It was a dominant team performance from Wests Tigers that gave the visitors a surprise upset win over the Cowboys in their first game under Head Coach Ivan Cleary.
Off the back of a blistering quarter of an hour that saw Wests Tigers run in three unanswered tries, Cleary's side showed tremendous resolve in defence throughout the second half to keep the home side at bay, before eventually crossing late in the piece to ensure an 10-point victory.
We break down all the key numbers and stats to come out of the 26-16 win!
LAWRENCE’S BIG NIGHT
As noted pre-game, Chris Lawrence’s tendency to perform in his milestone matches has not gone unnoticed, and the vice-captain again delivered when his side needed it most on Saturday night. In an engrossing battle with Ethan Lowe and Coen Hess on the edge, Lawrence recorded an impressive 33 tackles and no errors in the win — his highest tackles total of the season and biggest single game number since Round 8 last year. The 28-year-old has now won the 1st, 50th, 100th and 200th NRL games in his career.
TACKLE-BUSTING DUO SHINE AGAIN
Their try-scoring numbers might be down on last year, but both David Nofoaluma and James Tedesco continue to be handfuls when carrying the ball. Coming into the match sitting first and second respectively for tackle busts, the pair combined for 13 busts again on Saturday night, as well as four offloads with no errors. Continuing his rich run of form over the last 12 months, Nofoaluma also added to his try tally for season 2017, while registering just the third try-assist of his career in the 10-point victory as well.
BACK FIVE THRIVE
Against a Cowboys backline that typically dominates with yardage coming off their line, it was Wests Tigers back-five who looked most dominant on Saturday night, with all five players running for more than 100 metres. And given Kevin Naiqama went off with a head knock and still made the total (plus his replacement Michael Chee Kam also cracked the ton), it’s certainly an impressive effort from the underrated back-line. As they have done all season, Nofoaluma (164m) and Tedesco (161m) led the way, closely followed by Naiqama (123m), Jamal Idris (118m) and Moses Suli (109m). Their total wasn’t the highest from Wests Tigers on the night, however, with captain Aaron Woods leading from the front with a team-high 171 metres from his 20 carries.
NO.9’S LOOKING FINE
Voted as the team’s Player’s Player from Round 6, hooker Matt McIlwrick produced his best performance in Wests Tigers colours — carving the Cowboys open in a dynamic opening spell that included a try as well as two linebreak that led to tries the following play. The former Shark also led the forwards with a 96% effective tackle rate. Not to be outdone, young gun Jacob Liddle also got in on the action in the second half, overcoming a slow start to emerge with 18 tackles and a try from his 28 minutes on the field.
BIG MEN SCORING TRIES
In somewhat of a rarity for Wests Tigers, out of the five tries scored on the night, four of them were scored by forwards with Ava Seumanufagai and Elijah Taylor both crossing for their second tries of the season, as well as the efforts from Liddle and McIlwrick. Nofoaluma’s four-pointer was the only try scored by a back for the game, incredibly, with all Cowboys tries also scored by forwards in Coen Hess and Jason Taumalolo.
SECOND HALF DETERMINATION
After completing 15/17 sets in the first half and leading 20-6 at the break, nine second half errors and a 9-2 penalty count saw Wests Tigers faced with the massive task of holding on against a fresh Cowboys side. With just 42 percent possession and 15 territory for the second half, it was an inspired defensive effort that allowed Ivan Cleary’s men to hold on to their lead, before sealing the match with Liddle’s solo try.
On a night where Cleary’s personal record as a Coach against the Cowboys was broken (winning the first game of his career a Coach in Townsville), Wests Tigers also continued a strong recent record against North Queensland on a number of levels. Nofoaluma and Woods both made it wins in four of their last five games against the Cowboys, while Jonathan Thurston’s record against Wests Tigers slipped to 7-15 — incredibly, his worst head-to-head record against any team in the NRL. It was also just Wests Tigers’ fifth win in Townsville since the joint-venture’s inception back in 2000.