Wests Tigers have ended a run of three straight defeats with a convincing 20-12 win over North Queensland tonight in front of a strong Leichhardt Oval crowd.
Despite wasting a host of quality opportunities in the first half that threatened to blow the game wide open, Wests Tigers showed the discipline and control late in the match that had been missing in the last few weeks to close the game out well and emerge with the two competition points in hand.
With the Cowboys threatening to post first points, it was Luke Brooks who got Leichhardt Oval in its feet with an intercept on his own 10m — showing tremendous speed to race away and score in the corner.
The hosts would make it two tries in the space of eight minutes with an incredible team effort from the left edge, Brooks heavily involved again as Mahe Fonua and Corey Thompson showed great handling to put late inclusion Malakai Watene-Zelezniak over in the corner.
Esan Marsters was unable to land either conversion, however, leaving the score at 8-0.
Full of momentum and with the home crowd cheering them on, Wests Tigers would see another two great scoring opportunities fall to the wayside with an inside pass from Watene-Zelezniak narrowly missing Fonua before Chris Lawrence's last touch to the winger was also ruled forward.
Those missed chances would leave the match still tentatively sitting at 8-0, and that would come back to hurt the home side as North Queensland posted a late try in the half through Te Maire Martin.
The Cowboys would be dealt a tough blow to start the second half when enforcer Shaun Fensom was assisted off in the opening set with what looked like a serious shoulder injury.
It wouldn't take long for Wests Tigers to continue their attacking barrage of the Cowboys' defensive line, with a set move from the scrum seeing David Nofoaluma over for his first try of 2018.
Marsters was again unsuccessful from the sideline, with his third missed conversion of the night.
Just as they had done in the first half, Wests Tigers would see a length-of-the-field try down the grandstand side of Leichhardt Oval after 52 minutes but this time it was the Cowboys who were the recipients — Antonio Winterstein latching on to a Benji Marshall kick to just beat the defenders and score.
Jonathan Thurston's curling effort from the sideline would level the match at 12-12, a remarkable scoreline given the home side's obvious dominance over the Cowboys for the opening half of the match.
Marsters would finally land two points when Ethan Lowe was penalised for a leg pull as the hosts moved in to an attacking position, with his penalty goal putting Ivan Cleary's side back in front.
As missed calls and fortuitous bounces continued to fall the Cowboys way, Wests Tigers would eventually restore their one-try lead as Marsters showed great strength to break through tacklers to score and crucially landed the conversion from out wide — extending the home side's lead to 20-12 with nine minutes to go.
Having struggled to close out games in the past few weeks, it was a far more controlled end to the match from the home side, who managed the clock well to emerge with the two competition points in hand.
Wests Tigers will look to make it back-to-back wins when they take on Penrith at Panthers Stadium.
Wests Tigers 20 (Brooks, Watene-Zelezniak, Nofoaluma, Marsters tries; Marsters 2/5 goals) def. North Queensland Cowboys 12 (Martin, Winterstein tries; Thurston 2/2 goals)