Thurston injured as Tigers stun Cowboys
The Tigers have beaten the Cowboys 26-16 at 1300SMILES Stadium, after a fast start gave them a lead that the Cowboys couldn't catch up to, despite a strong second half.
North Queensland's horror run of injuries has continued with star halfback Johnathan Thurston leaving the field with a leg injury late in the game.
The Cowboys had an unhappy start, with Thurston's kick rolling dead to give the Tigers a seven-tackle set to start their night.
The visitors made good use of the field position, and a bomb on the fifth tackle left Kyle Feldt empty handed, and Ava Seumanufagai collected the ball to score the first try just two minutes into the game.
The Tigers made it two a few minutes later, when they went wide to David Nofoaluma who delivered the pass back inside to Elijah Taylor to dive over and score.
Ivan Cleary's side continued to split the Cowboys up the middle, and after a raid was shut down 15 metres out from the Cowboys' line, they went right again and Nofoaluma dived over to notch up a try to go along with his assist.
The Cowboys earned their first opportunity to attack the Tigers' line when strong defence forced a kick from 40 metres out. Kalyn Ponga cleaned up and was rewarded with a penalty for a high tackle. The Tigers defused the kick from Michael Morgan, but were once again forced to kick from within their own half.
North Queensland continued to dominate field position, and earned a penalty after catching a high kick from the Tigers. They capitalised on their position through Jason Taumalolo who smashed through three defenders at close range to score the Cowboys' first try.
The Tigers were gifted another opportunity when the Cowboys were penalised for running a player off the ball as he tried to catch it. They worked the ball both ways and eventually hooker Matt McIlwrick did it himself, diving over from dummy-half.
Both teams had opportunities in the closing minutes of the first half, but neither could execute, leaving the half-time score at 20-6.
The Cowboys opened the second half almost as perfectly as they could have, as Thurston forced a repeat set after their first possession of the ball. The Australian representative followed it up with another kick, which Coen Hess dived on to score the first try in the second half.
The Tigers defended several sets on their own line, and the Cowboys looked like scoring on multiple occasions before Thurston's grubber was scooped up by Mitchell Moses. Despite a penalty in their favour they couldn't regain control of the field position, giving away an offensive penalty for obstruction.
The Tigers looked certain to score after a sharp ball movement, but Michael Chee Kam dropped the ball in the in-goal.
The Cowboys returned serve after a series of dropped balls in the middle of the field as Kalyn Ponga made a 70-metre break. The Tigers defended brilliantly, catching the Cowboys on fifth tackle, but dropped the ball on the following set. Hess took his opportunity, and in a fashion that he's quickly beginning to trademark powered through two defenders to score his second try of the night.
The home side looked to take the lead when a Thurston kick landed in Gideon Gela-Mosby's arms, but the winger fumbled, and lost the ball which went dead in-goal. The Cowboys' injury woes developed to a new high a short time later as Thursotn had to be helped from the field with a leg injury, and the Tigers scored through Jacob Liddle a short time later to seal the win.
Wests Tigers 26 (Ava Seumanufagai, Elijah Taylor, David Nofoaluma, Matt McIlwrick, Jacob Liddle tries; Mitchell Moses 3 goals) def. North Queensland Cowboys 16 (Coen Hess 2, Jason Taumalolo tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: 20-6. Crowd: 15,424.