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A casualty list including Johnathan Thurston, Aaron Payne and Tim Moltzen will be the big talking point in the aftermath of the Wests Tigers bruising 23-16 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
In a physical encounter, Thurston left the field in the 31st minute clutching his shoulder, while Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne hobbled off in the dying stages of the contest thanks to an ankle problem.
It was also bad news for Tigers, who lost the talented Moltzen in the first half to what looked like a season ending anterior cruciate ligament injury. Teammate Gareth Ellis didn't escape the carnage either - he lost a tooth and suffered a broken nose but miraculously played on.
The severity of the injuries remains to be seen and fans will have their fingers crossed and eyes firmly fixed on the news in the coming hours and days.
In between the injuries, the Tigers controlled proceedings on the back of the playmaking duo of Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah. It was Marshall who set up the first try of the game to Chris Lawrence with a deftly weighted grubber in the 7th minute.
Marshall was in the action again when he swooped on a loose ball to start a length of the field movement finished by the evergreen Lote Tuqiri - an additional four-pointer to Chris Heighington off a Blake Ayshford pirouetting linebreak gave Wests an imposing 16-2 after half an hour.
The sinbinning of Cowboys enforcer Luke O'Donnell, following three consecutive penalties on the stroke of halftime, gave the Tigers the opportunity to extend their lead by another two points.
Despite being without their captain, the Cowboys didn't give in and a Scott Bolton try provided the first points of the second half. Willie Tonga then showed great strength to crash over, reducing the lead to 18-12 with 15 minutes left on the clock.
However, the Tigers never really looked flustered and a Robbie Farah field goal alleviated any notions of a home side comeback. Tigers centre Lawrence then dived over for his double, before North Queensland dummy half Anthony Watts snuck over from dummy half in the final minute.
North Queensland Cowboys 16 were defeated by Wests Tigers 23
National Rugby League - NRL - Round 5 - Saturday April 10, 2010 7:30pm
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Gavin Badger and Brett Suttor
Video Referee: Tim Mander
Touch Judges: David Abood and Luke Potter
Halftime: North Queensland Cowboys 2 Wests Tigers 18
North Queensland Cowboys (16)
Tries: Scott Bolton, Anthony Watts, Willie Tonga
Conversions: John Williams (1/3)
Penalty Goals: Johnathan Thurston (1/1)
Wests Tigers (23)
Tries: Chris Heighington, Chris Lawrence (2), Lote Tuqiri
Field Goals: Robbie Farah (1/1), Benji Marshall (0/1)
Conversions: Benji Marshall (2/4)
Penalty Goals: Benji Marshall (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening and welcome to clash between the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland. We should some some enterprising footy up here in Townsville tonight.
1 min: A shocking first play for the Tigers, Robbie Farah allows the kick off to bounce and it goes dead in goal!
3 min: Thurston cops a knee to a place that, well, would hurt more than anywhere else.. he's back to his feet now though.
5 min: The Tigers finally get the ball but have to work it off their own line.
7 min: TRY
A grubber kick in behind the line from Benji Marshall sits up perfectly for Chris Lawrence, who posts the first try of the match against the run of possession. Marshall just misses.
Wests Tigers 4-0
9 min: The Tigers play some entertprising footy but the ball slides out of Fitzhenry's grasp and over the sideline.
For the late team changes to both sides, click on the 'Team Lists' button.
13 min: Both teams just feeling their way into the game at the moment, as Thurston finds touch in the corner.
15 min: Wests halfback Tim Moltzen is in all sorts of trouble at the moment. He was stepped by Shannon Gallant and as he went to make the tackle his knee just buckled underneath him. Moltzen hobbles off and he definitely won't be back tonight.
18 min: Video referee - possible Tigers try..
18 min: TRY
Length of the field try to the Tigers! A dropped ball from Cowboys five-eighth Ray Thompson is picked up by Benji Marshall, who races away downfield. Thurston persues Marshall, forcing him to swerve - he then turns the ball back on the inside to Lote Tuqiri, who beats another defender before crashing over. Marshall converts.
Wests Tigers 10-0
21 min: Back to back penalties to the Cowboys now have the Tigers defending their own line.
22 min: Cowboys rookie James Tamou spills the ball forward.
24 min: A penalty against Andrew Fifita for a high tackle on James Tamou, who looks very groggy.
