Moses misses birth of daughter as Eels seal Grand Final berth after late comeback guns down Cowboys



Parramatta are just 80 minutes away from ending the NRL’s longest premiership drought after staging a remarkable comeback to sink North Queensland.

The Eels are into their first Grand Final since 2009, taking on the winner of Saturday night’s Panthers vs Souths stoush, after Friday night’s heart-stopping 24-20 triumph over the Cowboys at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

They looked dead and buried when they trailed 20-12 midway throught the second half before silencing the sell-out crowd.

Immortal halfback Andrew Johns described it as “one of the bravest efforts” while halfback Mitchell Moses missed the birth of his first child for the game.

He said he watched the birth on FaceTime a few hours before kick-off in a Nine interview straight after full-time.

“I’ve got to go meet my little one,” he said when asked about the sacrifice of missing his daughter’s birth.

The Cowboys dominated the early exchanges but the Eels drew first blood in farcical circumstances when Moses ran the ball on the last tackle and flung a forward pass wide for centre Will Penisini to touch down.

Former Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith on Nine commentary estimated “it’s travelled about a metre and a half” forward when viewing the replay but the on-field officials saw nothing wrong with the play.

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Cowboys forward Reuben Cotter equalised at 6-6 in the 12th minute when he scrambled past a few Parra defenders from close range.

North Queensland were down to 12 for 10 minutes when Jason Taumalolo was adjudged to have hit Isaiah Papali’i high with his shoulder.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 23: Eels celebrate a try by Will Penisini during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Parramatta Eels at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on September 23, 2022 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“Yes, he makes contact with the head but there’s no intent there. I think it’s going to be a fine,” Johnathan Thurston said on Nine commentary although it must be reinforced that he is a Cowboys legend so his view may be somewhat skewed. 

The gap in the middle was exploited at the mid-point of the first half when Ryan Matterson sent Reagan Campbell-Gillard through for a 12-6 lead.

Despite still being down Taumalolo, the Cowboys struck back to cut the deficit to two in the 25th minute when Luciano Leilua ran through Waqa Blake’s tackle out wide on the set after the Eels winger fumbled yet another high kick.

Inexplicably, Moses twice kicked out on the full with shanking bombs and the Cowboys cashed in on his indiscretions when they levelled up at 12-12 for half-time when Junior Paulo was penalised for hampering Griffin Neame in the ruck.

The Cowboys went up 14-12 early in the second half via a penalty goal and after Neame caused havoc up the middle, they spun the ball wide for Valentine Holmes to send Murray Taulagi over to extend the gap to eight.

Against the run of play, Parra cut the margin to 20-18 when RCG landed a rare try double on a crash ball from close range. 

TOWNSAVILLE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 23: Dylan Brown of the Eels passes during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Parramatta Eels at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on September 23, 2022 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Moses could have squared the ledger in the 63rd minute with a relatively easy penalty goal after a Kyle Feldt high tackle but his unhappy night with the boot continued.

It didn’t matter a couple of minutes later when Shaun Lane unleashed an astounding no-look pass over the head of Feldt to give Maika Sivo a saloon passage to the line and Moses nailed the sideline conversion for a 24-20 advantage.

“He hoicked it, he had no clue where it was going,” Paul Vautin surmised on Nine commentary. 

Feldt claimed a try in the 70th minute but replays showed his foot brushed the sideline as Sivo swamped him in cover defence.

The Cowboys went perilously close in the final stages but the Eels hung on to kick-start wild scenes among the travelling camp and fans.

“It’s special but there’s one to go,” Eels skipper Clint Gutherson said in a Nine interview straight after the game. “Let’s enjoy the week.”

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