In the 63rd minute of the Eels’ preliminary final against the Cowboys on Friday night, Parramatta fans held their heads in their hands.
A minute later, their hands were raised above their heads in celebration of a good try that ultimately secured Parramatta’s place in the NRL Grand Finals.
Mitchell Moses missed a great opportunity to equalize at 20-20 on penalties, but then the Eels stole the lead with a Mikey Sivo attempt that sent the Parramatta fans into a frenzy.
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After enduring a fierce onslaught from the Cowboys in the final minutes of the game in Townsville, the Eels prevailed 24–20 to advance to their first grand final since 2009.
More importantly, Parramatta placed himself within one win to secure the club’s first premiership since 1986.
“This is one of the team’s boldest efforts and will benefit them greatly next week,” Andrew Jones told Nine after the game.
Eels’ hopes turned grim when the Cowboys scored a try and converted their try to establish a 20–12 lead in the 55th minute.
But first rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard broke the Cowboys’ weak defense from close range in the 58th minute before Mitchell’s conversion cut the deficit to 20-18.
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Unknown long-range rower Sean Lane was the architect of Sivo’s winning run: he rolled onto Reed Mahoney’s ball, hit the North Queensland defense, spun and kicked a footie at Sivo with his back to the Cowboys.
“I was always taught when I was young to never, ever pass the ball with your back to an opponent,” Jones said, drawing a laugh from Nine host James Bracey.
“It was a very nice pass.
“He walked up to the line, turned his back.
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“I don’t know if it was a speculator or not.
“I think he touched Kyle Feldt’s arm and then Maika went into the corner.
“I’d say the whole Parramatta went crazy when it happened.”
But the Eels’ victory was not free from controversy.
Center Will Penisini was awarded the first try in the seventh minute, despite a questionable pass from Moses early in the game.
Expert Nine commentators Paul Votin and Cameron Smith thought Moses had passed forward.
“Call the cops!” joked Votin.
The Eels will face the winner of Saturday’s preliminary between the Panthers and Rabbitohs in the grand final next Sunday night.
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