25 min: Gareth Ellis is down for the count after a headclash with teammate Bryce Gibbs. Slow motion replays show a tooth flying out of the jaw of Ellis, remarkably he stays on the field.
26 min: PENALTY GOAL
Johnathan Thurston slots a penalty goal.
Wests Tigers 10-2
29 min: TRY
The Tigers spread the ball wide, Blake Ayshford spins to beat the defence before finding Chris Heighington in support. Marshall adds the two points.
Wests Tigers 16-2
31 min: In the lead up to the try Johnathan Thurston was left behind on the ground clutching his shoulder - he's now left the field. Massive blow for the Cowboys.
35 min: Anthony Watts take a dart from dummy half, it appears as if Aaron Payne has moved to halfback.
36 min: Another dropped ball from Ray Thompson, the Tigers are moving up quickly on him in defence.
38 min: Wests fullback Beau Ryan returns the favour and comes up with an error on his own line. The Cowboys with a chance to attack just before halftime.
39 min: More dropped ball - this time Luke O'Donnell, who also concedes a penalty for backchat.
40 min: Luke O'Donnell is sent to the sin bin after giving away three penalties in a row. The last for a high shot on Beau Ryan, who objected to the tackle and pushed back - a brave move against a very angry O'Donnell.
40 min: PENALTY GOAL
Marshall slots the subsequent penalty goal on the stroke of halftime.
Wests Tigers 18-2
40 min: Halftime: Well what a crazy first half we've had here at Dairy Farmers! The main talking points are the injuries to Tim Moltzen and Johnathan Thurston, Gareth Ellis losing a tooth and the scuffle between Ryan and O'Donnell. In between all the drama the Tigers have played some pretty good footy, scoring three tries to be well on top at the break.
41 min: Tigers kick off in the second half.
46 min: Anthony Watts attempts a 40/20 but kicks it straight down the throat of Tuqiri.
45 min: Marshall pokes his nose through the line, throws a flick pass which can't be fielded by Gareth Ellis.
47 min: Video referee - possible Cowboys try..
47 min: TRY
Aaron Payne bombs to the corner, Tigers winger Mitch Brown leaps high but knocks the ball forward into the arms of Scott Bolton. Bolton simply falls over the line to score. John Williams converts in Thurston's absence.
Wests Tigers 18-8
50 min: O'Donnell returns from the sin bin - could there be some more fireworks?
55 min: Farah kicks dead in goal and the Cowboys get a 20 metre tap.
56 min: North Queensland find some space on the fringe on the last tackle but Beau Ryan cleans up the kick.
58 min: Video referee - possible Cowboys try..
58 min: No try - Shanon Gallant makes a lunge for the line but Ryan gets his hand in the way and knocks the ball free.
62 min: Farah kicks high, the Cowboys backs allow the ball the bounce but luckily it goes straight over the touch line.
63 min: Two penalties in a row to North Queensland puts them right on the attack.
65 min: TRY
Willie Tonga gets on the outside of his opposing man and uses his strength to twist over for a try - he's in great form at the moment. John Williams misses from the sideline.
Wests Tigers 18-12
68 min: Aaron Payne kicks for touch - a tense final 12 minutes coming up for the Tigers.
70 min: Penalty to the Tigers. Payne is down in backplay though, it looks like an ankle problem as he limps off the field.
72 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Benji Marshall goes for the one point but pushes it wide.
Wests Tigers 18-12
73 min: Ray Thompson takes on the line and offloads to Williams but he drops the ball. Big missed opportunity, Williams was in some space.
75 min: FIELD GOAL
Robbie Farah kicks a field goal, it was a wobbly kick but it's done the job.
Wests Tigers 19-12
77 min: TRY
Chris Lawrence finds some space down the short side and dives over in the corner to extend the winning margin. Marshall misses from the corner.
Wests Tigers 23-12
80 min: Video referee - possible Cowboys try..
80 min: TRY
Anthony Watts gets low and pushes his way over from dummy half. Williams misses the conversion.
Wests Tigers 23-16
80 min: Fulltime: The Wests Tigers come away with a deserved 23-16 win on the road. However, the big talking points from the match will be the severity of the injuries to Cowboys' stars Johnathan Thurston and Aaron Payne as well as what looked like a season ending knee problem for Tigers halfback Tim Moltzen.