Wests Tigers’ Holden Cup side have been eliminated by the North Queensland Cowboys today, going down 32-16 in today’s semi-final at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Just five days after thumping Parramatta 54-24 in Sydney, Wests Tigers were given the tough task of travelling to Townsville to face the Cowboys in sweltering conditions.
Losing strike-centre Tony Tali to Intrust Super Premiership duties added to woes of the already depleted Wests Tigers side, however the side fought hard with impressive performances from Jacob Liddle and Veiru Mapesone.
Wests Tigers got off to a shaky start with two early errors leading to an early try to North Queensland centre Enari Tuala who went over from a backline shift to the right edge.
The conversion was waved away but the Cowboys went out to a 4-0 lead after just six minutes of play.
The nightmare start continued when the ensuing kick-off went out on the full, heaping the pressure back on Willie Peters’ side early in sweltering conditions.
From back-to-back sets, the Cowboys went over again, with Tuala barging his way over for his second of the day to give his side an 8-0 lead after just 14 minutes as the conversion was waved away.
The tide soon turned for Wests Tigers with a much-need penalty getting them out of their own half, with winger Obed Karwhin going over soon after on the back of a great wrap-around set piece started by Veiru Mapesone on the left edge.
Opposite side winger Roman Ioelu missed the conversion from near the sideline, resulting in the Cowboys holding an 8-4 lead after 18 minutes.
On the back of a great long kick from Mapesone, North Queensland were trapped in-goal which set up a great attacking opportunity for Wests Tigers.
From the very next set, prop forward Jakob Giles managed to take advantage of a second-man play that opened up the Cowboys defence, barging his way over next to the goalposts.
The easy conversion from Ioelu put Wests Tigers ahead 10-8 after 26 minutes in a remarkable turnaround from the opening stages of the match.
A fifth error inside Wests Tigers’ own 30-metre zone put the Cowboys back on the attack, with Tahanui Tutavake wrestling out of a tackle to score from close-range.
Cooper Bambling landed his first conversion of the day for North Queensland, putting the Cowboys ahead 14-10 after 30 minutes.
Yet another mistake put the Cowboys back on the attack, with Wests Tigers returning to how they started the match to allow the opposition back into the game.
Tuala went in for a first half hat-trick, taking a tough carry close to the line to slice through the Wests Tigers defence once more.
The conversion from Bambling put North Queensland ahead 20-10 five minutes out from the break, with the score remaining unchanged as both sides went into sheds.
Wests Tigers got off to a flying start in the second stanza, with the Cowboys giving away a number of penalties on the back of a Jacob Liddle line-break, with halfback Daniel Roberts showing his class to step off his left foot and score.
Ioelu converted the try as the Cowboys lead was cut-down to 20-16 after 48 minutes.
Unfortunately from the next set, Roberts went down clutching his knee in a tackle and was taken from the field with what looked to be a serious injury.
On the back of another huge line-break from Liddle, Karwhin went himself in the 55th minute blindside from dummy-half, with referees ruling him to have gone into touch before grounding the ball.
The towering winger was adamant he had scored, with skipper Jack Wheelhouse opting to use the Captain’s Challenge option, which showed Karwhin had gone into touch simultaneously with grounding the ball.
North Queensland were awarded a controversial try to right winger Gideon Gela-Mosby in the 66th minute, who clearly had his foot on the touchline and followed it up by grounding the ball on the touchline.
With an unsuccessful Captain’s Challenge already used by Wests Tigers earlier in the half, the crucial decision was upheld as Bambling ran salt into the wound with a sideline conversion to make it 26-16 with 12 minutes remaining.
Wests Tigers went back on the attack soon after on the back of a Luke Sharpe break, however the ball went back to Daniel Peck who flicked a desperation pass out the back which landed in the hands of Cowboys’ forward Ross Bella who ran 70 metres to score.
The conversion from Bambling sealed the match for North Queensland, taking their lead out to 32-16 with seven minutes remaining on the clock.
In the dying stages of the match, Mapesone did well to run down Cowboys winger Marcus Jensen, however was sin-binned for a professional foul.
The final scoreline remained 32-16, with North Queensland going through to the next round of the finals and will face Penrith next Friday at Allianz Stadium.
North Queensland 32 (Tuala 3, Tutavake, Gela-Mosby, Bella tries; Bambling 4/7 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 16 (Karwhin, Giles, Roberts tries; Ioelu 2/3 goals)