Wests Tigers have been narrowly defeated by North Queensland 18-16 in tonight’s NRL trial match at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
The visitors trailed late in the match until Kane Linnett went over in the corner to level the scores three minutes out from full-time, as Johnathan Thurston’s sideline conversion sealed victory for the experienced Cowboys outfit.
For Wests Tigers, skipper Aaron Woods and James Tedesco impressed in their first hit-out the year, while a number of rookies caught the attention of the vocal Campbelltown crowd.
Missing regular halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks, Jack Littlejohn steered the side around the park and made numerous impressive last-tackle options.
David Nofoaluma crossed for two tries in the match, while on the other wing, 18-year-old Moses Suli made several strong carries and good defensive reads playing outside Jamal Idris.
Despite a strong start from Wests Tigers, it was North Queensland who posted first points as Thurston showed his class with a perfect grubber for his halves partner Michael Morgan who scooped it up to score near the posts.
Thurston added the conversion as the Cowboys went out to a 6-0 lead after 18 minutes.
Wests Tigers were quick to respond, with Littlejohn forcing a repeat set and then following it up with a great kick to Nofoaluma who did well to burrow his way through defenders and score.
Tedesco was handed the kicking tee with Jordan Rankin and Justin Hunt on the bench, nailing the conversion to lock the scores up at 6-all after 28 minutes.
With just five minutes remaining before the break, Josh Aloiai made a strong charge close to the line, with the prop doing extremely well to get his arm free and reach out to score.
Rankin took over the goal-kicking duties, slotting the relatively simple to conversion to give Wests Tigers a 12-6 lead after 36 minutes.
Ben Hampton managed to get his side back even right on the half time buzzer for the Cowboys, slicing through as Thurston added the extras to make it 12-all at the break.
While both sides made plenty of errors to open the second stanza, Wests Tigers would eventually claim first points of the half with Rankin – who was playing the halves at this point – placed a perfect grubber through for Nofoaluma who went over for his second of the night.
Rankin missed the conversion from the sideline, leaving it as a 16-12 advantage after 67 minutes.
With Tedesco, Nofoaluma, Idris and a host of other experienced players now off the field, the Cowboys ended up showing their class over a young Wests Tigers side, as Linnett took advantage of an overlap to score in the left corner.
Thurston had a tough ask with the conversion, however the veteran halfback nailed the sideline kick to seal victory for the Cowboys 18-16.
Wests Tigers will now turn focus to their Round 1 match in exactly two weeks time against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.
North Queensland 18 (Morgan, Hampton, Linnett tries; Thurtson 3/3 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 16 (Nofoaluma 2, Aloiai tries; Rankin 1/2, Tedesco 1/1 goals)
Wests Tigers NRL – Trial vs. Cowboys
1. James Tedesco
2. David Nofoaluma
3. Jamal Idris
4. Kevin Naiqama
27. Moses Suli
12. Chris Lawrence
6. Jack Littlejohn
8. Aaron Woods (c)
9. Matt McIlwrick
14. Tim Grant
11. Sauaso Sue
17. Michael Chee Kam
13. Elijah Taylor
5. Jordan Rankin
7. Justin Hunt
10. Ava Seumanufagai
15. Josh Aloiai
16. Joel Edwards
18. Bayley Sironen
19. Toa Mata’afa
20. Jeremy Marshall-King
21. Watson Heleta
22. Wesley Lolo
23. Esan Marsters
24. Junior Tatola
25. Connelly Leumelu