Storm v Cowboys: Five key points
We take a look at five key talking points from North Queensland's Preliminary Final victory over Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
The turning point
It arrived in the form of a one-two punch, literally, in the 54th minute. While Michael Morgan was blazing down the right touchline to extend the Cowboys lead to eight points Marika Koroibete was preoccupied with Kyle Feldt on the 20m line. In the midst of their tussle the Fijian flyer threw a punch to Feldt's chin that was significant enough to see him sent to the sin bin. From there it was a purple nightmare as Morgan scored again four minutes later and Gavin Cooper added his second 10 minutes from time to seal Storm's fate.
"I didn't think it was a punch but having said that, it happened. It wasn't going to effect the result so I'm not going to complain about that," Craig Bellamy said.
"Obviously it lacked a little bit of discipline but he was tapped on the head. Some players take a lot of offence to that and I think that is was happened with Marika. It will be a lesson for him to learn."
The best prop in the game? Matt Scott.
Two of the best big men in the game went head to head on Saturday night but by the end of the 80 minutes it was not even a contest. Matt Scott finished with a game-high 203 metres while Jesse Bromwich had just 93m. The stats sheet told part of the story but it was Scott's desire to push his team over the line which appeared superior to his opposite number. Bromwich seemed lethargic for much of the game and a dropped ball in the first half rattled his confidence. It was Scott who had appeared to be the one that enjoyed a week-off rather than the other way around. Their bout was touted as a defining one and when the final bell was rung it was the Cowboy who was left with his hand well and truly raised.
Cowboys halves go full throttle
Only one made the trip to Melbourne three weeks ago but on Saturday night Jonathan Thurston and Michael Morgan stood side by side on AAMI Park and went about systematically taking the Storm apart. As he does most weeks, Thurston appeared to bring his own footy as he finished with three try assists while Morgan scored a double for the second-straight week to go along with his 129 metres. Their kicking game was also top notch while on the contrary the Storm's display with the boot was poor.
Cooper Cronk and Blake Green failed to recapture their precision kicking game that picked apart the Roosters a fortnight ago and in the second half failed to orchestrate any real scoring chances. One more challenge awaits the Cowboys pairing and, should they come out on top next Sunday, they would deservingly hold the mantle of the best halves pairing this competition has to offer.
Thurston limps to the line
Not even a zombie apocalypse could prevent Jonathan Thurston from playing in next week's Telstra Premiership Grand Final but the champion halfback is in for a painful flight back to Townsville. Thurston appeared to be moving gingerly with 20 minutes to play and when he laid the assist off to Kyle Feldt for the match-sealer he wasted little time in making his way to the bench. There were concerns over JT's groin heading into the game and it appears he will need to fight through one more week. "The back of my shin bone" was how the skipper laughed off the question about his injury but was adamant he would be fine come next Sunday's decider.
A Dally Ms without JT?
Jonathan Thurston is the odds-on favourite to be handed the 2015 Dally M Medal on Monday night. That task may be made rather difficult if the Cowboys champion is not even in the room to accept it. With a long flight back home to Melbourne followed by a trip later in the week down to Sydney for the grand final, another two flights back and forth from Townsville to Sydney for the Monday night award could prove too much of a hindrance to Thurston's grand final preparation. Both he and the club will likely receive word that he is expected to attend, though his talk after the game would not have filled organisers with confidence.
"It is something that we will probably have to have a chat about. This is about getting the best out of my body and the best preparation I can get so no doubt in the next day or so we will have a chat and go from there," Thurston said.
Unsurprisingly the coach was in his captain's corner.
"The most important thing that is on next week is the game, that has got to be a priority for us," Paul Green said.
"Anything outside of that becomes secondary. If we can manage to fit it in and JT still be in a good position we will certainly look at it."