Some Benji Marshall brilliance helped end a three-game losing streak for the Tigers as they took the first steps in their impressive charge to last year’s semi-finals.
Ironically, the Tigers had produced their most insipid performance of the year just a week earlier in going down 22-6 to struggling Parramatta but they turned on the flair at Dairy Farmers Stadium with a dominant second-half display securing a 38-18 victory.
The two key passages of play came shortly after the half-time break with the visitors leading by just two points following an intercept try to North Queensland centre Willie Tonga. First, Marshall left two defenders stranded as he stepped his way across to score in the 47th-minute for an 18-10 lead. Then Marshall threw a no-look inside ball for Moltzen to race 60 metres and score beside the sticks.
Matt Bowen gave the home fans some hope of a comeback with 20 minutes remaining when he produced a stunning chip-and-chase effort for Tonga to score his second, but the Tigers finished strongest with Blake Ayshford scoring from the scraps of a Marshall clearing kick and Liam Fulton icing the cake with a well-timed run.
Earlier the Tigers had shot out to a 12-0 lead through tries to Gareth Ellis and Ayshford before North Queensland gave them a fright thanks to Cory Paterson and Tonga.
The Tigers’ win proved to be the first in a run of nine consecutive victories on their way to the grand final qualifier.
The Cowboys completed just 19 of 28 sets (68 per cent) and made 72 tackles more than the visitors, although it was impossible to fault the performance of Bowen who ran for 148 metres, made seven tackle-breaks and produced two try assists.
It was very much a team effort from Wests Tigers, with Keith Galloway running for 135 metres and Robbie Farah adding two try assists and 34 tackles.