The Wests Tigers had a happy return to Leichhardt, beating North Queensland 20-12.
Wests Tigers 4-0: Luke Brooks try (16th minute).
Wests Tigers 8-0: Malakai Watene-Zelezniak try (22nd minute).
Wests Tigers 8-6: Te Maire Martin try (35th minute); Johnathan Thurston goal (36th minute).
Wests Tigers 12-6: David Nofoaluma try (47th minute).
Tied 12-12: Antonio Winterstein try (51st minute); Johnathan Thurston goal (52nd minute).
Wests Tigers 14-12: Esan Marsters goal (59th minute).
Wests Tigers 20-12: Marsters try (69th minute); Masters goal (70th minute)
BATTLE OF THE GOALKICKERS
In a tight game at Leichhardt, goalkicking looked to be crucial. Tigers kicker Esan Marsters missed his first three goals, keeping North Queensland in the game. Johnathan Thurston, ever the professional, slotted his two goals infront of a hostile crowd, tying the game 12-12 with 30 minutes left. Masters redeemed himself, kicking his first goal in the 59th minute and converting his own try 10 minutes later.
TIGERS BREAK THEIR LOSING STREAK
After a brilliant 5-1 start, Wests were struggling with three straight losses, slipping to seventh. This was a crucial win, keeping them in touch with the top four. They made a strong start and withstood a Cowboys comeback either side of halftime. Marsters’ eight point haul in 10 minutes gave the Tigers breathing room. Following two wins from their last three, tonight’s loss kept the Cowboys near the bottom four. They look a long way from last year’s fairytale grand final team and will struggle to make the finals from here.
LEICHHARDT FAITHFUL TURNS UP
One of the few suburban Sydney grounds left, it’s great to see footy at Leichhardt Oval, with 13,127 fans turning up on a Thursday night. Not only does it give Ray ‘Bolts’ Hadley and Phil ‘Gus’ Gould an excuse to bang out about the good old days (as if they need it), but the noise and atmosphere was tremendous. In 76 games since the merger, Wests have won 45, lost 30, and drawn one. While Queenslanders love boasting about the consistently massive Lang Park crowds, tonight showed Sydneysiders do care about footy. Better 13,000 keen fans at Leichhardt than two people and some pigeons watching at Homebush. What would Bolts and Gus talk about then?
TIGERS RESHUFFLE BRINGS REWARDS
There was a late change for Wests before kick off, with centre Kevin Naiqama out, Mahe Fonua moving from wing to centre and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak replacing Naiquama on the wing. The change worked, with Watene-Zelezniak scoring the Tigers’ second try. he nearly scored a second try a few minutes later, but denied by a forward pass.
WESTS TIGERS 20
Tries: Luke Brooks, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, David Nofoaluma, Esan Marsters
Goals: Marsters 2/5
Drop Goals: NA
NORTH QUEENSLAND 12
Tries: Te Maire Martin, Antonio Winterstein
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 2/2
Drop Goals: NA
Wests Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 5 Mahe Fonua, 20 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Benji Marshall (c), 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Elijah Taylor, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Jacob Liddle, 16 Michael Chee-Kam, 17 Sauaso Sue
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14 Te Maire Martin, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Ethan Lowe