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’s partner Bri Gardoni gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl, on game day and the rugby league gods smiled on the Eels No.7 when he set up an early try for Will Penisini with a pass that went more than one metre forward.
It was the Eels’ desperation at the death, when the Cowboys looked like snatching a late victory, that showed what they are made of and proved they deserve to be in next Sunday’s grand final.
Parramatta trailed 20-12 early in the second half and appeared to be on their last legs in front of 25,372 raucous fans in the heat of Townsville.
They found something special from within to rally in style with prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard crashing over for his second try.
When back-rower Shaun Lane threw a clever pass to winger Maika Sivo, the Eels had two tries in seven minutes and a 24-20 lead.
The Cowboys had earlier refused to yield despite trailing 12-6 after co-captain Jason Taumalolo was sin-binned for a high shot on Eels second-rower Isaiah Papali’i in the 16th minute.
Dead even at half time
Cowboys back-rower Luciano Leilua crashed over just before Taumalolo returned to the fray
The scores were locked at 12-all at halftime and the second stanza was a thrill a minute.
The Cowboys appeared favourites to advance. Then it was the Eels.
Winger Kyle Feldt put his foot on the touch line while seeking to level it up for the Cowboys and the Eels drew breath.
The Eels had so many heroes.
Try-savers by Waqa Blake on Valentine Holmes and Bailey Simonsson on Jeremiah Nanai stopped certain tries in the first half and Lane and fullback Clint Gutherson came up with some cracking defensive plays as the Cowboys threatened to snatch it late.
The Eels window for winning an NRL title with the current group of players remains in play
The core of the squad has been with coach Brad Arthur for four finals series in a row and they have their chance to do something special.
The expectation at Parramatta is always high due to the success of the 1980s outfit that won four titles in the space of six years.
This group of players has already done the legends of the past proud and now have the chance against either South Sydney or Penrith to bring glory back to Parramatta.