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Benji Marshall tonight reminded everyone why he is regarded by many to be one of the best young players in the game today as he put on a scintillating performance that culminated in a try, and at least two try assists as the Tigers tore apart the Cowboys 40-16.
In a performance that was reminiscent of the Benji of old before his well documented shoulder injuries, Marshall made 105 metres from ten runs, kicked five times for 222 metres, made a line break and, most importantly, scored the try that sealed the game for the Tigers.
If that wasn't enough to get the crowd going, Marshall turned teacher as he demonstrated to all his trademark step that has bamboozled defensive lines, and made him a household name.
It was a match that the Tigers dominated right from the start, with the Cowboys seeming determined to penalise themselves out of the game early.
Two penalties within the first two minutes of the game set the scene for what would be an unhappy first half for the Cowboys.
The Tigers utilised their penalty-driven field position to full advantage, with Dean Collis grabbing first points in the sixth.
Three minutes later, another penalty, another try, this time Shannon McDonnell finishing off what was a fantastic team try by the Tigers.
The Tigers lost Taniela Tuiaki early to injury, but it didn't seem to phase them at all as they raced out to a 22-0 lead after 26 minutes, following further tries to Mathew Head and Ben Te'o.
The Cowboys were able to grab one of their own back through debutant Nick Slyney, but continued to be incredibly ill-disciplined in defence, giving away three penalties back-to-back and almost paying the ultimate price, only for the Tigers to be denied a try at the death of the half for obstruction.
Coming out of halftime behind 22-6, the Cowboys began the second half the more determined of the two teams, scoring first through Ty Williams and almost getting another through Ben Harris, only to have been penalised for a strip on Hodgson.
It was this near miss that sparked the Tigers back to life, with Heighington taking full advantage of an embarrassing mix up by the Cowboys in the in-goal and giving full control back to the home team.
Marshall scored the match winner in the 68th minute, and Hodgson iced the cake with the try of the night three minutes from full time.
The win tonight continues the good roll that the Tigers have had in recent rounds, and lifts them up to sixth on the ladder.
Conversely, the season of woe continues for the Cowboys, who find themselves anchored down the bottom of the ladder, only two points ahead of the Rabbitohs and no doubt with many fans wondering where it has all gone so wrong for a team full of so many stars and with such promise.
Wests Tigers (40)
Tries: Dean Collis, Shannon McDonnell, Mathew Head, Ben Te'o, Chris Heighington, Benji Marshall, Brett Hodgson
Goals: Brett Hodgson (6/7)
North Queensland Cowboys (16)
Tries: Nick Slyney, Ty Williams, Ben Harris
Goals: John Williams (2/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Good evening and welcome to Campbelltown Stadium for tonights match between the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys. This is a must win game for the Cowboys, who find themselves languishing in second last position on the ladder. The task made all that much harder by the fact they will be missing their State of Origin representatives, including star halfback Jonathan Thurston. The Tigers, on the other hand, find themselves in some good form, following the successful returns from injury by Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, and are sitting just outside the top eight in ninth position.
Team changes are as such: Tigers: For the home team, Bryce Gibbs is out after having surgery on an infected knee earlier in the week. Ben Galea is promoted to the run-on team, with Beau Ryan added to the bench. Cowboys: The visitors have lost Mark Henry from the team named on Tuesday. Ty Williams comes into the team. In a positional change, debutant Nick Slyney will play from the bench, with Sione Faumuina starting in the second row.
With those changes in mind, the team line-ups are as follows: TIGERS: 1. Brett Hodgson 2. Taniela Tuiaki 3. Dean Collis 4. Chris Lawrence 5. Shannon McDonnell 6. Benji Marshall 7. Mathew Head 15. Danny Galea 9. Robbie Farah 10. Keith Galloway 11. Ben Te'o 12. Chris Heighington 13. Dene Halatau Interchange: 14. John Morris 16. Corey Payne 17. Bronson Harrison 18. Beau Ryan COWBOYS: 1. Ashley Graham 20. Ty Williams 3. Ben Harris 4. Ben Farrar 5. John Williams 6. Daniel Abraham 7. Travis Burns 8. Ray Cashmere 9. Aaron Payne 10. Carl Webb 16. Sione Faumuina 12. Jacob Lillyman 13. Sam Faust Interchange: 14. Anthony Watts 15. Matthew Bartlett 11. Nick Slyney 17. Shane Tronc
Both teams are out on field and already entertaining the crowd as they run out onto the wrong sides of the field
0 min: Both teams are now on the right sides of the field and referee Gavin Badger rules game on, with Tigers to get first use of the footy.
1 min: PENALTY - Tigers: After just 46 seconds the Tigers are awarded the first penalty after the Cowboys were too enthusiastic in the ruck. Tigers deep on attack early.
