NRL Finals 2022: Jason Taumalolo left speechless after preliminary final loss, North Queensland Cowboys vs Parramatta Eels

North Queensland co-captain Jason Taumalolo was “at a loss for words” after the Cowboys’ shock four-point loss to the Parramatta Eels in Friday night’s preliminary round in Townsville.

The Eels, who at one point trailed 20-14 in the second half, picked up a remarkable comeback win at Queensland Country Bank Stadium to book their place in the NRL Grand Final next weekend, where they face either the Penrith Panthers or the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

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Taumalolo was doomed early in the contest to win after he connected his shoulder to the jawbone of Parramatta’s Isaiah Papali’i, who was due for an HIA.

And the Eels made the most of their one-man advantage, prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard scoring a deft try in the 18th minute.

Speaking to former Queensland team-mate and legend Johnathan Thurston on Channel 9 after the 24-20 loss, Taumalolo struggled to express his emotions.

When asked how he felt, the veteran lock replied, “I’m a little lost for words right now.”

Pressed further by Thurston, I mumbled, “Yeah, yeah kinda disappointing. The guys worked hard enough, got into a position to play soccer in the finals and just failed. Well yes.

Taumalolo also thanked the club’s dedicated fanbase: “Yeah, half the reason we’re here and in the position we’re in is because of the fans. To come out and support us week after week…”

The Cowboys hadn’t lost their previous seven finals in Townsville, but the Eels broke that record in a daring performance on Friday night.

Parramatta opened the scoring when halfback Mitchell Moses threw a blatant forward pass to Will Penisini, who crossed untouched for a trial that was incredibly undeniableD.

The linesman was in the perfect position to see the forward pass, but he remarkably let it pass, much to the disbelief of rugby league fans.

The scores were all tied at 12-12 at halftime, but Reagan Campbell-Gillard dived again early in the second term to keep the Eels before Maika Sivo crossed for a crucial four to give the lead. in Parramatta.

It looked like the Cowboys could steal the win, but winger Kyle Feldt grazed the sideline with his foot in the dying minutes, meaning his diving effort in the corner was disallowed.

The Eels were the better side, particularly in the second half, but pundits couldn’t help but wonder if Penisini’s controversial try had any impact on the result.

Speaking after the game, Cowboys coach Todd Payten refused to blame the loss on the forward pass, saying his team had enough chances to win.

“My first instinct was I thought it was forward, but looking back a few times I thought it was pretty tight,” he said.

“It happened early enough in the game to recover from it. We went 12-all at half-time and 20-12 after 55 minutes, so we advanced pretty well.

Parramatta had lost to Penrith in their qualifying final but bounced back with a dominating victory over the Canberra Raiders to keep their premiership hopes alive.

Originally published as ‘Shattered’: North Queensland champion Jason Taumalolo remains speechless after heartbreaking defeat