Cowboys on the verge of fairytale premiership
THREE weeks ago, the Cowboys were 17 minutes away from Mad Monday. Now, they're 80 minutes from a premiership.
The Cowboys used the grit and guts which has been the hallmark of their miraculous finals campaign by upstaging the Roosters 29-16 in last night's preliminary final at Allianz Stadium.
After only squeezing into eighth after the Bulldogs upset the Dragons in the final round, the Cowboys will take on Melbourne in next Sunday's grand final.
Minor premiers the Storm will start hot favourites after smashing Brisbane 30-0 on Friday, but it's foolish to write off a North Queensland outfit who clearly don't fear anyone.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson anointed Michael Morgan the "best player in the competition" this week.
On current form at least, he's probably right.
The Cowboys halfback delivered yet another masterclass to spearhead his side into a second grand final in three years.
They will attempt to create history by becoming the first side from outside the top four to win the premiership in the NRL era.
"The player deserve a massive rap. There was a period where we weren't getting it right but they stuck to their guns," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"The only thing that matters is what we believe, and the belief between the four walls back at training is genuine."
Asked if he felt his side can upset the Storm, Green said: "I think we can."
"They've been the best team all year, they've been consistently good and have strike players across the park, we have nothing to lose."
Winger Kyle Feldt finished the game with a hamstring injury, but he isn't in any doubt for the grand final.
Both teams played with little adventure in the opening 20 minutes, a Cowboys penalty goal for a Jared Waerea-Hargreaves high tackle opening the scoring.
In the 24th minute the Cowboys extended the lead to 8-0 when Te Maire Martin executed a Johnathan Thurton-esque dummy to break the Roosters line and run 30 metres to score.
The Cowboys dominated possession and territory in the first half, and squandered a chance to build a bigger buffer in the 35th minute when Ethan Lowe dropped a Morgan pass with only Roosters fullback Michael Gordon to beat.
The Roosters got a penalty the next set and made them pay when Luke Keary's cross field kick was misjudged by Kyle Feldt, allowing Latrell Mitchell to score the try.
The Cowboys were tackled 21 times in the opposition 20 to the Roosters' seven in the first half, but couldn't translate it into points.
Just after the break the Roosters were denied a chance to take their first lead when Mitchell was ruled to have illegally taken out opposite number Kane Linnett before Ryan Matterson scored in the corner.
However they made it count soon after when Mitchell Pearce's superb pass put Boyd Cordner through a hole, with Connor Watson in support to finish the job.
In the 55th minute Jason Taumalolo came back on after a monstrous first half where he ran for 118 of his 237 metres, and got a quick play-the-ball close to the Roosters line.
Morgan capitalised, his cut-out pass putting Linnett over to give the Cowboys a 14-12 lead.
On the hour mark the Cowboys were made to pay for another costly error when Roosters winger Blake Ferguson crossed in the corner after Justin O'Neill made a simple error 20 metres out.
But O'Neill quickly atoned for his mistake by forcing one from Ferguson from the kick off.
The next set, the Cowboys regained the lead 20-16 when Feldt touched down with a blade of grass to spare in the right corner.
A stripping penalty allowed the Cowboys to secure a 22-16 advantage with 16 minutes left.
With three minutes remaining Morgan completed his superb performance by nailing the game-clinching field goal.
Prop Scott Bolton capped a strong 137-metre game with a try in the dying seconds.
NORTH QLD COWBOYS 29 (Te Maire Martin, Kane Linnett, Kyle Feldt, Scott Bolton tries; Ethan Lowe 6 goals; Michael Morgan field goal)
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 16 (Latrell Mitchell, Connor Watson, Blake Ferguson tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals)
at Allianz Stadium tonight. Crowd: 28,108