Wests Tigers have come of age under Jason Taylor, recording their greatest win under the second-year coach to stay on track for the NRL finals.
A determined and defensively stubborn Wests outfit, ably led by Mitchell Moses, defeated premiers North Queensland 26-14 at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday to move into the top eight for the first time since early in the season.
James Tedesco scored one of the tries of the season to seal the round-22 win for Wests right on fulltime.
The loss tipped the Cowboys out of the top four with four rounds to play until the finals.
“That’s great. Three (wins) in a row is really good,” Taylor said.
“I really felt momentum building into this game. I felt that at training.
“I was really confident with our enthusiasm and effort and we showed that today.”
Jack Littlejohn stepped in for injured halfback Luke Brooks, and Moses was superb in defence and attack.
“Mitch was in control and Jack Littlejohn, he supported Mitch really well,” Taylor said.
“Mitch handed control over as he became tired late in the game and that is a real sign of his maturity.”
First-half tries to David Nofoaluma and Kevin Naiqama had the Tigers on top 12-6 after a bruising first half before a boisterous crowd of 14,246, with Kane Linnett crossing for the visitors.
The sides traded penalty goals after the break before Sauaso Sue looked to have clinched it for the Tigers with seven minutes to go.
Ethan Lowe hit back a minute later, but the Cowboys spilt the ball from the restart set and Tedesco beat six defenders to go over to claim the Tigers’ 10th and most important win of the season, two weeks after club legend Robbie Farah was controversially dropped to reserve grade.
“I still can’t believe that he scored that try,” Taylor said.
“When he was getting close I thought maybe we can kick a field goal. I was pretty happy when he got there.”
Tedesco said he wasn’t sure he’d scored until replays proved he placed the Steeden on the line.
“Sometimes my teammates say they don’t know what line I am running and I didn’t really know where I was running there. I just wanted to get to the tryline,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure I got there but am glad I did. It was a great win for us.”
Taylor acknowledged the Cowboys were probably not at their best.
Johnathan Thurston was a late inclusion in his return from a hamstring injury and had a mixed game.
Coach Paul Green blamed the Cowboys’ loss on a poor preparation.
“To put it simply our ball control wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“They put pressure on us through their defence and there was a lack of composure at times from us. But the Tigers were very committed.
“We haven’t trained together as whole squad for 10 weeks now. It is not an excuse, but your preparation is everything.
“We are trying to manage guys and keep them fresh at the back end of the year.
“Hopefully we can get everyone together at training this week.”