2 min: PENALTY - Tigers: Back-to-back penalties for the Tigers, and early pressure for the Cowboys.
2 min: A simple dropped ball relieves early pressure on the Cowboys.
3 min: Carl Webb hits the ball up mid-field with added venom in his run, but then loses the ball in the tackle and hands possession right back to the Tigers.
6 min: TRY Wests Tigers A lovely chip kick to the corner from Marshall is plucked out of the air by Dean Collis, who simply falls into the in-goal for the try. Conversion attempt by Brett Hodgson successful. Wests Tigers 6-0
9 min: PENALTY - Tigers: Coming down hard on the kick chase, Travis Burns has gone awfully high on Taniela Tuiaki. Referee Badger places Burns on report and awards the penalty to the Tigers. Tuiaki now being assisted from the field.
10 min: TRY Wests Tigers Outstanding try by the Tigers that highlights the importance of support play in the modern game. From the play-the-ball on halfway, Halatau runs in-field, passes on the inside to Farah who switches play back towards the sideline, and throws a ball to Collis that looks to have gone behind him. Collis knocks it up into the air, regathers, then races away, before passing the ball in-field to Hodgson, who in-turn passes back on the inside to McDonnell who dives over for a great rugby league try. Conversion attempt by Brett Hodgson unsuccessful. Wests Tigers 10-0
13 min: PENALTY - Tigers: Burns once again in the thick of things, this time up-ending Chris Lawrence in the tackle. This tackle is also places on report, with referee Badger warning Burns that he's now on his last legs. Tigers on attack on the Cowboys 40.
15 min: Both teams playing a condensed game, with the wingers on the near side for both teams at least 30 metres in from their sidelines.
16 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: The Cowboys get their first penalty of the match, as a mis-kicked bomb from Matthew Head is collected cleanly by Lawrence, who is ruled to be offside.
17 min: Good set in attack from the Cowboys yields the second best result, as they trap McDonnell in goal to force the goal-line dropout.
17 min: Doctors report from the sideline reveals Tuiaki has been asking some "very obscure questions", which would suggest Tuiaki is suffering concussion and may still be in Disneyland, lining up for Space Mountain.
19 min: The Cowboys lose the ball close to the Tigers line and throw away their best attacking opportunity of the game so far.
20 min: A fantastic kick on the last by Marshall pulls up in-goal millimeters before the dead-ball line. Williams plays at the ball, and, under heavy pressure from Marshall, throws the speculator over to Ash Graham, who manages to get back into the field of play.
21 min: Marshall once again with the opportunity to trap the Cowboys in-goal, however fails to make the tackle on Daniel Abraham, and the Cowboys get out of jail again.
22 min: Faumuina gets trapped with the ball on the last, and the Tigers will get a full set starting on the halfway line.
23 min: TRY Wests Tigers Mathew Head scores the easiest try of his career as he gets the ball on the run 10 out from the Cowboys line, hit's and spins off Abraham and dives through a gaping hole in the defence to grab the try. Conversion attempt by Brett Hodgson successful. Wests Tigers 16-0
25 min: PENALTY - Tigers: Shane Tronc gives away the penalty early in the set, and piggy-backs the Cowboys into attacking field position.
26 min: TRY Wests Tigers Hodgson busts through some awful, awful defence, then puts in an equally as awful kick for Collis on the outside. Williams looks to have the kick covered, but fails to clean up. Ben Te'o puts boot to ball, regathers, then races around for the try. Conversion attempt by Brett Hodgson successful. Wests Tigers 22-0
30 min: The Tigers prove they, in actual fact, can't do it again as they lose the ball on the Cowboys 40.
32 min: Burns launches a high ball out to McDonnell on his wing, who takes it remarkably easily. Not surprising though as the nearest chaser from the Cowboys was 10 metres away.
34 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: The Tigers give away the penalty for offside, and the Cowboys will get another rare chance to show their attacking prowess.
35 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Cowboys Try... Referee Badger sending this one upstairs for a possible try to debutant Nick Slyney.
35 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Aaron Payne jumps into dummy half a metre out from the Tigers line, fires the ball out to Slyney who just manages to get the ball down under the posts. Conversion attempt by John Williams successful. Wests Tigers 22-6
37 min: PENALTY - Tigers: The Cowboys put together a fantastic set off the restart, however undo all the good work by giving away the penalty for being offside on the kick on the last.
38 min: PENALTY - Tigers: Yet another penalty for the Tigers, and now captain Payne will get a talking to from referee Badger.
38 min: PENALTY - Tigers: Obviously Payne wasn't listening to what Badger said, as the Cowboys give away their third penalty in the last two minutes.
39 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Tigers Try... Just checking on a possible obstruction play by John Morris.
