NRL: Parramatta Eels upset North Queensland Cowboys to book place in Grand Final

Reed Mahoney celebrates with fans following the Eels’ victory. Photo / Getty

The Parramatta Eels have pulled off a huge 24-20 upset over the North Queensland Cowboys to book their place in the NRL Grand Final.

The Cowboys had never lost the seven previous finals they had hosted in Townsville, but the Eels broke that record in a gutsy performance on Friday night.

Parramatta opened the scoring when halfback Mitchell Moses threw a blatant forward pass to Will Penisini, who crossed untouched for a try that was unbelievably not disallowed.

The touch judge was in the perfect position to see the forward pass but remarkably let it go, much to the disbelief of NRL fans.

Jason Taumalolo was sin binned for a clumsy high shot but the Cowboys weathered the storm and the scores were all tied up at 12-12 at halftime.

But Reagan Campbell-Gillard scored two soft tries to keep the Eels in it, before Maika Sivo crossed for a crucial four-pointer to give Parramatta the lead.

It looked like the Cowboys might steal the win but winger Kyle Feldt grazed the touchline with his foot in the dying minutes, meaning his diving effort in the corner was disallowed.

The Eels were the better team, particularly in the second half, but pundits couldn’t help but point out they would have lost if Penisini’s try off the forward pass was disallowed as it should have been.

Jason Taumalolo (L) consoles Jordan McLean following the Cowboys' defeat. Photo / Getty
Jason Taumalolo (L) consoles Jordan McLean following the Cowboys’ defeat. Photo / Getty

Speaking after the game, Cowboys coach Todd Payten wouldn’t blame the loss on the forward pass and said his team had enough chances to win.

“My first instinct was I thought it was forward but looking back on replay a couple of times, I thought it was pretty tight,” he said.

“It happened early enough in the game to get over it. We went in 12-all at halftime and 20-12 after 55 minutes, so we moved on pretty well.”

However, Queensland rugby league legend Wally Lewis was far less circumspect in his assessment of the controversial moment.

He exclaimed on Triple M: “I thought the pass was thrown way forward. Oh that’s gone a metre and a half forward!

“That is a disgrace! An absolute disgrace! How could you miss it? He was standing virtually on a similar line.

“I mean sometimes a ball can float forward and you think, ‘Well maybe the referee’s made a judgement’. That was just like a bullet — it just went so forward.”

Parramatta had lost to Penrith in their qualifying final but bounced back with a dominant win over the Canberra Raiders to keep their premiership hopes alive.

Earlier this week, Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston questioned the Eels’ decision not to travel up to Townsville until Thursday and said they would struggle in the humid conditions.

But Parramatta proved him wrong to spring an upset for the ages and progress through to their first Grand Final since 2009.

The Eels have the longest premiership drought of any team in the NRL and the win gives their fans hope of a first trophy since the Peter Sterling era in 1986.

In the ultimate sacrifice, Moses missed the birth of his first child on Friday to play in arguably the biggest game of his career.

The Eels will face the winner of Saturday’s preliminary final between Penrith and South Sydney.

Leave a Comment