Tigers return to winning ways at expense of fumbling Cowboys
Wests Tigers extended an 18-year hoodoo by beating North Queensland 20-12 at Leichhardt Oval on Thursday night.
Despite being faced with a five-day turnaround, Ivan Cleary's men showed no signs of fatigue with Benji Marshall capping a stellar return to the venue.
The Cowboys had not won at Leichhardt since 2000 and never looked in the game despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise.
North Queensland had all the running early but the Tigers went in for two tries in five minutes to race to an 8-0 lead – with Esan Marsters' off night with the boot keeping the Cowboys in the contest.
Luke Brooks turned defence into points in the 18th minute when he collected a Michael Morgan cross-field kick to race 90 metres against the run of play.
The Tigers went over again down the left edge with Mahe Fonua – who shifted into the centres for the clash – busting through the line and linking with Corey Thompson, who drew in three defenders before sending Malakai Watene-Zelezniak over.
The havoc looked to continue for Ben Hampton and Kyle Feldt who continued to be tested, but the Tigers fell short of their third four-pointer in quick succession when Watene-Zelezniak spun his way over the line on the back of a forward pass.
Match: Wests Tigers vs Cowboys
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
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North Queensland hit back four minutes before the break with a Johnathan Thurston kick from short range collected by Shaun Fensom and kept alive for Te Maire Martin to barge his way under the posts.
The Cowboys then lost Fensom to a elbow injury early in the second half as the Tigers took advantage of an uncharacteristic Thurston error to go over for their third try of the night.
Marsters showed fancy footwork to fool Justin O'Neill before delivering a flick pass for David Nofoaluma in the corner.
Another missed conversion from Marsters kept the scoreline within reach at 12-6 and North Queensland levelled within minutes with a poor Benji Marshall kick ricocheting into the hands of Antonio Winterstein who found the stripe.
Thurston had no issues slotting a conversion from the sideline, but the Tigers regained the lead on the hour mark with a penalty goal from in front.
Such was the see-sawing affair, North Queensland regained possession from the restart and went within millimetres of a four-pointer with Winterstein planting the ball on the dead ball line.
From there, the Wests Tigers eventually delivered the killer blow with Marsters finishing off some enterprising play with a strong solo effort to extend the lead to eight.
Another error from O'Neill – his third of the night – denied any chance of a late Cowboys revival.
Cowboys prop Scott Bolton played despite an indecent assault charge laid against him earlier in the week.
News & Notes ...The Tigers have won their past seven games against the Cowboys at Leichhardt Oval ... Eight Tigers players ran for more than 100 metres, led by Mahe Fonua who racked up 230m from 22 runs .... The Cowboys, pre-season favourites, are now 3-7 in the Telstra Premiership ... Cowboys halves Michael Morgan and Johnathan Thurston each missed five tackles ... Next Friday the Tigers travel to Panthers Stadium to tackle Penrith, while the Cowboys are at home versus South Sydney on Saturday night.