Wests Tigers have made it back-to-back NRL victories with a commanding 25-16 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night at ANZ Stadium. After downing the Gold Coast Titans last week, it was again the youngsters of the squad who set the tone for a big win, with Luke Brooks, James Tedesco and Tim Simona all playing vital roles in the win.
After a Brooks bomb went dead in the opening set, South Sydney were the first to lay on an attacking set and it immediately brought results for the visitors.
A sweeping left-hand side play saw Ben Lowe through a gap and after dummying to an unmarked winger, he strolled through next to the posts.
Adam Reynolds made no mistake with the conversion and Souths lead 6-0 early.
However, the match was about to take a damaging turn when an incredibly high kick-off from Pat Richards saw Greg Inglis smashed by a flying Tim Simona.
The contact was high but more awkward than anything, with the fullback forced to leave the field under heavy concussion. For his efforts, Simona was placed on report and Souths awarded a penalty to help them clear their own end.
Inglis would not return for the remainder of the game.
Tempers flared again when Sam Burgess came flying in as the third man and made contact with the head of Aaron Woods minutes later in the middle of the field.
Both sides came together and after the dust had settled, Burgess was penalised, but was incredibly lucky to escape a sin-bin or more for his actions.
That penalty gave the hosts great field position, and after earning several repeat sets, Brooks fed the ball perfectly for Bodene Thompson to crash over.
Richards’ conversion was unsuccessful and Souths lead 6-4 after 15 minutes.
A back-and-forth match followed before Tim Simona crossed in the 30th minute.
A bomb from Braith Anasta came down between two defenders and Brooks, and while there was some contention about which player it touched first, the referee’s call on the field stood and Simona was awarded a try. Richards nailed the conversion from the sideline.
A controversial moment would follow soon after when Richards was taken high and into touch as he went to plant the ball down in the left corner. Wests Tigers fans wanted a penalty try but the referee ruled penalty only.
However, from the following set, Wests Tigers fans would get their reward.
Adam Blair did brilliantly to keep the ball alive close to the visitors line, and after a quick ball from Robbie Farah, Simona touched down in the corner for his second try of the evening and a huge try just before the half-time break.
An unsuccessful conversion saw the score 14-6 to the way of the Wests Tigers.
It was the perfect start after the break for Richards, who made it three games in a row this year when he crossed in the 42nd minute of the match.
Much like all of his tries this season, it was a sweeping left-hand side move involving Tedesco that brought rewards for the former Wigan Warrior.
His conversion again hit the post and stayed out, leaving the score at 18-6.
Souths were deined a try in the 49th minute when Adam Reynolds was ruled to have knocked the ball out of Tim Simona’s hands close to the line.
Sam Burgess again found himself at the ire of Wests Tigers defenders when he kicked Simona in the head trying to grubber the ball through, although it was fairly innocuous.
Simona was concussed and would not return for the game.
After a few more physical encounters from both teams, it was Brooks and Tedesco who combined again for the next try — a repeat of their try against the Titans the week before when the halfback grubbered back on the inside for Tedesco to score.
Tedesco's try-scoring ways extended the lead to 22-6, with Richards’ conversion from next to the posts extending it even further to 24-6 with 20 minutes to play.
Anasta surprised everyone when he landed a field goal in the 62nd minute to push the Tigers’ lead to 25-6 inside the final 20 minutes.
Having had his name splashed heavily in the media throughout the week, Tedesco continued to let his on-field play do the talking, when he saved a certain try by bringing down a storming Luke Burgess inside his own 10 and then forced a knock-on.
Richards almost grabbed himself a double in the 68th minute when he swooped on a knock-on from Nathan Merritt and scored under the posts, but the try was pulled back — correctly — for an attempted strip by Brooks close to the visitors’ line.
As tempers continued to flare throughout the second half, Luke Burgess was sent to the sin bin late in the match for continued penalties around the ruck.
That saw the Wests Tigers go on the attack but they could not capatalise.
Instead, the visitors were able to move the ball upfield and cross the line for the first time in 75 minutes when Joel Reddy crossed in the corner against his former club. Reynolds’ conversion from the sideline was wide, leaving the score at 25-10 with time expiring.
Reynolds kicked a second 40/20 as time expired to give Souths one last attacking raid. That saw Brooks sin-binned for a professional foul (one that the crowd gave him a standing ovation for), and it also saw Reddy cross for his second try of the evening.
Reynolds converted the try after the siren to reduce the gap to nine but it was all too late.
The Wests Tigers would go on to win 25-16 in their first home game of the year and a record a huge win against one of the competition heavyweights in 2014.