SYDNEY (AP) — After just making the National Rugby League playoffs as the eighth and last qualifying team, the North Queensland Cowboys are into the grand final against the first-place Melbourne Storm.
The Cowboys beat the favored Sydney Roosters 29-16 on Saturday for their third consecutive win in the playoffs. They'll now face the Storm, who beat Brisbane 30-0 in the other semifinal, in next Sunday's grand final at the Olympic stadium in Sydney.
Halfback Michael Morgan had a hand in North Queensland's first three tries as the Cowboys became the first team to make the final from eighth place since Parramatta in 2009.
"They've continued to work hard and tried to get better as a team," Cowboys coach Paul Green said. "There was a period there where we weren't getting it right ... they stuck to their guns and I kept telling them eventually our luck will turn."
Roosters coach Trent Robinson admitted his team, which finished in second place during the regular season, was outplayed.
"It was devastating to lose that game," he said. "To get into a grand final is a pretty big prize and we weren't good enough."
Melbourne hasn't lost a game in nine weeks. Leading the Broncos 8-0 at halftime, the Storm scored three second-half tries, two of them by star fullback Billy Slater.
In 2016, the Storm lost to the Cronulla Sharks in the grand final.