NEWLY-appointed Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has made an immediate impact, with his side stunning North Queensland 26-16 in Townsville.
All the drama surrounding wantaway half Mitchell Moses seemed a mile away from as the battling Tigers stunned the 2015 premiers who saw superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston carried off late in the game with a leg injury.
Thurston’s absence coincided with Jacob Liddle darting over for the match- sealing try and Parramatta-bound Moses let out an audible yell of delight when he knocked over the conversion to ice the biggest upset of the 2017 season.
Moses looked every inch a committed Tiger as he and his teammates celebrated wildly after the full-time siren, with the surprise result a perfect way to distract from the club refusing to immediately release him to the local rivals.
North Queensland got off to a horror start when a Kyle Feldt error allowed Ava Seumanufagai to stroll over for the game’s opener and the lead was 10-0 after nine minutes when Elijah Taylor crossed untouched down the right wing. The pain continued for the hosts when David Nofoaluma charged over for the Tigers’ third try as the out-of-sorts Cowboys were thoroughly out-enthused right across the park.
The home fans finally had something to cheer about when the $10 million man Jason Taumalolo skittled Tigers props Aaron Woods and Tim Grant to score a dominant solo try and put his team back in to the contest.
Just as North Queensland looked to have finally woken up the Tigers struck again when hooker Matt McIlwrick caught the markers napping and dived over for a soft four-pointer next to the posts to hand the Tigers a shock 20-6 lead at the half.
Tearaway forward Coen Hess got the Cowboys off to a perfect start to the second half when he pounced on an inch perfect Thurston grubber to narrow the gap to eight points.
While the early score seemed to energise the Cowboys, the Tigers goal-line defence held firm for the next 20 minutes.
Tigers forward Chee-Kam bombed a certain try that would’ve killed the game with 11 minutes to play and the Cowboys made the visitors pay when Hess charged over for his second try of the night.
But the Cowboys comeback ran out of time and the Tigers held on for a much- needed victory.
WESTS TIGERS 26 (J Liddle M McIlwrick D Nofoaluma A Seumanufagai E Taylor tries M Moses 3 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 16 (C Hess 2 J Taumalolo tries J Thurston 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 15,424.
Originally published as Tigers start Cleary era with stunning win