Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup team have bounced back from consecutive tough defeats with a nail-biting 30-28 victory over the Cronulla Sharks in their Round 10 clash.
First half doubles to Daniel Abou-Sleiman and Marika Koroibete set the platform for the visitors to emerge with a shock two-point victory — especially given the strong lineup that the hosts fielded on the day.
It was the hosts who crossed for the first points of the through Nathan Gardner after just six minutes, following some sharp work from Blake Ayshford. Nathan Stapleton duly converted the try from close to the posts, but it wouldn’t be long before Wests Tigers hit back with points of their own.
Setefano Taukafa’s linebreak set the platform for a strong attacking set, and it was Daniel Abou-Sleiman who crossed after a good offload from Nathan Brown.
Michael Stevens — playing his first game for the NSW Cup team this year — added the extras from close to the posts to bring the score back to 6-6.
Wests Tigers soon hit the lead through Marika Koroibete after the winger latched on to a loose ball. The Fijian international flew down the sideline to beat the cover defence, and crossed under the posts to give Wests Tigers a 12-6 lead.
Just three minutes later the lead was extended even further when Stevens’ sharp run saw Abou-Sleiman on hand to grab his second try of the day. The halfback added the extras from next to the posts to push the visitors’ lead to 12 points after just 22 minutes of play — a lead which was soon extended even further.
And what a sensational bit of skill it was from Koroibete in doing so.
The winger picked up an offload from Keith Lulia and quickly raced away down the sideline, before turning Gardner inside out and powering past him for his second four-pointer of the afternoon. Stevens couldn’t add the extras this time, though, from out wide, and the score remained 22-6.
Stapleton was in the points again soon after as he pushed away from his opposite number to plant the ball down out wide in the 28th minute.
The winger converted his own try to reduce the margin to 22-12, which is how it would read at the half-time interval not long after.
Errors continued to plague both teams in the second half as they squandered good attacking positions and, as such, it took until the 58th minutes for any points to be posted. And it was Wests Tigers who crossed for the crucial try — Setefano Taukafa finishing off the left-to-right move in the corner.
Stevens couldn’t convert from the sideline for a 26-12 lead.
Cronulla hit back not long after, though, when Mahe Fonua fell on a loose ball in the in-goal in the 63rd minute. Koroibete had appeared to be taken out without the ball but the referees didn’t see it that way, and Stapleton’s successful conversion saw the scoreline reduced to 26-18.
However, the winger would soon atone for his error with a scintillating try to complete his hat-trick — racing 90m to beat Gardner to the line.
Stevens’ unsuccessful conversion left the score at 30-18.
Fonua grabbed his second of the day after some scrappy play on the last tackle to peg the margin back to 30-22 with six minutes to go, but it was Gardner's second try after an error from Koroibete with just two minutes to go that really had those in the orange, black and white worried.
However, the scoreboard was always against the hosts, and Wests Tigers managed to hold on to their two-point lead — giving them a crucial two competition points.
Final: Wests Tigers 30 def. Cronulla Sharks 28