Wests Tigers have produced a stunning upset to down the North Queensland Cowboys 26-16 tonight in Townsville in front of a 15,424 strong crowd.
A blistering attacking spell in the opening 15 minutes paved the way for Wests Tigers to lead the Cowboys 20-6 at half-time, before holding firm in the second half under immense pressure to come away with a shock 10-point victory over the home side.
After a rare error from Jonathan Thurston to open the match gifted Wests Tigers a seven-tackle set, it was Ava Seumanufagai who was the right man on the spot to collect his second try of the year just three minutes in, following an error from Kyle Feldt.
Mitchell Moses converted from close to the posts to give the visitors an early 6-0 lead.
A darting run from Matt McIlwrick looked destined to extend the advantage shortly after when he linked up with James Tedesco, but the fullback was caught from behind.
Wests Tigers quickly extended their lead through Elijah Taylor, who backed up on the inside to collect a pass from David Nofoaluma following a cut-out pass from Moses.
The five-eighth was unable to convert from out wide, leaving it at 10-0 after 10 minutes.
An incredible start to the match continued shortly after when Moses and Taylor combined to break the Cowboys open up the middle, before a shift to the right saw Jamal Idris put Nofoaluma over in the corner — extending the visitors’ lead to 14-0.
Moses was unable again unable to land the tough sideline conversion.
A determined run from Jason Taumalolo finally put the home side on the board after 25 minutes — barging his way through several defenders close to the line to plant it down.
Thurston’s conversion from close to the posts cut Wests Tigers lead to 14-6.
Off the back of another kick running dead from Thurston, Wests Tigers would restore their 14-point lead through hooker Matt McIlwrick who took advantage of some tired defenders around the ruck to sneak his way over for his first try in Wests Tigers colours.
Moses added the extras from close range to give the visitors a 20-6 half-time lead.
Needing to be first to score in the second half, it was a better kick from Thurston this time that pulled the Cowboys back into the contest, with his well-weighted grubber finding the in-goal and allowing Coen Hess to win the race to the ball.
Thurston’s conversion from in front cut Wests Tigers lead to 20-12 after 45 minutes.
As Wests Tigers struggled to work it from their end, the Cowboys continued to launch attacking set after attacking set on the visitors line — looking for a chink in the armour.
After more than 20 minutes of sustained pressure, however, Wests Tigers refused to concede and had an opportunity to potentially seal the win, but Michael Chee Kam was unable to ground the pass from Moses over the line — giving the hosts a reprieve.
And after a myriad of errors from the visitors, North Queensland eventually crossed out wide through Hess — cutting the lead to 20-16 following Thurston’s missed conversion.
With just over five minutes remaining, the Cowboys were full of running and with full backing from the home crowd, but a desperate play from young gun Jacob Liddle allowed the hooker to cross the line and seal a 26-16 win for the visitors.
Wests Tigers 26 (Seumanufagai, Taylor, Nofoaluma, McIlwrick, Liddle tries; Moses 3/5 goals) def. North Queensland Cowboys 16 (Hess 2, Taumalolo tries; Thurston 2/3 goals)
Crowd: 15,424 at 1300 SMILES Stadium, Townsville