Wests Tigers have stormed to a 34-18 victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at a rain-sodden Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
David Nofoaluma grabbed a double for the hosts, while Tim Simona, Chris Lawrence, Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah all crossed for tries in the dominant 16-point win over the competition heavyweights in front of a 16,000-strong crowd.
The hosts started the stronger of the two teams when captain Robbie Farah kicked through for himself close to the posts. The skipper showed tremendous heart to win the race and plant it down for the first try of the game just inside the dead-ball line.
Pat Richards duly converted from under the posts to make it a 6-0 lead.
Following several sets on the visitors’ line, Richards extended the lead to 8-0 when Farah won a penalty from dummy half for markers being offside.
Wests Tigers extended their lead when David Nofoaluma crossed in the right corner following a sweeping move including a final pass from fullback James Tedesco.
Richards nailed the conversion from the sideline to push the lead to 14-0 after 24 minutes.
After Daly Cherry-Evans was placed on report for a high shot on Liam Fulton, the back-rower then turned provider to release Chris Lawrence on the left edge.
The former Australian international barged his way through two tackles before clawing his way across the line to extend the lead to 18-0.
Richards made no mistake with the conversion to extend the lead to 20-0.
The biggest cheer of the day came in the 32nd minute when former Leichhardt junior Aaron Woods crossed for the simplest of tries next to the posts after a good ball from Farah.
Richards made it five-from-five with another simple conversion.
Woods looked to have grabbed a double just before the break but the try was controversially disallowed due to a knock-on in the build-up from Farah.
That allowed Manly to work the ball up field and score right on the half-time siren through captain Jamie Lyon, who latched on to a Cherry-Evans kick next to the posts. Lyon converted his own try to get Manly on the board, but still trailing by a scoreline of 26-6.
A towering kickoff from Richards drew about a Sea Eagles error in the first play of the second half but despite several attacking sets on their line, the Wests Tigers could not draw first blood as simple errors began to creep into the game from both teams.
Steve Matai appeared to have scored the first try of the second half when he went himself on the last tackle despite having Peta Hiku unmarked outside him.
After a look upstairs with the video referee, replays showed Tim Simona had done enough to get his legs underneath Matai to prevent him getting the ball down.
Simona had moved to fullback with Tedesco leaving the field just after half-time, with Bodene Thompson playing in the centres next to Nofoaluma. That combination might not have been how Mick Potter drew it up at the start of the game, but it was a fruitful one, with the duo combining for the first try of the second half.
Thompson flew out of the line in defence to force an error from the Sea Eagles on their own 20-metre line — leaving Nofoaluma free to pick up the ball and run away.
The speedy winger outran Matai and Stewart and crossed for his second try of the day, with Richards adding his seventh goal from as many attempts.
Matai would get the better of his man, though, in the 60th minute when he rounded the winger to finally cross for his first try of the game.
Lyon nailed his second conversion of the day to reduce the margin to 32-12.
Another penalty goal for Richards extended the lead to 34-12 with 10 minutes to go, and the Leichhardt faithful could finally start celebrating an incredible win.
Matai would cross once more late in the corner following some sharp build-up play but there would be no comeback on the cards for the visitors.
That converted try saw the scoreline read 34-18, which is how it finished in the end.
Final score: Wests Tigers 34 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18