The North Queensland Cowboys have booked a spot in the grand final after they continued their giant killing run with a stunning 29-16 upset win over the Roosters.
Make Morgan the Mayor of Townsville
The season-ending injury to Johnathan Thurston was a devastating blow that should have ended the Cowboys. Instead, it paved the way for Michael Morgan to step out of his teammate's shadow to become North Queensland's unrivalled conductor. Even with Thurston in the side, Morgan has shown flashes of brilliance – few can forget his scything run and flick pass to set up Kyle Feldt for the match-levelling try in the 2015 decider – but rarely has he been able to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Morgan's transformation in 2017 has been stunning to say the least, and on Saturday he was again at the forefront of everything the Cowboys did well. The rep star nailed an early 40/20 that gave the visitors the lift they needed before he produced a couple of out-balls in the second stanza to help his side retake the lead that Thurston would have been proud of. To cap it off, Morgan potted his second field goal of the finals series to seal the win. There is no doubt whatsoever that he will be in Australia's squad for the upcoming World Cup.
Waerea-Hargreaves fails to walk the walk
He's the inspirational leader who drives the Roosters, but Jared Waerea-Hargreaves's pre-game decision to call out Cowboys counterpart Jason Taumalolo backfired with the firebrand easily outpointed by the world's best big man. While the pair didn't come together for any memorable collisions, Waerea-Hargreaves came up with several poor plays in the first half that allowed the visitors to jump out to an early 8-0 lead. The veteran Rooster conceded a penalty for a high shot that led to a simple Ethan Lowe penalty goal before he and halfback Mitchell Pearce fell off a tackle they should have made to allow Te Maire Martin to race away for the opening try. To make matters worse, he conceded a late penalty that allowed the Cowboys to push out to a six-point lead while he only ran for 41 metres in what was an underwhelming performance from a man capable of so much more.
Kyle Feldt is a freak
Is Kyle Feldt the best finisher in the game? You'd be a brave person to suggest otherwise. Cowboys fans will forever love him after he scored the try that sent the 2015 grand final to golden point and he has repeatedly demonstrated in the two years since that he has a freakish ability to find the line where others would have struggled. Feldt didn't start 2017 well – in fact he failed to score a try in the first nine rounds – but since then he has established himself as the premier poacher in rugby league. His leap above the pack to sink the Panthers in Round 16 was majestic, his gravity-defying effort against the Eels last week was memorable while his put down on Saturday night was a thing of beauty as he somehow angled the Steeden to ensure it grazed the turf before he went out. He has now scored in five straight games and will be a key attacking weapon in next week's decider.
Ethan Lowe redeems himself after costly error
He's been one of North Queensland's best players in this finals series but Ethan Lowe would have been ruing a knock on late in the first half that threatened to turn the game on its head. With his side leading by eight points, the rugged back-rower charged onto a flat pass and was through the hole with only Michael Gordon in front of him. Instead of testing the fullback, he coughed up the Steeden. Two plays later, the Roosters were awarded their first penalty of the night. Another penalty would soon follow, and with barely three minutes left on the clock, Lowe's error would come back to haunt the Cowboys as Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell reeled in a cross-field kick to give his side a huge boost in the shadows of half-time. In the end it mattered little as the Cowboys rallied to claim a comfortable win, with Lowe's goal-kicking proving crucial.
Latrell Mitchell will learn from this
He was the hero in their qualifying final win over the Broncos but Roosters young gun Latrell Mitchell failed to back it up in the biggest game of his career. There is no doubting the 20-year-old is destined for greatness, but on Saturday his rawness was exposed as he came up with several costly errors at crucial times. Mitchell sent two kick-offs sailing dead to gift North Queensland field position while he also stopped in the line to cost his side what would have been a certain four-pointer to Ryan Matterson. While he scored his side's first try, Mitchell was badly exposed for Feldt's game-changing four-pointer as he failed to come off his line to shut down the play.