Two sides from the wrong end of the NRL ladder met at the Leichhardt Oval in Sydney as thirteenth placed West Tigers took on a North Queensland Cowboys side who are languishing one place above bottom spot and who are winless in the competition so far.
Both coaches knew that another loss would be another nail in their 2021 season and with Wests having won the previous two encounters between the sides they were favourites with the bookies to pick up their second win of the season. A big points win would have lifted them towards the middle of the table and pushed the Cowboys to the bottom of the pile, but a Cowboys win by twenty-two or more would lift them above the Tigers.
The game got underway with a sensational opening try from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow on three minutes as he broke from his own thirty, chipped over the approaching tackler before collecting and doing enough to evade the tackle and roll over the line. Valentine Holmes was unable to add the conversion from wide, but it was the perfect opening for North Queensland.
The lead lasted seven minutes before Wests struck back. A kick to the corner by Luke Brooks was knocked on by the Cowboys and picked up by Daine Laurie for a walk-in try. Adam Doueihi made no mistake with the conversion to take the lead.
The Cowboys were back in front on seventeen thanks to an offload and a clever grubber which was collected buy Murray Taulagi for a simple touchdown. Holmes found the target with his second kick of the afternoon for 10-6.
The Cowboys then bombed two tries in quick succession, both as a result of knock-ons with the line beckoning.
On twenty-five another sensational Cowboys try extended the lead as Scott Drinkwater first recovered a kick which rebounded off a defender before chipping over the top of the defensive line and collecting his own kick to dive over. Holmes converted for a ten-point lead. This was a different and more determined Cowboys side to that which we’d seen in the first four games of the season.
The day just got better and better for North Queensland when on the half hour mark after David Nofoaluma lost the ball in the tackle and the ball was passed onto the hands of Benjamin Condon who easily went through the last line of defence to ground. Holmes added the conversion for a 22-6 lead.
Five out from the break the Cowboys got their fifth try of the half as Nofoaluma failed to take a Drinkwater bomb and Taulagi pinched the ball for his second try. Holmes was again accurate with the boot, North Queensland with a remarkable 28-6 lead.
It took thirteen minutes for Wests to get themselves a chink of light when Nofoaluma went over unopposed off a long miss-out pass. Douehi couldn’t add the extras from wide, the Wests still eighteen adrift.
It was game on after fifty-six with a brilliant take from Luciano Leilua as he somehow managed to hold a grubber kick one handed and cross to dab down behind the posts. Doueihi managed the extras for 16-28.
It was all Wests as they got a third quick try on fifty-eight with Luke Garner pushing his way to the line off a Doueihi pass, before stretching out to score. Doueihi missed the target, the deficit now eight points. The Wests were as good in the second half as the Cowboys had been in the first.
The Cowboys arrested the slide on sixty-four when a high kick was mis fielded and went back into North Queensland hands and a couple of fast passes found the hands of Lachlan Burr who pulled a defender over the line with him to score. Holmes added the conversion for 34-20.
Seven minutes from the end of the game some fast hands from Wests ended with an outrageous Leilua pass to Tommy Talau who had a clear run to the line. Doueihi couldn’t add the conversion, Wests 24-34 behind.
Inside the last-minute Joe Ofahengaue stretched for the line to get his side within shooting distance and when Doueihi added the conversion it was 30-34. But the Wests knocked on the kick-off and the final hooter sounded the win for the Cowboys.
Two sides who’ve had a poor start to the 2021 season served up a spectacular and exciting game with plenty of fabulous tries and packed full of incident. Defences were mostly absent as twelve tries were scored, and the Cowboys managed to register their first points of the season.
Wests Tigers: Laurie (T), Nofoaluma (T), Roberts, Leilua J, Talau (T), Doueihi (3G), Brooks, Musgrove, Liddle, Tamou, Leilua L (T), Ofahengaue (T), Twal. Subs: Mbye, Garner (T), Mikaele, Utoikamanu. 18th: Kam.
North Queensland Cowboys: Holmes (5G), Feldt, Tabuai-Fidow (T), Lemuelu, Taulagi (2T), Drinkwater (T), Hampton, Molo, Robson, McLean, Wright, Condon (T), Hess. Subs: Granville, Burr (T), Cotter, Jensen. 18th: Clifford.
Referee: Matt Checcin.
Score Progression: 0-4, 4-4, 6-4, 6-8, 6-10, 6-14, 6-16, 6-20, 6-22, 6-26, 6-28 : HT : 10-28, 14-28, 16-28, 20-28, 20-28, 20-32, 20-34, 24-34, 28-34, 30-34 : FT.