The NRL's most improved team, the North Queensland Cowboys have rounded out the NRL Magic Round in convincing fashion, downing a depleted Wests Tigers side 36-12.
Wests came into this game with a swag of late changes in the backs and would suffer further injuries throughout the game. The most notable was suffered by 5/8 Luke Brooks who left at half-time with a hamstring injury.
It was the Cowboys who got on the board first inside the opening ten minutes with the try of Magic Round, when Murray Taulagi looked for certain to go into touch, before flicking it back inside to Scott Drinkwater who crossed for the opening try of the game and an early lead. Six minutes later, the Tigers hit back when Junior Tupou flew through the air to take the bomb and score his first NRL try in his maiden top-flight appearance and give the Tigers a shock two-point advantage.
The Tigers compounded their try by making an unforgivable mistake off the kickoff when Starford To'a failed to place his foot on the sideline in trying to take the kickoff out on the full. The Tigers would rue this error when Taulagi grabbed a try of his own before the 20-minute mark when he finished off a well-worked set play. The injury hits began for the Tigers when Jake Simpkin failed his HIA following an awkward tackle attempt. Off a dubious hip drop penalty, the Tigers hit back when Hastings and Brooks combined to send Luke Garner away untouched in the corner and with Hastings' conversion, Wests led by four.
The Cowboys hit the Tigers with a cruel double blow before half-time, the carnage began when a Chad Townsend bomb was dropped by Zane Musgrove under the pressure from Coen Hess. Chad Townsend threw a lovely cut out ball to Kyle Feldt to cross and with Holmes' conversion, the visitors led by two. Off the ensuing set, Reuben Cotter accepted a lovely offload in the middle third and he sprinted the best part of 60 meters untouched to put the Cowboys ahead by 20-12 at half-time.
The Tigers were hit with another blow when Brooks failed to return for the second 40 with a hamstring injury, compounded with a shoulder injury to Musgrove, the Tigers played the second 40 with just one fresh reserve. Taulagi was denied an early double when he placed his foot on the line when going for the corner, but he made amends when he crossed in the 47th minute to extend the margin to 14. Ten minutes later, Peta Hiku crossed after a lovely ball from Dearden saw Hiku outmuscle several Tigers defenders. A late special from Jeremiah Nanai saw him snatch a bomb out of the air to seal a convincing Cowboys victory 36-12.
Wests next week take on the Bulldogs as they return to Leichhardt Oval for the first time this season. While North Queensland take on the Storm in a Super Saturday blockbuster.