An incredible preliminary final on Friday evening in Townsville has seen the Parramatta Eels become the first team to book their spot in the grand final with a 24 points to 20 win over the North Queensland Cowboys.

Despite completing at around the 50 per cent mark in the first half, the Eels managed to take the lead throughout the first stanza, but couldn't maintain the rage as they would ultimately have to come from behind in the final 25 minutes of the game.

A pair of tries to Reagan Campbell-Gillard - who crossed for his second of the night with soft defence aiding a barge over - and one to Maika Sivo in the corner - would see the Eels take the lead by just four points six 16 minutes to go.

The Cowboys, with time up their sleeve, would then appear to cross for a try with nine minutes left on the clock, however, Kyle Feldt would see himself dragged into touch by a desperate Sivo on review from the bunker, leaving the hosts still behind by four with nine minutes remaining in the grand final qualifier.

The Cowboys would keep on attacking during the closing stages of the game, with a penalty given away by Junior Paulo seeing a full set start from just 25 metres out five minutes from full time.

The attacking rampage, which also included a repeat set, would ultimately be snuffed out by a Shaun Lane charge down on a Chad Townsend chip kick, leaving just three minutes available in the contest.

That would be enough for the Eels to hang onto victory, with two more excellent defensive sets.

It was a second half based on the one percenters for Parramatta, who completed with far more efficiency than they did during the sloppy first half.

Earlier, it was all controversy during the first half after Jason Taumalolo was placed in the sin bin for a shoulder charge on Isaiah Papali'i, who had to pass a HIA in an effort to return to the game.

Taumalolo himself will now be left to sweat on a judiciary verdict which could see him sidelined for the opening games of the Rugby League World Cup.

While he would ultimately be allowed to return, the ten minutes in the sin bin didn't come without penalty for the Eels, with Campbell-Gillard crossing for his first try of the evening against 12 players.

That try handed the Eels back the lead despite their sloppy ball control, with the teams splitting the first two tries of the match prior to that.

Parramatta would score first through Will Penisini after a spread to the left, before Reuben Cotter hit back with a try through the middle third, and, like Parramatta scoring through Campbell-Gillard, find himself up against some very soft defence in the process.

Luciano Leilua would be the second scorer of the first half for the Cowboys, and with a penalty goal going over, the two teams would head to halftime at 12 points a piece.

Holmes would then add a second penalty goal after the break, before Murray Taulagi scored to make the lead eight points, only for the Eels to then come back and set up the grandstand finish.

The Eels will now play the winner of tomorrow night's preliminary final between the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs in next Sunday's grand final.

Match summary

North Queensland Cowboys 20 (Tries: Reuben Cotter, Luciano Leilua, Murray Taulagi, Goals: Valentine Holmes 2/3, Penalty goals: Valentine Holmes 2/2) defeated by Parramatta Eels 24 (Tries: Will Penisini, Reagan Campbell-Gillard [2], Maika Sivo, Penalty goals: Mitchell Moses 4/4, Penalty goals: Mitchell Moses 0/1)


  1. As a storm supporter, thoughts with cowboys supporters on jordan McLean ushering Campbell-Gillard in for match turning try. He idiotically dove in for a late unnecessary 4th tackle against Cronulla in gf for us that gave them a set restart that clinched to gf for Cronulla. Some people are big game players and others melt under pressure. He’s always been a liability.

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