Cowboys end Eels’ season but Taumalolo faces nervous wait TweetFacebookPictures: AAPParramatta’s season is over, but perhaps so too is that of North Queensland wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo.
The Eels’ premiership drought will now stretch into a 32nd year after the Cowboys once again defied the odds to march to within one game of an unlikely grand final appearance. Whether Taumalolo will be part of the side that takes on the Roosters next weekend remains to be seen after he put a shoulder charge on opposing No.13 Nathan Brown.
The Cowboys have already progressed further than most expected without injured stars Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, but a suspension to Taumalolo would be a blow that perhaps even Paul Green’s men wouldn’t be able to recover from.
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The blue and golds came into the game as favourites after pushing Melbourne to the limit, but couldn’t reproduce that performance against the plucky side from Townsville.
The battle of the 13s was a ripper. The buy of the year against, to borrow a line from Billy Moore, the buy of the decade. Taumalolo and Nathan Brown were again among the best for their teams. They seemed to find each other on multiple occasions, although Taumalolo’s hit on Brown in the 29th minute didn’t appear a legal one. While the whistleblowers took no action, replays appeared to show a copybook shoulder charge. It will be a nervous wait for ‘JT’ and his side.
Taumalolo again ran for more than 200 metres. Tackling him is often an exercise in futility. Just ask Daniel Alvaro. The Parramatta forward was a tad lucky to be playing after throwing a reckless elbow against the Storm. Luck deserted him when he got his head in the wrong spot trying to stop ‘JT’. He knocked himself out just five minutes into the game and didn’t return.
The match also marks perhaps the last for in the NRL for Semi Radradra. He will leave the game not only as the pre-eminent winger but also its most dangerous player. His latest try, the 82nd of his short but eventful career in the 13-man code, was a cracker. When Te Maire Martin put up an attacking crossfield kick, it would have been a Cowboys try had one of his teammates come down with it. Instead, Radradra leapt above the pack, marked it like he was playing at the adjoining Spotless Stadium, and ended up putting the ball under the posts 100 metres upfield. When he is in one of these moods, there is no stopping him.
Radradra has the No.2 on his back, but couldn’t be confined to the sideline. There were times when he was playing in the centres, while on other occasions he was pushing forwards out of the way in the middle of the field. Toulon have got themselves a special buy indeed.
While he can score them, so too can opposing wingerflanker Kyle Feldt. His put-down – fighting the sideline, the cover defence and gravity- was just as spectacular.
The Cowboys’ third try could well have been the eight-point variety. Microseconds after Coen Hess put down the ball, Eels hooker Cameron King cleaned him up with a late hit. The visitors took umbrage, players ran in from everywhere and punches were thrown. Officials decided not to give Ethan Lowe an additional shot at goal.
This is will go down as yet another season of disappointment for the Eels. They finished fourth to earn two cracks in the finals, their first since 2009, but went out in straight sets. Two of the tries they scored were from opposition kicks. The only other, from the boot of Mitchell Moses, came after the full-time siren.
Wrecking ball: Jason Taumalolo goes for a gallop. Photo: AAP
Brown was again outstanding in a beaten team. However, their attack, so potent during the back end of the season, didn’t click on the biggest stage. Perhaps the physical and emotional energy they expended against the Storm last weekend was greater than that used by the Cowboys in their extra-time thriller against the defending premiers.
The difference was Michael Morgan. He may be playing without Johnathan Thurston but is playing more and more like him in recent months. With Morgan firing, particularly if Taumalolo is available, the Roosters will do well not to underestimate them. Too many teams have already made that mistake.