FORMER Cowboy Scott Prince guided the fairytale Wests Tigers to their first NRL premiership when they defeated North Queensland 30-16 at Telstra Stadium last night.
Prince, who went to Wests in an attempt to revive his career, was named man-of-the-match after using his kicking and passing to orchestrate a gripping victory.
He led a team without big-name stars to a triumph few had predicted at the start of the season.
While the determined Tigers may not have loads of representative talent, it was a moment of brilliance by the man with class written all over him, young five-eighth Benji Marshall, that turned the game and gave the Tigers a 12-6 halftime lead.
With the scores locked at 6-6 five minutes before the break, Marshall received the ball three metres out from his own line before orchestrating one of the great grand final tries, a 97-metre special.
The gifted five-eighth showcased all his fancy footwork to leave three defenders in his wake and then delivered a magic flick pass for rugged winger Pat Richards, who bumped off Cowboys replacement Rod Jensen on his way to the line.
As he had in North Queensland's two previous finals, livewire fullback Matt Bowen had opened the scoring with a try in the ninth minute.
Tigers winger Daniel Fitzhenry was denied what may have been a fair try in the 15th minute but there was no denying Wests two minutes later when a shocking in-goal blunder from veteran centre Paul Bowman ? the Cowboys' only foundation player ? gifted a four-pointer to Tigers interchange forward Bryce Gibbs.
WESTS TIGERS 30 (P Richards A Lafranchi B Gibbs D Fitzhenry T Payten tries B Hodgson 5 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 16 (M Bowen T Norton M Sing tries J Hannay 2 goals) at Telstra Stadium. Crowd: 82,453. Referee: T Mander.