Did a forward pass rob the North Queensland Cowboys of a place in the NRL Grand Final?
That’s the question rugby league fans are pondering after the Parramatta Eels defeated the Cowboys 24-20 in their preliminary final in Townsville on Friday night.
The Cowboys were the favorites to advance to the decider, but a brave performance by the Eels ended North Queensland’s fairytale season a week earlier.
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Parramatta opened the score when halfback Mitchell Moses threw a blatant forward pass to Will Penisini, who came untouched for a try that was incredibly unmarked.
The linesman was in the perfect position to see the forward pass but remarkably let it go, much to the disbelief of NRL fans.
“Mitchell Moses turned and he swung around and the ball went forward,” said Fox League’s Greg Alexander.
“The hands went forward, the hands went forward, the ball went forward,” said Alexander.
The Cowboys set to tie the score at 12-12 at halftime and take a 20-12 lead with 25 minutes to go.
But a soft try from Reagan Campbell-Gillard and a four-pointer to Maika Saivo sealed the deal for the Eels.
The Eels were the better side, especially in the second half, but pundits couldn’t help but point out that they would have lost if Penisini’s attempt at the forward pass was disallowed as it should have been.
Sports reporter Scott Bailey tweeted: “If it wasn’t a preliminary final, that call back would be pretty funny.
“Except it’s a preliminary final, and it’s not funny at all. How can you miss that?”
Queensland rugby legend Wally Lewis couldn’t believe his eyes.
He exclaimed to Triple M, “I thought the pass was thrown way forward. Oh that’s a foot and a half forward!
“That’s a shame! An absolute disgrace! How could you miss it? He was pretty much on the same page.
“I mean, sometimes a ball can float forward and you think, ‘Maybe the referee has made a judgment’. That was like a bullet – it just went forward like that.”
After the game, Cowboys coach Todd Payten did not blame the loss on the forward pass.
“My first instinct was I thought it was ahead, but looking back on the replay a few times I thought it was pretty tight,” he said.
“It happened early enough in the game to get over it. At halftime we came in with 12 and after 55 minutes with 20-12, so it went pretty well.”
Melbourne Storm great Cameron Smith said that while the forward pass was statistically the difference between the Cowboys winning and losing, they had plenty of chances to win.
“I believe the ball came out of his hands in a forward motion – maybe it went a meter, a meter and a half,” he told Channel 9.
“You can focus on that phone call and say that was the difference. But at the same time, the Cowboys had plenty of opportunities to score more points. They made some mistakes after that missed call. It’s one of the many things that happened during the game. have happened.
“I don’t think the Cowboys players and coaches will sit down and say that’s why we lost. I think they will look at their own performance and say, ‘We had chances to win the game, the opponent was just better.
“If you think of that as an isolated incident, you could probably think ‘They scored the try, they kicked the goal, they lead by six and we lose by four, that’s why we lost’. But I don’t think they that will do.”
The Eels will play in their first major final since 2009. They will face the winner of Saturday’s preliminary final between Penrith and South Sydney.