Cowboys tune up for the finals with a sixth successive win, while Marshall bows out of the NRL on a disappointing note. But Benji can be very proud of his achievements and he'll be missed by his legion of fans.
NORTH QUEENSLAND 50 (W Ulugia 3 M Bowen 2 R Lui J Taumalolo J Thurston A Winterstein tries J Thurston 6 M Bowen goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 22 (J Tedesco 2 T Simona C Sironen tries B Marshall 3 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Referees: Gerard Sutton, Gavin Reynolds. Crowd: 19,519.
It's been great to watch Matty Bowen play...such a humbled player. — Steve Turner (@SteveTurner84) September 7, 2013
76 min: It's on for young and old tonight for the Cowboys, as rookie winger Ulugia crosses for his treble and brings up the 50. Unfortunately Bowen is unable to raise the flags this time. COWBOYS 50-22.
74 min: The fans go wild again as Bowen wins the race to a Lui grubber and scores his second. Thurston hands the kicking duties to his old mate and Bowen converts from just off centre. COWBOYS 46-22.
68 min: That's what the crowd's been wishing for! Favourite son Bowen dances and dummies his way over for the 129th try of his great career and all but secures victory for the team. A Cowboys side without Bowen will be like the Stones without Mick Jagger - what a great player. Thurston turns four into six. COWBOYS 40-22.
64 min: Winterstein crosses in the corner after sustained pressure from the home side. Thurston's superb conversion puts the Cowboys ahead by two converted tries. COWBOYS 34-22.
BM-M lucky to stay on the field for that high shot! Nrlnqlwst — Jimmy Smith (@Jimmy_Smith25) September 7, 2013
60 min: Rookie wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo puts the Cowboys back in front, running off a short ball from Thurston and powering over. Thurston converts and the Cowboys lead by a converted try again. COWBOYS 28-22.
57 min: Murdoch-Masila has returned to the field for the Tigers - but Bowen wishes he hadn't after copping a teeth-rattling high shot from the hulking back-rower, who was put on report.
49 min: Not the prettiest try Tedesco has scored but he'll take it! The fullback crosses for his second after he regathers a no-look pass from Marshall that had bounced off his nose. Marshall converts and we might be headed for another thrilling finish tonight. 22-22.
47 min: The Tigers are back in it after Marshall puts the Tigers' leading tryscorer Tim Simona over for his 12th four-pointer of the season. Marshall converts to reduce the deficit to six points. COWBOYS 22-16.
42 min: Brilliant stepping run by Bowen almost results in another Cowboys try, only for Antonio Winterstein to be bundled into touch as he attempted a miracle putdown.
41 min: We're under way in the second half as the Cowboys launch the Steeden deep into the Tigers' half.
40 min: Ulugia crosses for his second try - and fourth in only 2.5 NRL games - only seconds before half-time for the Cowboys to extend their lead. Thurston's kick raises the flags and the Cowboys go into the sheds with a spring in their step, while the Tigers have it all to do in the second half. COWBOYS 22-10.
37 min: Thurston brings the crowd to its feet, and gives the Cowboys the lead again, by intercepting a Farah pass and racing more than 70m to score. Thurston converts. COWBOYS 16-10.
30 min: The Tigers look like they're not going to go down without a fight as Curtis Sironen crashes over to level the scores. Marshall's kick is a shocker and the scoreline remains 10-10.
23 min: Meanwhile, the Tigers could be reduced to 16 men for the rest of the match; Ben Murdoch-Masila has limped off injured.
23 min: Ulugia can't de denied this time, the beneficiary of a perfect cut-out pass from Bowen. Thurston's conversion attempt is astray. COWBOYS 10-6.
18 min: Tedesco's cracking start to the match continues as he effects another try-saving hit, on rookie winger Wayne Ulugia. The youngster is channelling Balmain legend Garry Jack in defence tonight!
17 min: The Cowboys' defence, the cornerstone of their late-season resurgence, holds firm.
15 min: Nice kick by the much-maligned Braith Anasta forces a Cowboys drop-out. Can the Tigers capitalise on their repeat set?
11 min: Tedesco's in the action again, making a try-saving tackle on a flying Matt Bowen, who is playing his last match in Townsville tonight.
8 min: Nice hitback by the Tigers as James Tedesco pounces on a Robbie Farah grubber and scores. Benji Marshall adds the extras and the scores are level. 6-6
4 min: Great start for the Cowboys, who are guaranteed a finals spot after the Titans' loss, as Robert Lui scores against his former club. Johnathan Thurston converts. COWBOYS 6-0.
A belated welcome to our live coverage of Benji Marshall's farewell match. Coverage of course was delayed by the golden-point thriller at AAMI Park, won by Melbourne 23-22. Bad luck to the Titans, who consequently bow out of the finals race. Both sides have made one late change: Matt Bell comes onto the Tigers' bench for Ava Seumanufagai, while Jason Taumalolo has been added to the Cowboys' bench at the expense of Ricky Thorby.
1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville, Saturday 7.30pm (AEST)
Last meeting: Tigers 22 bt Cowboys 20 at Leichhardt Oval, round 11 2013
Head-to-head: Tigers 15, Cowboys 12
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Gavin Reynolds
TV: Live, FoxSports 1
TAB: Cowboys $1.15 Tigers $5.75
FootyTab: Wests Tigers +15.5
Phil Mitchell writes: It will be an emotional night for both clubs as two of the NRL’s most exciting players of the past decade, Matt Bowen and Benji Marshall, bid their farewells. Bowen will play his last home match before retiring at the end of this season, while this is Marshall’s 201st and final game for the Tigers before he switches to rugby next season. Should North Queensland lose (and either the Titans or Warriors win), it would also be Bowen’s last appearance for the Cowboys, who would miss out on the finals. Even though the Tigers have won eight of their past 10 clashes against North Queensland, it’s hard to imagine them spoiling Bowen’s party and the Cowboys’ incredible turnaround.
Phil's tip: Cowboys by 14
AAP writes: There will be at least 1300SMILES in Townsville if the Cowboys pull off their finals miracle with victory against the Wests Tigers - but few will be in the North Queensland boardroom. If it is possible to have mixed feelings about a top eight finish the Cowboys power brokers will be experiencing it after telling coach Neil Henry his services won’t be required at season’s end five weeks ago. They haven’t lost since. But Henry will be an afterthought for the rabid Townsville crowd if they clinch a sixth straight win and a finals berth in their favourite son Matt Bowen’s final home game. The Cowboys pack will be without co-captain Matt Scott (broken finger). But with revitalised duo Johnathan Thurston and Bowen pulling the strings for North Queensland, few will be putting their hard earned on the lowly Wests Tigers who will be forgiven for just wanting their horror season to end.
Key: Benji Marshall. Just what will the playmaking enigma conjure in his final game in Wests Tigers colours?
COWBOYS: Matthew Bowen, Wayne Ulugia, Brent Tate, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Robert Lui, Scott Bolton, Rory Kostjasyn, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Joel Riethmuller. Interchange: Jayden Hodges, Tariq Sims, Ashton Sims, Ricky Thorby.
TIGERS: James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Bodene Thompson, Tim Simona, Lote Tuqiri, Benji Marshall, Braith Anasta, Keith Galloway, Robbie Farah (c), Adam Blair, Liam Fulton, Curtis Sironen, Ben Murdoch-Masila. Interchange: Ava Seumanufagai, Jack Buchanan, Shaun Spence, Sauaso Sue, Matt Bell (one to be omitted).