The North Queensland Cowboys have continued their inconsistent start to the 2018 season after falling to a 20-12 defeat at the hands of a determined Tigers side in front of over 13,000 fans at Leichhardt Oval.
Many predicted that Paul Green's side were due for a resurgence after they downed the highly-rated Panthers 26-20 last week. However, a 69% completion rate saw the Cowboys fail to build on that victory and instead they slumped to their seventh loss of the season.
North Queensland were predictable in attack and rarely threatened a resolute Tigers defence with their only tries coming off kicks. In contrast, Ivan Cleary's Tigers could have likely posted more points if not let down at times by their execution.
Tigers halfback Luke Brooks has been undeniably the most improved player of 2018 and the NSW Blues roughie starred early when he snatched a Kyle Feldt offload and raced away to score untouched. The home side extended their lead soon after when a skilful offload from Corey Thompson sent Malakai Watene-Zelezniak over out wide in the 23rd minute. The Tigers dominated the majority of the first half yet found themselves leading by just two points at the break. A Jonathan Thurston chip kick sat up for Shaun Fensom in the 36th minute and the interchange forward showed great hands for a big man when he linked with Te Maire Martin who planted the ball down under the posts.
The Cowboys' night was summed up in the 47th minute when Thurston threw a forward pass to Ethan Lowe within their own 20 metre zone and the Tigers immediately capitalised when David Nofoaluma went over off the scrum. North Queensland quickly hit back through fortunate circumstances after a ricochet off a Benji Marshall kick saw Antonio Winterstein race away to lock the game up at 12-all after 52 minutes. However, a penalty goal in the 59th minute saw the Tigers edge ahead by two before another Cowboys' error gifted Esan Marsters the match-winning try in the 69th minute.
Next week the Tigers travel to Penrith to take on their Western Sydney rivals on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Cowboys host the Rabbitohs on Saturday afternoon as they attempt to bounce back from tonight's defeat.