Despite a strong comeback, Wests Tigers have gone down 24-14 to Mounties RLFC in extremely cold conditions at Aubrey Keech Reserve in their Round 8 clash.
Former first-grade Canberra Raiders winger Sami Sauliuma crossed for a first-half double for the hosts — giving them a 18-0 lead at the break which would they would never relinquish, despite strong opposition from the visitors.
It was Sauiluma who crossed for first points of the day after Mitch Cornish’s cross-field kick took a strong deflection. The winger collected the bounce before dummying to his outside man to score next to the posts.
Cornish could not convert, though, leaving the score at 4-0.
Sauiluma soon a double as the 20-minute mark approached, after a sharp finish following a short-side raid on the last tackle.
From the sideline, Cornish again missed with the conversion.
Wests Tigers continue to struggle to get into the match as possession, penalties and field position mounted against them, and it was the hosts who extended their lead not long before half-time through Foster.
The second-rower barged on to a strong short ball close to the line to extend the lead to 14-0 after Cornish added the extras from in front.
Mounties then added a crucial try before half-time after spreading the ball quickly to the right. An overlap was created and Vaiotu crossed in the corner to push the lead to 18-0 in favour of the hosts as the half-time siren sounded.
Whatever Head Coach Paul Fletcher said to the boys at half-time must have struck a nerve, as the visitors started much stronger after the break.
Captain Jarrod Farlow crossed for a much-needed try in the 43rd minute after wrestling his over the line close to the posts.
Cory Paterson duly added the extras to reduce the score to 18-6.
A sensational run from Asipeli Fine just minutes later off a quick tap saw Wests Tigers reduce the gap even further in the 45th minute, as he raced away from defenders to score in the right corner. This time, however, Paterson could not add the extras the score remained 18-10 in Mounties’ favour.
Wests Tigers continued to threaten the line throughout the half, but the final pass simply wouldn’t fall for the visitors, who were unable to cross the stripe.
With Daniel Abou-Sleiman taken from the field with injury, Wests Tigers were forced to undergo a back-line reshuffle, and it soon turned in their favour.
Cory Paterson (playing at centre) beat two defenders before flicking out wide to Nathan Milone (playing on the wing), to score in the corner in the 73rd minute.
Paterson missed from out wide, leaving the score at 18-14.
As valiant as the comeback had been, it would be all in vain in the end, as McIlwrick put the result beyond doubt with a try in the final minutes of the game.
Goldsmith converted from in front to push the lead to 24-14, which is how it would finish in the end in front of a vocal crowd at Aubrey Keech Reserve.
Final: Mounties RLFC 24 def. Wests Tigers 14