A scoreless second half extended the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ poor record at Campbelltown Stadium in their round six NRL clash tonight.
Trying to win in south-west Sydney for the first time in a decade, the Cowboys went down 16-4 to the in-form Tigers who scored three tries to one.
The loss keeps North Queensland outside the top eight with a 2-4 win-loss record heading into another trip south against Manly at Gosford on Good Friday.
It was another frustrating night in attack for the Cowboys whose effort and precision in defence kept them in the contest until the last 10 minutes.
Both teams were 1-17 coming off last-start wins although the Tigers had to replace injured fullback James Tedesco with debutant Kurtis Rowe and suspended Braith Anasta with Blake Austin. Glenn Hall warmed up as 18th man for the Cowboys.
It was a high-quality arm wrestle in the opening 40, with the only two tries – one apiece – coming in the final 11 minutes.
Brent Tate had looked to be the Cowboys’ biggest threat and it was the Test and Origin representative who opened the scoring, benefiting from the smart work inside by co-captain Johnathan Thurston.
In a play that threatened to be undone by Wests halfback Luke Brooks, JT was able to scoot past a tackler and almost could have scored himself but elected to unload to Tate on his outside.
The right centre led the way in metres gained in the first half for North Queensland with his 73 metres just ahead of James Tamou, who relished the battle with the Tigers’ big men by rumbling to 64 metres in seven hit-ups.
After not conceding a try in 80 minutes against Newcastle last Monday night, it looked like the Cowboys would keep the Tigers tryless in the first half until they switched off on Tigers captain Robbie Farah and he scored yet another four-pointer from dummy-half.
Pat Richards’ conversion from in front gave Wests a 6-4 lead to take into the break.
Thurston was 0 from 2 with the boot, missing a relatively simple penalty shot in the opening 10 minutes and the conversion of Tate’s try from out wide.
The Tigers completed an amazing 20 of 21 sets (95%) in the first 40, while North Queensland were almost just as good finishing of 15 out of 18 (83%).
After scoring late in the first half, the Tigers picked up another six points in the first seven minutes of the second half thanks to a lucky last-tackle rebound.
A Farah grubber hit Tariq Sims’s shoulder, rebounded into the goal post and back to Blake Austin who twisted over from close range.
Richards’ conversion put the Tigers out in front by 8.
The home team threatened to add to their lead thanks to the quick thinking of centre Tim Simona who almost caught the Cowboys out with a quick 20m restart after a kick rolled dead.
He scampered 50 metres until Antonio Winterstein came from behind with a try-saver.
The Cowboys lost their left winger to a hamstring injury with 20 to go after he made one of the few clean breaks the Cowboys managed for the night.
Michael Morgan and Kane Linnett had combined to send Winterstein away, but he was cut down 20 metres out.
The loss of the winger came on top of Gavin Cooper limping off with a knee injury in the first half and not being able to return, leaving NQ with a two-man bench.
The Cowboys’ goal-line defence was truly tested for long periods of the remainder of the half, including one stage where they had to defend six sets out of seven, and it only cracked with six to go, Pat Richards crossing to build the lead to 12.
On the set before, Morgan had produced the defensive play of the game, punching the ball out of flying winger David Noafoaluma’s hands as the winger was about to touch down.
The Cowboys’ completion rate dropped to 27 out of 36 (75%) for the match, while the Tigers almost maintained their very high standards of the first half, 35 complete sets from 40 (88%).
COWBOYS: 1 Michael Morgan, 2 Matthew Wright, 3 Brent Tate, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Johnathan Thurston (c), 7 Robert Lui, 8 Matt Scott (c), 9 Rory Kostjasyn, 10 James Tamou, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Jason Taumalolo, 13 Tariq Sims. Interchange: 14 Ray Thompson, 15 Joel Riethmuller, 16 Ashton Sims, 17 Scott Bolton.
WESTS TIGERS: 1 Kurtis Rowe, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Tim Simona, 4 Chris Lawrence, 5 Pat Richards, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Keith Galloway, 11 Liam Fulton, 12 Bodene Thompson, 13 Adam Blair. Interchange: 14 Martin Taupau, 15 Ava Seumanufagai, 16 James Gavet, 17 Sitaleki Akauola.
COWBOYS 4 (Brent Tate try)
TIGERS 16 (Robbie Farah, Blake Austin, Pat Richards tries; Pat Richards 2 goals)