15 Moments for 15 Seasons - No. 14

15 Moments for 15 Seasons

Wests Tigers are counting down the top 15 moments in the Club's history to commemorate with their 15th Anniversary NRL season.

As voted by the fans, here's Moment No. 14.

 

Campbelltown Stadium had seen it’s fair share of comebacks throughout the years, but few will go down in the record books and in the minds of those present quite like the 36-32 victory recorded against the Newcastle Knights in Round 23 of the 2001 season.

Newcastle came to Campbelltown Stadium late in the season sitting in third position, with many already penciling the visitors in for a win against the struggling Wests Tigers.

Despite missing Australian international halfback Andrew Johns, Newcastle's attack still packed plenty of punches with names like Kurt and Matt Gidley as well as Robbie O'Davis and Timana Tahu, and that attack soon clicked into gear on the night.

Against a sluggish Wests Tigers' defensive unit, Newcastle's attack was on fire early, and soon crossed for the first points of the match through representative forward Ben Kennedy.

The visitors soon extended their lead through some swift attacking play, and after tries to Steve Simpson, Darren Albert, and a second try for Kennedy, had amassed a staggering 24-0 lead with still over 15 minutes remaining in the first half.

By all accounts, Newcastle looked destined to run away with a big win.

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Wests Tigers managed to hit back before the main break courtesy of tries to Corey Pearson and Lipina Kaufusi, reducing the gap to 24-12, but they couldn’t keep that scoreline heading into half-time. A superb try to Julian Bailey in the 39th minute saw the Knights’ lead restored to 16 points at the break and then as many as 20 points when Kennedy crossed for his third of the night in the 42nd minute.

With the scoreline reading 32-12 and the Knights aiming to secure a home final, it appeared that the match was finished — with the two competition points heading back to Newcastle.

Clearly nobody told the 17 Wests Tigers players on the night, though.

The most unlikely of comebacks was about to begin.

Owen Craigie crossed in the 55th minute to give the hosts some hope before tries to Ben Galea and Joel Caine within the next 10 minutes had the Wests Tigers (and their fans) believing that the impossible could become a reality.

Caine’s perfect accuracy had reduced the margin to just two points, and had given the home side all the momentum heading into the final 10 minutes.

Wests Tigers sensationally took the lead in the 71st minute through a man making his own comeback, Kevin McGuiness, when the raging outside back snaffled up a grubber from Craigie to score under the posts. Caine duly slotted the extras to give the home team their first lead of the match, and while Newcastle continued to throw everything at the Wests Tigers late in the match, the hosts’ defence held firm under pressure.

When the final whistle went with the Wests Tigers clinging to a 36-32 lead, few in the ground and even many on the field, could believe what they had just witnessed.

The Club had pulled off the most remarkable of comebacks — trailing 24 points early and 20 points with 35 minutes to play — against one of the best teams in the competition.

What's more: they had given their fans something to cheer about in an otherwise disappointing year and belief that they could take down the best in the league.

Newcastle would go on to win the premiership that year; Wests Tigers wouldn't win another game. But despite that, the Club and its fans still had an incredibly memorable Round 23 victory to hold on to, and two competition points that could never be taken away.

 

Check out the other Top 15 Moments:

15. Chris Lawrence's debut against Brisbane Broncos — 2006