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North Queensland have gone into the finals series in style putting on attacking show for retiring custodian Matthew Bowen in defeating the Wests Tigers 50 points to 22 in front of 19,519 fans at 1300 Smiles Stadium.
Cowboys knew after the defeat of Titans in Melbourne, they were in the final series, so decided to treat the fans to an attacking contest where 72 points were scored between both sides.
Tonight was all about one man, Matthew Bowen who after a decade plus of service was bowing out from the NRL. The Cowboys were determined to send him out on a high and it started on the best note with Robert Lui crossing after six minutes.
In the first half the teams traded tries through the young generation coming into the top grade. Wayne Ulugia the standout continuing an impressive try-scoring record since making his debut.
Both teams were locked at 10 a piece when Johnathan Thurston popped up to take an errant pass to break the deadlock. Wayne Ulugia crossed for a first half brace to give the Cowboys a 22 points to 10 at the break.
Wests may have had nothing to play for but they weren't showing that early in the second half. First Tim Simona showing why the Tigers rated him highly using his speed to cross and second was more comical - a falcon from James Tedesco led to a 50 metre try.
This wasn't going to script for Matt Bowen at 22 all but the final twenty minutes couldn't have been better unless written by Bowen himself.
Jason Taumalolo opened the flood gates in the 61st minute with a barging run that had to be checked for grounding. Winterstein got his second off a nice backline movement.
Fitting though that the final nail in the coffin for the Wests Tigers was by the man of the moment. Matt Bowen produced a double to put the gallant Tigers away and condemn them to a 15th place finish.
The speed, step and dummy that was present throughout his career showed up in both tries. Bowen added a rare converted goalkick to round off a wonderful career that will at least extend into next weekend.
Tonight was about the past - well mostly - but Cowboys fans also got a glimpse into the future with Wayne Ulugia bringing up the half century and a personal hat-trick to place him in the framework for the 2014 Cowboys lineup. Next week the Cowboys will travel to Sydney to face either Canterbury or Cronulla, while the Tigers are left to pick up the pieces from a disastrous season, finishing 15th.
North Queensland Cowboys 50 Wests Tigers 22
Venue: Willows Sports Complex
Halftime Score: North Queensland Cowboys 22-10
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Matthew Bowen
2 points - Johnathan Thurston
1 point - Robbie Farah
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (50)
Tries: Robert Lui, Johnathan Thurston, Wayne Ulugia (3), Jason Taumalolo, Antonio Winterstein, Matthew Bowen (2)
Conversions: Johnathan Thurston (6/8), Matthew Bowen (1/1)
WESTS TIGERS (22)
Tries: James Tedesco (2), Curtis Sironen, Tim Simona
Conversions: Robbie Farah (1/1), Benji Marshall (2/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary