The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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It was supposed to simply be a question of what margin the home side would win by, yet a spirited Wests Tigers side has come out and shocked a clumsy Cowboys side 26-16 in front of over 15,000 fans. at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
The Tigers signalled their intentions early in this one with Kyle Feldt fumbling a Mitchell Moses bomb, allowing Ava Seumanufagai to pick up the scraps and silence the home crowd after just two minutes. The Cowboys were looking pretty vulnerable around the ruck in defence with Matt McIlwrick finding space a couple of minutes later and linking with James Tedesco who was tackled only twenty metres out from the Cowboys line - only for Jamal Idris to come up with a mistake and relieve pressure.
The Cowboys were not as lucky in the following set as a magical ball from Moses saw Elijah Taylor cross over and give the Tigers an early 10-0 lead after just as many minutes. Some more space in the middle saw Tedesco break through once more and this time the Tigers capitalised with David Nofoaluma bagging a try out wide to extend his side's lead to 16.
North Queensland finally began to gain some momentum as a six again call in the 25th minute gave the home side a full set on the Tigers' line. And Jason Taumalolo would prove why he is one of the best locks in the game with the million-dollar-man stampeding over the top of NSW Prop Aaron Woods and getting the Cowboys back in the game. Despite his hard work, however, McIllwrick would embarrass the Cowboys when he darted over from dummy half to make it a 20-6 deficit at the break.
Tonight's hosts came out the better side in the early stages of the second half with Jonathan Thurston forcing plenty of drop outs and building subsequent pressure which would eventually lead to a try to Coen Hess in the 44th minute with the Tigers lacking some serious urgency in knocking the ball dead. Unfortunately for the 15,524 fans at Townsville the game would then descend into a frustrating flurry of errors with fourteen errors between both sides between the 48th and 70th minute.
In the 69th minute it looked like the Tigers had finally broken the deadlock when Moses used his pace to break through the Cowboys defence only for Michael Chee-Kam to drop the ball over the line! The Cowboys took full advantage of a Tigers error a few minutes later when Hess made it a double, crashing over some poor Tigers defence to set up a grandstand finish.
They almost went back to back when Thurston kicked wide for Gideon Gela-Mosby, yet the winger dropped the ball before being belted by Nofoaluma. In a double blow for the home side Jacob Liddle crossed late in the 78th minute to seal an unlikely victory while Thurston limped off with a possible calf injury.
The Cowboys have no easy task of trying to make amends next week, as they play the in-form Dragons on Saturday night at Wollongong. Meanwhile, the Tigers will look to build upon their shock victory when they face the Eels on Easter Monday at ANZ Stadium.
North Queensland Cowboys 16 - Wests Tigers 26
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Halftime Score: North Queensland Cowboys 6 Wests Tigers 20
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Matt McIlwrick
2 points - Jason Taumalolo
1 points - David Nofoaluma
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (16)
Tries: Jason Taumalolo, Coen Hess (2)
Conversions: Johnathan Thurston (2/3)
WESTS TIGERS (26)
Tries: Ava Seumanufagai, Elijah Taylor, David Nofoaluma, Matt McIlwrick, Jacob Liddle
Conversions: Mitchell Moses (3/5)