Parramatta’s quest to end a 36-year NRL Premiership drought remains alive after beating North Queensland 24-20 in the preliminary final and capping a magical day for Eels halfback Mitchell Moses.
Moses’ partner Bri Gardoni gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl, on matchday and the rugby league gods smiled at the No 7 Eels as he set up an early try for Will Penisini with a pass that was more than a meter went forward.
It was the Eels’ despair at death as the Cowboys looked set for a late win that showed what they’re made of and proved they deserve to be in next Sunday’s Grand Final.
Parramatta was down 20-12 early in the second half and appeared to be finished in front of 25,372 roaring fans in the Townsville heat.
They found something special from the inside to collect in style while Reagan Campbell-Gillard keeled over on his second try.
When back rower Shaun Lane threw a deft 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 being down 12-6 after co-captain Jason Taumalolo was found guilty in the 16th minute for a high shot at Eels second rower Isaiah Papali’i.
Cowboys reverser Luciano Leilua fell just before Taumalolo returned to the fight
The scores were set at 12 at halftime, and the second verse was a thrill every minute.
The Cowboys looked like the favorites to go through. Then it was the eels.
Winger Kyle Feldt put his foot on the touchline while trying to level it 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 halted certain first-half attempts, and Lane and full-back Clint Gutherson developed some crisp defensive plays as the Cowboys threatened to snap it late.
The Eels window for winning an NRL title with the current player group remains in-game
The core of the squad has been with coach Brad Arthur for four consecutive finals series and they have a chance to make something special.
Expectations are always high for Parramatta due to the success of the 1980s team, which won four titles in six years.
This group of players have already made the legends of the past proud and now have a chance to bring glory back to Parramatta against South Sydney or Penrith.