North Queensland Cowboys ensured that there will be no New South Wales teams in Sunday’s NRL Grand Final with a thrilling 29-16 victory over Sydney Roosters today at Allianz Stadium in a game where the lead changed hands continuously until the Cowboys late surge.
The Roosters made a late positional changes with Ryan Matterson starting in the centres, Latrell Mitchell moving to the wing and Daniel Tupou dropping back to the bench as part of an otherwise unchanged 17.
Despite some speculation captain Matt Scott didn’t return for the Cowboys. With no late additions to North Queensland’s final 17 Shaun Fensom started at prop with John Asiata moving back to the interchange.
Lacking co-captain Scott and Johnathan Thurston, the Cowboys came into the game after finishing in eighth position in the NRL ladder, but they played with a confidence that belied their lowly position, taking the lead with an Ethan Lowe penalty on 21 minutes and extending their lead to eight points when Te Maire Martin touched down three minutes later.
The Roosters fought back before the break, however, when Latrell Mitchell plucked a high ball out of the air to touch down in the corner, with Michael Gordon adding the goal to make it 6-8 at the break.
Connor Watson gave them the lead for the first time on 45 minutes, with Gordon’s conversion stretching it to four points, but the Cowboys were back in front ten minutes later with a beautifully constructed try to Scotland international Kane Linnett, again converted by Lowe.
Blake Ferguson grabbed the lead back for the Roosters when he squeezed in at the corner, and this time Gordon couldn’t convert and the score was 16-14.
The crucial score came on 66 minutes, when Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt just managed to touch down in the corner in the face of a Mitchell tackle. Lowe’s goal put them four in front and a penalty stretched the lead to six points before the inspirational Michael Morgan calmly slotted a field goal and Scott Bolton added the icing on the cake with a touchdown in the final minute.
The Cowboys will now face Melbourne Storm in next Sunday’s Grand Final.
Roosters: 1 Michael Gordon,3 Latrell Mitchell,14 Ryan Matterson,4 Mitchell Aubusson,5 Blake Ferguson,6 Luke Keary,7 Mitchell Pearce,8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves,9 Jake Friend (c),10 Dylan Napa,11 Boyd Cordner (c),12 Aidan Guerra,13 Isaac Liu; Interchange: 2 Daniel Tupou,15 Sio Siua Taukeiaho,16 Zane Tetevano,17 Connor Watson
Tries: Mitchell, Watson, Ferguson; Goals: Gordon 2
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote,2 Kyle Feldt,3 Justin O’Neill,4 Kane Linnett,5 Antonio Winterstein,6 Te Maire Martin,7 Michael Morgan,17 Shaun Fensom,9 Jake Granville,10 Scott Bolton,11 Gavin Cooper (c),12 Ethan Lowe,13 Jason Taumalolo; Interchange: 8 John Asiata,14 Ben Hampton,15 Coen Hess,16 Corey Jensen
Tries: Martin, Linnett, Feldt, Bolton; Goals: Lowe 6; Field goal: Morgan
Full coverage of all the weekend’s NRL matches will feature in Monday’s issue of League Express, available in the shops and online from Sunday evening.