Wests Tigers have fallen agonisingly short of an upset victory in James Tamou’s 300th match, losing 27-26 to the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.
Match Highlights: Round 19 vs Cowboys
The visitors led for much of the match and rallied from a late deficit to lead with less than a minute on the clock, only to have the win stolen by a dubious decision after the siren.
Match: Cowboys v Wests Tigers
Round 19 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
The Cowboys jumped out to a fast start as Reece Robson made a break in their first set and passed to Tom Dearden for the opening try of the afternoon.
North Queensland almost doubled their advantage minutes later, but Daine Laurie saved the day with a one-on-one tackle on Jamayne Taunoa-Brown.
On the back of that defence, the visitors marched downfield and stripped the Cowboys of numbers on their right edge.
Luke Brooks found an unmarked Brent Naden, who crossed for his first try in Wests Tigers colours.
After a period of sustained pressure, the home side’s defence cracked again as Fa’amanu Brown burrowed over from dummy-half to score his fourth try in seven appearances this season.
Both sides then entered a period of grinding football, which was only broken by an electric 60-metre kick return from Daine Laurie.
Wests Tigers couldn’t convert that run into points, but the Cowboys couldn’t hold the visitors out for long.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, Luke Brooks sent Asu Kepaoa on a tip-toeing run to the line and the winger acrobatically finished the play to give his side a ten point lead.
Adam Doueihi claimed the first points of the second half, courtesy of a penalty goal.
However, the Cowboys soon launched an attacking onslaught and quickly found their second try of the afternoon through Valentine Holmes.
They then levelled the game through Jeremiah Nanai before referee Chris Butler sent Ken Maumalo to the sin bin for a high tackle.
Wests Tigers bravely held out the hosts while they were reduced to twelve men, but Nanai scored an intercept try shortly after Maumalo returned to the field.
That try gave the Cowboys a six-point lead, which they quickly extended to seven through a Valentine Holmes field goal.
With less than five minutes remaining, Daine Laurie kept his side alive by throwing a terrific cutout pass for Brent Naden to score his second of the afternoon.
Adam Doueihi then sent Wests Tigers fans into raptures with a tremendous offload to Daine Laurie, who sent Starford To’a away to the line seconds remaining in the game.
Doueihi’s conversion attempt struck the upright, giving the Cowboys one final play to steal victory.
Daine Laurie appeared to have defused the short kick-off, but Chad Townsend challenged the play believing that Kyle Feldt had been escorted off the ball.
In a mystifying decision from the Bunker, Townsend’s suspicions were confirmed and Valentine Holmes was given the chance to win the match with a penalty goal after the siren.
Despite the result, Daine Laurie and Luke Brooks had standout performances for the visitors.
Laurie finished with a team-high 168 running metres, two line breaks and two try assists, while Brooks had one line break and two try assists of his own.
Wests Tigers will now turn their attention to the second leg of their Queensland road trip as the club faces the Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night.