The clubs involved in Round 14’s Friday night NRL action appear unlikely to play finals.
The Titans, Warriors, Tigers and Cowboys all sit outside the eight and one could have been excused for having an early night and skipping the matches.
I’m glad I didn’t.
The Tigers jumped the Cowboys in Townsville and the contest was gripping from start to finish. The home side appeared uninterested, distracted or derelict in duty in the opening half and Wests took full advantage.
Michael Chee Kam, Ryan Matterson and David Nofoaluma scored tries within the first 27 minutes to set up an 18-0 lead for the visitors.
The Cowboys had multiple chances to pull back that advantage, yet bumbled their way through the half. They managed one try to Kyle Feldt but perhaps should have done better considering the amount of ball and quality of field position they enjoyed late in the half.
A late penalty goal to Esan Marsters saw the Tigers take a seemingly insurmountable 20-6 lead into the break.
Predictably, North Queensland coach Paul Green went berserk at half-time. It worked.
Miraculously, the Cowboys were once again a football team as soon as the second half began. It took just three minutes for Michael Morgan to cross the stripe and, when Javid Bowen pounced on a loose ball in the in-goal area in the 51st minute, North Queensland had reduced the deficit to 20-18.
When Jake Clifford slotted a penalty goal from point blank range, astonishingly, the scores were level after 58 minutes.
The final 20 would provide much drama. The Tigers enjoyed the best of the initial stages, with Chee Kam getting within inches of re-establishing a lead. Somehow the Cowboys held on and a ruck penalty swung momentum their way seconds later.
From there, the home side began to apply some consistent pressure and, when Kyle Feldt crossed in the 70th minute, they took the lead for the first time.
It wasn’t long before typical NRL drama ensued. Chee Kam was awarded a penalty try after being hit high as he attempted to cross the line. The Bunker confirmed the illegality in Jordan Kahu’s tackle and the Tigers retook the lead 26-24.
With just two minutes remaining on the clock a Cowboy’s penalty goal levelled the scores again.
Golden point it would be and the Tigers took first use of the ball. There were to be three chances to win it with field goals, with Benji Marshall doing the business on the third attempt.
The veteran’s kick gave his side a 27-26 victory, despite faltering in the second half.
In the earlier encounter, the Titans hosted the Warriors, in a match that probably held little interest for many NRL fans.
Despite that unfortunate reality, the sides put on a cracking affair and the Warriors grabbed the two points in one of their most disciplined displays of 2019.
The New Zealanders took the ascendancy early, with two tries in the opening 12 minutes seeing them establish a 10-0 lead. Both tries came off the back of referee assistance.
The first came from a penalty on the fourth tackle that piggy-backed the Warriors down field and the second stemmed from an appalling forward pass call against the Titans. That decision halted the home side while they were on the attack and effectively gifted the Warriors a try in the corner.
In the 23rd minute, Ryley Jacks opened the scoring for Gold Coast and, when Brian Kelly crossed just three minutes later, the conversion had the home side ahead 12-10.
After a late Issac Luke penalty sent the teams to the sheds level, a high scoring second half appeared likely. However, the arm wrestle began and 25 minutes of hard, tough football was to follow. Then the match exploded.
After a Tyrone Roberts penalty gave the Titans a 14-12 lead, the Warriors took control. Converted tries to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo had the visitors well in front after 75 minutes, before the home side mounted a late charge.
Down 24-14, AJ Brimson crossed out wide for Gold Coast and Roberts’ conversion sent the game into a thrilling final three minutes. Despite moments of madness as the home side sought a stunning last gasp victory, the Warriors held on and claimed their fifth win of the season.
Even though the match was a battle between 15th and 13th on the ladder, the contest once again proved just how competitive and exciting the NRL competition can be, irrespective of team’s positions on the ladder.
So much for a night of boring football featuring four teams outside the eight!