Richard Maxton, NRL.com
Don’t you just love Sweet September? The heroes, the villains, the inspired victories and the gut-wrenching losses. The poetry of finals footy. Predictably unpredictable.
With Premiership glory knocking, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane to look at the most memorable finals moments the Wests Tigers have experienced since the formation of the NRL.
1. Tigers tear through Cowboys: 2005 Qualifying final - 50-6
The second half of the Tigers’ first ever finals appearance was a stunning example of attacking magic.
Benji Marshall and Brett Hodgson were brilliant in taking the Tigers to an early 14-0 lead, but it was a stoic display of defence which set the Tigers on the way to their emphatic victory.
In the final five minutes of the first half, the Tigers held their own line against four consecutive Cowboys sets.
Matt Sing eventually slipped through to score North Queensland’s one and only try but the Tigers went into the sheds fired-up and came out fearsome. They exploded back onto the field and the blinding pace of their attack completely overwhelmed the Cowboys defence.
Soon the Tigers were punching through the North Queensland line with alarming regularity and when the dust settled, Hodgson had broken his own club record for most points scored in a match with a personal haul of 30 while Wests had sent an emphatic warning to their finals competition.
2. Benji does it at both ends: 2005 semi-final v Broncos: 34-6
Benji Marshall had been the spearhead of the Tigers' attack all year, but it was his defensive heroism that will be remembered from Wests semi-final win over the Broncos.
A break from Brisbane utility Darren Smith looked certain to give the Broncos and early lead. But as Smith dived for the line, Marshall slid underneath him, with the skinny pivot somehow managing to twist the bigger man onto his back.
Frantically spinning to try and ground the ball, Smith lost his grip and the video ref denied Brisbane the try.
The Broncos never recovered from the eight-point turnaround and Wests went on to win 34-6 and continue their magical run.
3. Tigers tough it out over Dragons: 2005 preliminary final: 20-12
As the pressure mounted for the Tigers, so did the questions about their inexperience. But it was a mature and patient performance that saw them dismiss the Dragons 20-12.
Marshall opened the scoring in the third minute with a typically flashy play. But it was a tough, back to basics approach rather than flashy play which eventually saw Wests into the grand final.
Dene Halatau powered out of dummy half, throwing off four tacklers to score the Tigers’ second under the posts.
The lock then scored another try in the second half, finding himself on the end of a string of quick passes to slide over in the corner. This gave the Tigers an eight-point lead that they staunchly defended for the final 20 minutes.
4. Miracle try hands Tigers the title: 2005 grand final v Cowboys: 30-16
Despite their massive win over the Cowboys in the qualifying final, all the pressure was on the Tigers coming into their first grand final.
The exuberant Tigers were supposed to suffer from a lack of finals experience.
But the young Benji Marshall looked like a seasoned veteran when he skipped through the tackles of Johnathan Thurston and Matt Sing and streaked down the sideline.
A signature flick pass found Pat Richards slicing in off the left edge and the thundering winger deftly transferred the ball to his outside hand and threw off the chasing Rod Jensen with a massive fend.
The dramatic 90 metre try gave the Tigers the lead, which they held until the final whistle, when Todd Payten crossed to cap off their incredible premiership campaign.
5. Courageous Tigers topple Raiders in Canberra: 2010 semi-final: 22-24
After losing to the Roosters in a fatiguing golden point encounter the previous week, the Tigers needed to overcome the Raiders in front of a rabid crowd in Canberra to keep their season alive.
With their stars all in doubt with injury, it looked like an impossible task for the Tigers. But despite a short turnaround, they managed to field a full strength contingent on the Friday night.
Marshall showed no signs of the knee injury which had him in question, bamboozling the Raiders defence before a fantastic flick pass sent Chris Heighington over to open the scoring.
Blake Ayshford was released from club quarantine after suffering a bout of glandular fever, while Chris Lawrence made a miraculous return just three weeks after breaking his jaw.
Lawrence looked tentative and Canberra’s Bronson Harrison twice slipped easily through some uncharacteristic grabs. But Lawrence redeemed himself in the second half with a try off a magic touch from Benji Marshall to give the Tigers a 12-point lead.
The huge Canberra crowd spurred the Raiders on to a 10-point comeback back before a high shot from Simon Dwyer gave Jarrod Croker a chance to send it into overtime. But he sprayed his kick and the Tigers were spared another marathon.
6. Soward sinks Tigers’ hopes: 2010 preliminary final v Dragons: 13-12
After scoring twice in the first half, the Tigers couldn’t find a way through the Dragons’ defence in the second. Following on from his masterful performance the previous week, Marshall was looking crafty again, creating plenty of chances.
However he didn’t enjoy the support he received against the Raiders and several times he found himself on his own, watching his good work go to waste.
A try from Jason Nightingale locked things up 10 minutes into the second stanza and the next quarter saw both sides desperately try to break the deadlock.
A field goal attempt from Benji fell well short and the Tigers turned their attention to the tryline instead.
While Marshall failed, Dragons’ five eighth Jamie Soward was more composed and in the 74th minute he stepped back into the pocket and slotted a composed field goal to end the Tigers’ season and etch a heartbreaking moment into the club’s memory.