North Queensland Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston must have done something really bad to a video referee in a past life.
Last night, the Cowboys lost their semi-final against the defending premiers Sydney Roosters 31-30 after a dubious video refereeing call in the dying minutes of game cost his side victory. It’s the third season in a row the Cowboys have been knocked out in controversial fashion by debatable refereeing. Last year, a seven-tackle try ended their season, before that, Manly’s “hand of Foran” moment.
Having fought their way back from the 30-0 deficit piled on by the Roosters in the first 30 minutes, it looked like Thurston had won a preliminary finals birth for his side with a try just before the final bell. But then the video referees ruled Robert Lui had knocked on a pass from Kyle Feldt in the lead up to the try.
It was the second blow in quick succession, with the Cowboys blamed for stripping the ball from Sonny Bill Williams, although replays suggested Williams knocked on.
The decision set up the field goal by James Maloney in the 76th minute to give Easts victory.
North Queensland coach Paul Green was no-commital about the loss, no doubt smarting from the $10,000 fine he copped this week for comments about match officials.
“Whether it is right or wrong, it comes down to the start of the game and we didn’t start well enough,” Green said of the try decision.
Last night, Thurston was “speechless”, today “filthy”.
“I am still filthy, we just lost a final and it still hurts but we are a more mature team now,” he said.
Easts raced to a 6-0 lead in just 3 minutes after a length-of-the-field run from halfback Mitchell Pearce after snatching a Cowboys kick. The Roosters followed up quickly with tries to two tries to Tupou and one each to Jennings and Maloney.
The Cowboys woke from their nightmare when Anthony Minichiello was asleep, dropping an uncontested bomb to let Ethan Lowe put the Queenslanders on the board before Gavin Cooper helped reduce the deficit to just 3 converted tries by half time.
Thurston set the tone for the final 40 minutes, beating Sonny Bill Williams to score with Lui – thanks to a poor Minichiello pass – and Scott following their leader.
There was a penalty goal option for the Cowboys just before half time, which in hindsight, could have been handy, but instead East will now meet South Sydney in Friday’s preliminary final ANZ Stadium.
For the Cowboys, there’s always next year’s refs.
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