The Wests Tigers have narrowly been defeated by the New Zealand Warriors in Round 4 of the Holden Cup competition on Saturday morning at Westpac Stadium.
Despite falling behind early, the visitors hit back to take the lead late in the game, but a third try to second-rower Michael Ki saw the hosts emerge with the two points.
It was the Warriors who started much stronger of the two teams, with repeat sets giving them the chance to post points early — which they did through Ki.
The second-rower surged through the Wests Tigers’ line close to the posts and planted it down to give the Warriors a 4-0 lead after three minutes.
Mason Lino converted to extend that lead to 6-0.
Before the visitors had even had a full set with the ball, the Warriors again extended their lead to 10-0 when Lino grubberted through for Ki.
The forward beat Sione Alofi to the ball to grab his second try of the morning — giving the hosts a 10-0 lead after just five minutes.
After that point, though, the possession flow began to sort itself out as the Wests Tigers NYC team began to work their way into the game.
As a result, the visitors hit back in the 21st minute when a smart inside ball from Salesi Funaki sent Sione Alofi through a hole in the defence close to the line.
He planted the ball down under the posts to give Mitch Moses a simple conversion.
That closed the gap to 10-6 with just under 20 minutes to play in the half.
Despite some strong attacking play soon after that, the Warriors defence was able to hold firm and the hosts soon extended their lead back to 10 points after Lafu Feagaiga touched down in the right hand corner. Lino nailed his second conversion of the day.
It appeared that that gap would remain at half-time, but the visitors had other ideas.
Strong ball handling from Moses, Funaki and Marion Seve sent Tom Satterthwaite away down the right wing and despite copping a high shot from fullback Brad Abbey coming across in cover, planted the ball down in the right corner.
Moses converted from the sideline to reduce the gap to 16-12 just before half-time, which is how the score would read at the main break at Westpac Stadium.
Coach Andrew Webster urged his team to muscle up in defence at half-time and the boys clearly heard his message — stopping the Warriors on their goal-line before a break by Lamar Liolevave put the visitors on the attack.
That set the platform for Manaia Cherrington to dart over from dummy half close to the posts and, following Moses’ conversion, give the Wests Tigers the lead.
The Warriors would look to hit back soon after but some inspiration goal-line defence from the boys saw the visitors come up short after five consecutive sets inside their opponents’ half. A penalty for obstruction allowed the visitors to finally get out of their own half and on the attack again but they couldn't turn it into points.
More defence was required throughout the second half from the Wests Tigers and this time, they couldn’t hang on as Braxton Stanley scored in the corner.
Lino’s conversion was wide, leaving the score at 20-18 the hosts’ way.
The Wests Tigers would hit the lead once more in the 65th minute when a spectacular bat-back from Satterthwaite following a Moses kick saw Seve plant the ball down in the right corner in dramatic fashion for another try to his 2014 tally.
Moses nailed the sideline conversion to stretch the lead to 24-20.
The Warriors would hit back once more in the 71st minute when Ki grabbed his third try of the day after a perfectly-weighted Lino kick.
The simple conversion gave the hosts a 26-24 lead.
The visitors would threaten to steal it late through a sharp right-edge move involving Seve and Satterthwaite but the final pass went astray with the try-line begging.
That allowed the hosts to hang on to the two-point lead and the two competition points in what was an enthralling finish at a windy Westpac Stadium.