Tigers confirm status as
premiership contenders with win over Cowboys

Fulltime score: Round 23 Wests Tigers 28 v North Queensland Cowboys 16

Match summary: The Wests Tigers have sent out an ominous warning to rival contenders for this year?s NRL title with a 28-16 win at Campbelltown Stadium today.

After a slow start from both sides, John Skandalis put first points on the board for the Tigers after a bizarre passage of play. The Tigers were originally on the attack, but then the Cowboys took an intercept and looked like going 90 metres to score the first try. They then threw a pass that went to ground and Tigers fullback Brett Hodgson gathered the ball and ran 40 metres down field to set up the play for Skandalis to score under the posts after 17 minutes of play, and the Tigers took a 6-0 lead.

The Tigers repeated the dose with a try to backrower Dean Collis just 3 minutes later, after an exhilarating line break from halfback Scott Prince, and led by 12 points to nil after a quarter of the game.

Brilliance from the Cowboys was rare this afternoon, but they managed to score a well-constructed try just 5 minutes from halftime with fullback Matt Bowen running through some poor Tigers defence on this occasion, and going 50 metres to give the Cowboys their first points of the afternoon and the gap was narrowed to 8.

But all their good work was brought undone with some luck going the Tigers way off the kickoff, with the ball hitting the posts and bouncing back into the field of play, the ball was gathered by prop Todd Payten which in turn resulted in a try to Dene Halatau, and the Tigers took an 18-4 lead into halftime.

Tigers pivot Benji Marshall then shut the Cowboys out of the contest just 5 minutes after halftime, with some brilliant footwork to put Brett Hodgson under the posts and give his side an unassailable 24-4 lead.

They then rubbed salt into the Cowboys wounds with a try 10 minutes later to halfback Prince, after another exciting piece of play from Hodgson, and the Tigers led 28-4.

The Cowboys were able to come up with late tries to both Mitchell Sargent and Ty Williams but they were nothing more than a consolation and the Tigers ran out winners by 28 points to 16.

The Tigers proved that they will be the wildcard in this year?s finals series and are more than capable of winning the premiership in 2005. As for the Cowboys, they will need to go back to the drawing board after losses to both the Dragons and Tigers, but at least they now know where they stand after running into 2 in-form sides in consecutive weeks.

Tigers v Cowboys match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game

Scorers: WESTS TIGERS Tries: Skandalis, Collis, Halatau, Hodgson, Prince Goals: Hodgson 4 NTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS Tries: M Bowen, Sargent, Williams Goals: Thurston 2

Venue: Campbelltown Stadium Referee: Steve Clark Half time: Tigers 18-4

Live commentary:

Campbelltown Stadium hosts the entertainers of the NRL today, with the Wests Tigers playing host to the North Queensland Cowboys.

Changes: Tigers: Dean Collis moves into the centres for Dene Halatau who moves back to the bench, while Liam Fulton comes into the starting side for Mark O'Neill who also moves onto the bench.

Cowboys: in: Brenton Bowen, Justin Smith out: Rod Jensen, Josh Hannay

0 min: KICKOFF!, match underway at Campbelltown Stadium

4 min: NEWS-No score as yet with a slow start by both teams.

7 min: NEWS-Both sides struggling to come up with any flow or structure to their play at this stage, the two teams are struggling with ball control.

10 min: NEWS-Prince takes a look at the Cowboys' defensive line and makes the mistake with his side in an attacking position, still no score.

15 min: NEWS-The pattern of incompleted sets of six continues with Thurston throwing a forward pass in an attacking position.

17 min: TRY-Tigers Both sides have finally lived up to their 'entertainers' tag in this game. The Tigers were originally on the attack but a pass from Prince was intercepted, the Cowboys looked like scoring down the other end but they coughed the ball up, resulting in a counter-attack by Hodgson, which led to a try by John Skandalis under the posts. Conversion successful from Brett Hodgson. Tigers 6-0

20 min: TRY-Tigers Dean Collis crosses out wide after a break from Halfback Scott Prince. Conversion successful from Brett Hodgson. Tigers 12-0

26 min: NEWS-The Cowboys are really struggling to hold onto the ball, mistake made by Firman 40 metres out from the Tigers' line.

28 min: NEWS-Great tackle by Fitzhenry on Firman to save a certain try after Thurston went straight through a gap in the Tigers' defence, Firman lost the ball in the tackle with another opportunity wasted by the Cowboys.

32 min: NEWS-Another try-saving effort from the Tigers, this time from Hodgson. Thurston put a grubber through and looked certain to score but Hodgson got back to save the day for the Tigers.

34 min: TRY-Cowboys Matt Bowen runs 50 metres to score under the posts, poor defence from the Tigers. Conversion unsuccessful from Johnathon Thurston. Tigers 12-4

36 min: TRY-Tigers Stroke of luck for the Tigers with the ball hitting the post off the kickoff, and Todd Payten was able to regather the ball, resulting in the try to Dene Halatau. Conversion successful from Brett Hodgson. Tigers 18-4

HALF TIME-The Tigers have completely outplayed the Cowboys in the first half. They are playing the game at a much quicker pace and the Cowboys are struggling to keep up. The Cowboys will need to complete more sets of six if they are to have any hope of coming back in the second half. The Tigers lead 18-4 at the break.

Second half underway at Campbelltown Stadium

45 min: TRY-Tigers Try scored by Brett Hodgson under the posts after some magic footwork from Benji Marshall. Conversion successful from Hodgson. Tigers 24-4

53 min: NEWS-Tigers line holding well as the Cowboys again come up with an error as a result of great pressure from the defence.

55 min: TRY-Tigers Scott Prince scores out wide on the back of a great break from Brett Hodgson. Conversion unsuccessful from Hodgson. Tigers 28-4

63 min: NEWS-The Tigers have totally outplayed the Cowboys this afternoon and they look as though they are the real deal in 2005.

67 min: TRY-Cowboys Mitchell Sargent takes advantage of some Aaron Payne brilliance out of dummy half and scores under the posts. Conversion successful from Johnathon Thurston. Tigers 28-10

71 min: NEWS-Brenton Bowen is down after a sickening head collision with Dean Collis.

75 min: NEWS-He has sustained severe concussion from the head knock. Still 28-10 in favour of the Tigers.

78 min: TRY-Cowboys Consolation try to Ty Williams for the Cowboys. Conversion successful from Johnathon Thurston. Tigers 28-16

FULL TIME: The Tigers have confirmed their status as a premiership contender in 2005 with a magical 28-16 win over the Cowboys. The scoreline flatters the Cowboys as they were never really in this game and the majority of their points were scored with the match already decided. ----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - B Hodgson (Tigers) 2 - S Prince (Tigers) 1 - J Skandalis (Tigers) -----------------------------------------