39 min: NO TRY - PENALTY Cowboys Corey Payne ruled to have obstructed Jacob Lillyman in his attempt to make a tackle on Morris
HALF TIME And it's half time here at Campbelltown, with the Tigers in full control of this game, leading at the break 22-6. It's not that the Cowboys have been horrible with the ball, it's more that they have been incredibly ill-disciplined in defence, finding themselves on the bottom end of a lopsided penalty count, which reads 9-3 to the Tigers. The Tigers have taken full advantage of the field position gifted to them by the Cowboys, with Marshall, Farah and Head running riot all over the field.
HALF TIME STATS: Possession: Tigers 66-34 Completions: Tigers 19/23; Cowboys 11/13 Tackles: Tigers 121; Cowboys 157 Missed Tackles: Tigers 8; Cowboys 20 Line Breaks: Tigers 5; Cowboys 1 Errors: Tigers 5; Cowboys 2
40 min: Marshall gets the second half underway!
41 min: Great start to the second half from the Cowboys, making big metres on attack and now proving determined in defence, with the Tigers on their own 30 on the last tackle.
44 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Lucky reprieve for the Cowboys here. They looked a little lost in attack, and looked to have thrown the ball away, only for the Tigers to be accidentally offside.
44 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys The Cowboys spread the ball early in the set and Ty Williams gets his first try of 08. John Williams attempt from the sideline strikes the upright and is waved away. Conversion attempt by John Williams unsuccessful. Wests Tigers 22-10
46 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Cowboys Try... Checking for a possible strip on Brett Hodgson that may have led to a Cowboys try. All replays indicate it is a strip.
47 min: NO TRY - PENALTY Tigers Ash Graham had his hands all over that ball and clearly raked it out.
48 min: That close call looks to have woken the Tigers from their slumber, as they put together a good set on attack, only to finish it off with a poor kick on the last.
50 min: TRY Wests Tigers Embarrassing stuff for the Cowboys. As Matty Head drills the ball into the in-goal, Anthony Watts and John Williams show why communication on-field is an important thing. They collide with each other in trying to get to the ball, leaving Chris Heighington with the simple task of leaping over the two red-faced Cowboys, planting his hand on the ball and grabbing a meat pie of his own. Conversion attempt by Brett Hodgson successful. Wests Tigers 28-10
53 min: Tigers on a roll here, making metres at will, and Marshall getting the crowd going as he demonstrates his trademark step that made him a household name.
56 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Lazy arm from Corey Payne collects a Cowboys player high, and gives the Cowboys an opportunity to make up for their embarrassing gaffe in the in-goal not long ago.
57 min: Once again, the North Queensland attack comes undone through lack of direction and options - highlighting how much they really miss Thurston and Matt Bowen.
61 min: PENALTY - Tigers: Tigers get a penalty early in the tackle count for a leg pull, and now find themselves 30 out from the Cowboys line on the second tackle.
62 min: Halatau throws a ball to no-one and the Cowboys dive on the ball.
63 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Ty Williams stripped with two in the tackle, and the Cowboys will get another rare attacking set on the Tigers line.
64 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Soft try for the Cowboys here. Aaron Payne darts from dummy half on the Tigers 20, passes over to Burns who takes it to the line, half busts through before passing around the corner to Ben Harris who simply falls over the line. Conversion attempt by John Williams successful. Wests Tigers 28-16
65 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: The Tigers make a second effort in the tackle, and the penalty count is slowly starting to even up.
66 min: Fantastic one-on-one tackle by Hodgson on Watts who was on his way to the try-line.
66 min: Abraham dribbles the ball into the in-goal, McDonnell is taken over the dead ball line and the Cowboys earn themselves a goal-line dropout.
67 min: Matt Bartlett tries to force the impossible pass and hands the ball over on just the second tackle.
68 min: TRY Wests Tigers Benji Marshall steams onto a ball from Farah, then stepped his way past Watts and over for the try that seals the game for the Tigers. Conversion attempt by Brett Hodgson successful. Wests Tigers 34-16
73 min: Aaron Payne almost snaps an intercept out of the air, but instead knocks on and gives the Tigers another chance to put points on the board.
76 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Farah gives away a penalty that now takes the count to 11-9 to the Tigers.
77 min: TRY Wests Tigers Hodgson finishes off the try of the night, that started with an intercept by John Morris five metres out from his line. As the defence converges, Morris quickly realises he won't have the legs to out pace the Cowboys, so he slows down, ducks under one attempted tackle then passes inside to Marshall, who bursts forward into the defence, passes back to Morris who then finds McDonnell on the outside. McDonnell ducks back inside, then passes back to Marshall who then fires the ball out to Hodgson who sets himself for the tryline. Amazing stuff! Conversion attempt by Brett Hodgson successful. Wests Tigers 40-16
FULL TIME And it's full time here, with the Tigers keeping their hometown crowd entertained from start to finish, ending the game with the try of the night and a final score of 40-16.