Wests Tigers have suffered a 34-30 loss to the North Queensland Cowboys in their Round 5 clash at Leichhardt Oval.
The home side rallied late — scoring five tries in the second half, including three tries in the space of six minutes — to give the Leichhardt faithful a glimmer of hope, but a 22-point half-time deficit was too great to come back from.
It wasn’t the result Wests Tigers were looking for as the club honoured the great late Tommy Raudonikis on a special afternoon at Leichhardt Oval.
The number seven jersey — which Raudonikis famously wore throughout his illustrious career — was retired for the clash, while the sell-out crowd stood for a minute’s silence before the match and gave a round of applause at the seventh minute.
Raudonikis would have been proud of Wests Tigers’ effort in the second half, however the Cowboys scored six tries to claim their first win of the season.
North Queensland hit the front after just two minutes when winger Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow produced a piece of individual brilliance down the left edge. The speedster outsprinted his opposing winger before grubbering the ball forward to regather and score.
The home side responded immediately when Daine Laurie bagged his second NRL try when he collected the scraps following a delicate Luke Brooks cross-field kick after 10 minutes.
Ball pops out the back of a kick contest for Laurie
The four-pointer, however, came at a cost with returning centre Joey Leilua failing a HIA after he was accidently struck in the head during the contest for the Laurie try.
The Cowboys regained their four-point advantage when Murray Taulagi crossed in the 16th minute and Valentine Holmes added the extras.
North Queensland halfback Scott Drinkwater pulled off a classy try when he chased down his own grubber to score.
Cowboys forward Ben Condon added another four points before Taulagi has a first-half double to give the away side a 28-6 lead at the break.
Wests Tigers were first to score after the break when five-eighth Adam Doueihi sent a stunning left-to-right cut-out ball to David Nofoaluma, who scored in the corner to reduce the deficit to 18 points with 28 minutes remaining.
The home side gained the ascendency and were coming home strongly when Luciano Leilua pounced on a Brooks grubber before Luke Garner stormed onto the ball to score — setting up a grandstand finish.
Wests Tigers thought they had reduced the margin to less than a try when Nofoaluma crossed, but the Bunker deemed James Roberts had obstructed a Cowboys defender.
Here come the Wests Tigers
The Queensland outfit took advantage of the decision when Lachlan Burr scored his first try for the club.
Tommy Talau and Joe Ofahengaue scored late for Wests Tigers to set up a thrilling finish, but the Cowboys held on.
Wests Tigers will now turn their attention to next Saturday’s Round 6 clash against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Stadium Australia.
North Queensland Cowboys 34 (Taulagi 2, Tabuai-Fidow, Drinkwater, Condon, Burr tries; Holmes 5/6 goals) def. Wests Tigers 30 (Laurie, L Leilua, Garner, Nofoaluma, Talau, Ofahengaue tries; Doueihi 3/6 goals)
Match: Wests Tigers v Cowboys
Round 5 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney