Fulltime score: 2005 NRL GRAND FINAL WESTS TIGERS 30 v NTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 16 Match summary: Wests Tigers have won the 2005 NRL premiership with an emphatic 30-16 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys tonight.
Languishing in 12th place after 15 rounds, the Tigers were rated a 150-1 chance of winning the premiership last June. Today's victory represents a tremendous turnaround for the Balmain-Western Suburbs merger who are celebrating their first premiership since the two foundation clubs joined forces in 2000.
Runners up and gallant in defeat, the Cowboys can celebrate their first Grand Final appearance since being admitted into the NRL in 1995.
A Telstra Stadium crowd of 82,453 were treated to a close tussle in the early stages before Cowboys' full back Matt Bowen sliced through to open the scoring after just eight minutes.
The Tigers struck back 10 minutes later following a mistake from the Cowboys in their own in-goal area, bench player Bryce Gibbs pouncing on the loose ball.
The score board remained locked up at 6-all for much of the first half, keeping the match in the balance. But a 95-metre try, set up by Benji Marshall and finished off by winger Pat Richards, turned the match on its head. A sideline conversion from Brett Hodsgon saw the Tigers go to the break with a 12-6 lead.
The Tigers went further ahead early in the second half when Anthony Laffranchi crashed through to score next to the posts. The Cowboys replied through Travis Norton and after 55 minutes, the Tigers held an 18-12 lead.
With 20 minutes remaining and pain killers from a week long injury wearing off, Pat Richards was ready to leave the field. Fellow winger Daniel Fitzhenry stepped up and scored out wide in the 63rd minute, the conversion from Hodgson delivering a 24-12 lead to the Tigers.
The Cowboys had injury problems of their own with impact players Rod Jensen and Justin Smith forced off with injury. Nevetherless, the North Queenslanders continued to make a game of it, scoring through Matt Sing with just two minutes remaining.
But Wests Tigers had the final say with Todd Payten racing onto a grubber kick to score right on full time.
Grand Final Tigers match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery of the Tigers for this game
Grand Final Cowboys match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery of the Cowboys for this game
Scorers: WESTS TIGERS 30 Tries: Gibbs, Richards, Laffranchi, Fitzhenry, Payten Goals: Hodgson 5/6 Field Goals: Prince 0/1 NTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 16 Tries: Bowen, Norton, Sing Goals: Hannay 2/3
Telstra Stadium. Crowd: 82,453 Referee: Tim Mander Half time: Tigers 12-6
Live commentary: Pre-match entertainment currently underway at a packed Telstra Stadium, over 80,000 people in attendance and a beaut night in Sydney.
Teams scheduled to come onto the field soon. No changes to either line-up with Tigers winger Pat Richards reportedly passing a late fitness test. John Wilson and Bronson Harrison omitted from the extended Tigers bench.
A huge roar goes up! Cowboys on the field... Tigers on the field... National Anthem... kick off soon...
Referee Tim Mander blows his whistle, Pat Richards for the Tigers kicks off and the 2005 Grand Final is underway!
5 min: Still 0-0. The Cowboys weathering an early storm with the Tigers getting repeat sets.
8 min: TRY - Cowboys. Matt Bowen scores after receiving an offload from Johnathan Thurston from close range. Follows a knock-on against the Tigers. Plenty of big hits happening and bit of biff. The Cowboys scoring from the second ruck after the scrum. Conversion right in front from Josh Hannay is spot on. Cowboys 6-0
15 min: NEWS - Tigers come within a whisker of scoring, Daniel Fitzhenry ruled to knocked-on while trying to pick up the scraps following a kick. Its a double knock-on though and the Tigers get the scrum feed in good position.
18 min: TRY - Tigers. Bryce Gibbs scores following a mix up in the in-goal area with Paul Bowman electing to pass - the ball goes astray and Gibbs pounces. Follows sustained pressure and another high kick. Conversion right in front from Brett Hodgson. 6-all
24 min: NO TRY - Cowboys. Video ref deems obstruction against Steve Southern. A ruling worthy of discussion if this match goes to the wire.
30 min: NO TRY - Tigers. Pat Richards denied by video ref following scrutiny over the grounding in the corner. Not enough downward pressure with the hand almost below the ball.
36 min: TRY - Tigers. Richards scores out wide following a huge bust down the left flank from Benji Marshall who put on a beaut flick pass to Richards. Overall an 95m effort. A great grand final try assisted by some desperate but ineffectual cover defence. Conversion from Hodgson is a ripper! Tigers 12-6
38 min: MISSED PENALTY GOAL - Tigers. Hodgson unable to convert following a penalty against Paul Rauhihi following an offside ruling.
Half time: Tigers 12-6 Wests Tigers enjoying a little more possession at 53% and were gaining the upper hand late in the first half. The turning point thus far definitely being the bust from Marshall just before the break. Both sides battling with a shallow attack and the ref battling to keep them back. Despite a few errors, the Cowboys are still well in this match and Paul Rauhihi in particular is working hard up front. But at this stage, the Tigers have the momentum.
Josh Hannay kicks off for the Cowboys. Second half underway...
45 min: TRY - Tigers. Anthony Laffranchi crashes through some back-peddling defence to score next to the posts. Tigers getting on top now. Conversion Hodgson is OK. Tigers 18-6
48 min: NEWS - Rod Jensen (Cowboys) back on the bench after being replaced following a head knock in the first half.
55 min: TRY - Cowboys. Travis Norton scores near the uprights following a great inside pass from Thurston. The Cowboys back in the picture. Conversion Hannay is OK. Tigers 18-12
60 min: NEWS - Tigers winger Pat Richards limping. Possession and momentum currently going the Cowboys way.
63 min: Tigers - Tigers. Daniel Fitzhenry scores in the corner following some lead up work from Scott Prince and Shane Elford. Follows an error from the Cowboys, the Tigers getting some field position. Conversion Hodgson from the sideline is successful. Tigers 24-12
65 min: NEWS - Pat Richards comes from the field.
69 min: NEWS - Almost all over when Scott Prince makes a break for the Tigers, Hodgson looming up in support. The final pass hits the deck with a Cowboys defender getting in the way. In other news, Justin Smith is off for the Cowboys getting some ice. Looks like the North Queenslanders are running out of troops.
73 min: MISSED FIELD GOAL - Tigers. Prince has a pot shot from 30m out but it goes wide.
75 min: NO TRY - Cowboys. Matt Sing denied by video referee. Sing and Marshall contesting a tricky grubber kick and the ball is knocked-on by Sing.
78 min: TRY - Cowboys. Matt Sing scores a well worked try 15m in from touch as the Cowboys get an overlap. The all important conversion attempt from Hannay goes wide. The Tigers are home. Tigers 24-16
80 min: TRY - Tigers. Todd Payten runs onto a simple grubber kick intothe in-goal. Brett Hodgson makes no mistake from right in front. Tigers 30-16
TIGERS HAVE WON THE 2005 GRAND FINAL!
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - S Prince (Tigers) 2 - R Farrah (Tigers) 1 - B Marshall (Tigers) -----------------------------------------
Teams: WESTS TIGERS: Brett Hodgson, Daniel Fitzhenry, Shane Elford, Paul Whatuira, Pat Richards, Benji Marshall, Scott Prince (c), Anthony Laffranchi, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Ben Galea, Mark O'Neill, Dene Halatau. Interchange: Liam Fulton, Chris Heighington, Bryce Gibbs, Todd Payten. Coach: Tim Sheens.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Josh Hannay, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston, Brett Firman, Paul Rauhihi, Aaron Payne, Shane Tronc, Steve Southern, Luke O'Donnell, Travis Norton (c). Interchange: Rod Jensen, David Faiumu, Justin Smith, Mitchell Sargent. Coach: Graham Murray.