Parramatta’s quest to end a 36-year NRL premiership drought remains alive after beating North Queensland 24-20 in the Preliminary Final, capping a magical day for Eels halfback Mitchell Moses.
Moses’ partner Bri Gardoni gave birth to the couple’s first child, a girl, on match day and the rugby league gods smiled at the Eels No.7 as he set up an early try for Will Penisini with a pass that went over a meter forward .
It was the desperation of the Eels at death, when the Cowboys looked like they were raking in a late win, showing what they’re made of and proving they deserved to be in the Grand Finals next Sunday.
Parramatta trailed 20-12 early in the second half and appeared to be on their last legs in front of 25,372 rowdy fans in the Townsville heat.
They found something special from the inside out to rally in style with prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard crashing on his second try.
When back rower Shaun Lane threw a smart pass to winger Maika Sivo, the Eels had two tries in seven minutes and a 24-20 lead.
The Cowboys had previously refused to concede despite trailing 12-6 after co-captain Jason Taumalolo fired a high shot at Eels’ second rower, Isaiah Papali’i, in the 16th minute.
Dead even at rest
Cowboys back rower Luciano Leilua crashed just before Taumalolo returned to battle
The scores were locked at 12-all at halftime and the second stanza was a minute of suspense.
The Cowboys seemed favorites to continue. Then it was the eels.
Winger Kyle Feldt put his foot on the sidelines as he tried to raise the line for the Cowboys and the Eels took a breath.
The Eels had so many heroes.
Try-savers from Waqa Blake on Valentine Holmes and Bailey Simonsson on Jeremiah Nanai stopped certain attempts in the first half and Lane and fullback Clint Gutherson put in some cracking defensive play as the Cowboys threatened to grab it late.
The Eels window for winning an NRL title with the current squad remains in play
The core of the squad has been to coach Brad Arthur four times in a row and they have the opportunity to do something special.
Expectations at Parramatta are always high due to the success of the 1980s outfit that won four titles in six years.
This group of players has already made the legends of the past proud and now has the chance against South Sydney or Penrith to bring the glory back to Parramatta.