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Sydney Roosters beat North Queensland 31-30 in the NRL semi-final

Sydney Roosters survived a dramatic comeback and a controversial refereeing call to beat North Queensland Cowboys 31-30 in the NRL semi.

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Having led 30-0 inside the opening half an hour, the Roosters allowed their opponents to storm back and level the scores only for James Maloney's late field goal to give them a one-point lead with under five minutes to go.

But the drama did not end there as, for the second year running, the Cowboys' season was ended by a questionable call from the match officials.

The visitors launched one final raid but Robert Lui was ruled to have knocked on before Kyle Feldt slipped a pass out for Johnathan Thurston to score what he thought was the match-winner.

The on-field refs ruled no try and, after a lengthy deliberation, the video refs agreed as the Roosters held on for a memorable victory, staving off what would have been the biggest comeback in NRL history.

It brought back bitter memories for North Queensland, who were also denied by a debatable decision in a narrow defeat to Cronulla Sharks last term.

The Roosters exploded out of the blocks with five tries in the first 30 minutes. Mitchell Pearce started the onslaught when he scooped up a Michael Morgan kick and sprinted 90 metres to score in the third minute.

Maloney set up tries for Daniel Tupou and Michael Jennings and had a hand in the latter's second in the 26th minute.

The hosts' pivot then beat two defenders to score himself and slotted his fifth conversion to make it 30-0.

However, Thurston orchestrated first-half tries for Ethan Lowe and Gavin Cooper to cut the deficit at the break, and he continued his rescue mission with a converted try six minutes into the second half to make it 30-18.

Further scores from Lui and Matt Scott incredibly brought the scores level after 58 minutes and all the momentum appeared to be with the Cowboys, but Maloney had the last word before controversy reared its ugly head late on.

A relieved Roosters will now face South Sydney for a spot in the NRL grand final next Friday.

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