Bowen's pass to Travis Norton was forward, after Norton went across the line to score.
14 min: NEWS-Penalty goal attempt unsuccessful from Josh Hannay, after the Cowboys strangely opted to go for the 2 points from 40 metres out.
20 min: NEWS-Mistakes have been frequent this afternoon, with both sides making 7 handling errors each. Still no score.
23 min: TRY-Cowboys Matt Bowen sprints through a yawning gap in the Eels' defensive line and scores under the posts from close range. Conversion successful from Hannay. Cowboys 6-0
31 min: NEWS-Rod Jensen down injured for the Cowboys after adding an explosive impact to this game. Still 6-0 in favour of the Cowboys and the Eels are lacking cohesion in their play.
35 min: TRY-Cowboys Jensen rises from his sick bed to run onto a ball from interchange player Davis Faiumu and crash over under the posts. Conversion is successful from Hannay. Cowboys 12-0
39 min: TRY-Cowboys The Parramatta crowd are in a state of shock as Brett Firman puts on a brilliant left-foot step and shows pure speed and acceleration, scoring under the posts. Hannay converts. Cowboys 18-0
HALF TIME-The Parramatta fans are in disbelief at Telstra Stadium, with their side trailing 18-0 at halftime. Tries to Bowen, Jensen and Firman for the Cowboys, and it will require a monumental effort from the Eels to escape defeat.
Second half underway at Telstra Stadium
46 min: NEWS-Luke O'Donnell on report for a late tackle on Tim Smith who leaves the field with a cut to the eye, still no change to the halftime score.
55 min: TRY-Cowboys Ty Williams scores in the corner after some brilliant lead-up play from Paul Bowman, time now ticking away for the Eels with the Cowboys on the verge of making their first Grand Final. Hannay's attempt is unsuccessful from the sideline. Cowboys 22-0
60 min: FIELD GOAL-Cowboys Thurston casually slots a field goal from 12 metres out directly in front, the Cowboys extend their lead and barring a miracle they will play in their first ever Grand Final next Sunday night. Cowboys 23-0
65 min: TRY-Cowboys Josh Hannay scores after receiving a brilliant offload from Thurston, and the Cowboys have now cemented a spot in next weekend's decider. Hannay converts. Cowboys 29-0
70 min: NEWS-Humiliation for the Eels after coming into this game as short-priced favourites, nothing has worked today for the minor premiers, lacking any real structure in attack or defence for the entire game thus far. Still 29-0 in favour of the Cowboys.
75 min: NEWS-This game is coming to a sloppy end now, a pathetic effort from the Eels, making more errors than completions. Cowboys into the Grand Final for the first time.
FULL TIME: The North Queensland Cowboys have shocked the Rugby League community by thrashing minor premiers Parramatta by 29 points to nil. A comprehensive performance from the Cowboys, scoring 5 tries to the Eels' nil. ----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - J Thurston (Cowboys) 2 - B Firman (Cowboys) 1 - P Rauhihi (Cowboys) -----------------------------------------