The Wests Tigers have held off a fast finishing Cowboys outfit, after five-eighth Benji Marshall kicked a field goal in Golden Point to secure a vital win in Townsville tonight.
The Tigers surrendered an early 20-0 lead to allow the home side to come roaring back into the match after an abysmal first half from the home side, which saw coach Paul Green read his side the riot act at halftime. To their credit, the Cowboys responded running in three successive tries after the break, with skipper Michael Morgan playing a star role.
With the game in the balance, Tigers backrower Michael Chee Kam was awarded a controversial penalty try, when he was collected high by Cowboys centre Jordan Kahu, which saw Chee Kam lose the ball over the line. The ruling proved decisive, with the conversion from in front by Esan Marsters giving the Tigers the lead with minutes remaining. The Cowboys then made a late charge for the line through Jason Taumololo who was brought down in a brilliant tackle by Josh Aloiai, however Tigers fullback Corey Thompson was then penalised for a flop, which allowed Jake Clifford to send the game into Golden Point at 26 all.
The Tigers had the ascendency in Golden Point and had two early field goal opportunities through Luke Brooks and Marshall denied by some desperate efforts from the Cowboys defensive line. However, it was third time lucky for Wests, with club legend Marshall securing a crucial victory with an unattractive field goal which scraped over to win the game.
It was a hugely disappointing performance for the Cowboys at home, with Paul Green's men putting in a diabolical first half surrendering an early 20 point lead. The loss could be further compounded with boom second rower Coen Hess leaving the field with a potentially serious knee injury.
The Tigers arrived in Townsville as the outsiders, but silenced the home crowd with a stunning two try lead within the first ten minutes of the match. Tigers backs Corey Thompson and Moses Mbye combined the put backrower Michael Chee Kam over for the opener. This was quickly built upon, when the Tigers marched upfield off the next set through Alex Twal who made two strong runs. Off the quick play the ball, halfback Luke Brooks then kicked high for his outside men. Cowboys winger Javid Bowen couldn't handle unfortunately for the home side, and NSW hopeful Ryan Matterson picked up the scraps to score a gift try in the corner. Esan Marsters converted from the sideline and it was 12-0.
Both sides then made several handling mistakes, with Mbye collecting a spilled ball off his opposite Enari Tuala after a strong tackle to race 65 metres, before being brought down by Michael Morgan. Benji Marsahll then ushered the ball out to the right hand side, where David Nofoaluma strolled over next to the posts to extend the Tigers lead. Marsters converted to make it 18-0.
North Queensland were shell shocked, however after Corey Thompson put down a poor offload from Marsters on his own line. Morgan then took full advantage of the error, grubbering for Kyle Feldt who scored under the posts to get the home side on the scoreboard.
The home side continued to make poor errors, which had coach Paul Green visibly seething in the coaches box. This was further compounded, when hooker Jake Granville gave away a penalty right in front of the posts for holding Marshall down in the tackle. Marsters added the penalty goal to make it 20-6 at halftime.
The Cowboys had strips torn off them inside the dressing sheds at the break and they responded quickly when skipper Morgan collected a stray John Asiata offload to score under the sticks. This was quickly followed by a try to winger Javid Bowen, when Tigers fullback Thompson spilt his second bomb of the night and the Tigers lead was cut to 20-18 in quick succession.
North Queensland then evened the scores when Tigers forward Josh Aloiai was penalised in front of the posts for not being square at marker. Cowboys kicker Jake Clifford obliged and North Queensland were back in action, with scores tied with 20 minutes remaining.
Queensland back Morgan then fired his side to the lead for the first time in the match when he again combined with Feldt to put the blockbusting winger over for his second try with a sublime cut out ball close to the line and give his side the advantage at 24-20 with 10 minutes to go.
A penalty try to Michael Chee Kam then tied the scores, which was followed by a heartbreaking field goal from Marshall to secure a courageous win for the Tigers away from home.
Both sides will enjoy the representative round off, before the Tigers face the Rabbitohs first up in Round 15 at Bankwest Stadium on Thursday night. The Cowboys will next travel to Wollongong, where they will face the Dragons on Friday night.