Wests Tigers have made it back-to-back NSW Cup wins with a strong 26-22 victory over the Newcastle Knights at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
NSW Cup debutants Mitchell Moses and Curtis Sironen — making his long-awaited return from injury — were both sensational in the win, with Marika Koroibete also continuing his brilliant form with another dominant game.
Moses was settling in well to his NSW Cup debut and soon had an impact when he nailed a 40/20 inside the opening 10 minutes.
However, Wests Tigers couldn’t turn his sharp kicking into points, and invited the Knights to attack — something which they soon did frequently on the hosts’ line.
Yet despite having seven repeat sets, Newcastle couldn’t break through.
A back-and-forth match would follow, with Wests Tigers finally breaking through after Jy Hitchcox hit Curtis Sironen close to the line.
Playing just his first game for the season after injuring his foot in the 2014 Auckland Nines, the powerful second-rower proved too hard to handle close to the line, and planted the ball down for a 4-0 lead after 23 minutes.
Moses missed the conversion, leaving the hosts with a 4-0 lead.
The lead was short lived, though, as a strong run from James Elias saw the second-rower link back up with Marcel Ikinofo before receiving the pass back and racing away to score in the left-hand corner.
Josh Mantellato converted to give the Knights a 6-4 lead after 32 minutes.
The visitors were in once more in the 38th minute through Inkinofo, although there was some doubt about whether the winger got the ball down inside the touchline, but the referee awarded the try. Mantellato missed the sideline conversion, to leave the score at 10-6 with just a minute to play in the half.
A moment of magic from Koroibete ensured that the visitors had points before the break, though. The Fijian flyer pushed through two defenders and ran 60m before linking up with Mitchell Moses close to the line, with the five-eighth scoring a try in his first game of NSW Cup football this year.
Dayne Craig converted on the siren to lock the scores at 10-all.
Wests Tigers were first to strike after half-time when Sironen laid on a perfect grubber for Setefano Taukafa to reach out and score from in the 43rd minute.
Craig missed the conversion, leaving the scoreline at 14-10.
Newcastle quickly hit back, though, through Michael Steele in the 49th minute, after the forward powered his way through two defenders close to the line.
A simple conversion extended the visitors’ lead back out to 16-14.
Some silky skills down the sideline from Koroibete saw the hosts back in the lead in the 50th minute, with the winger dancing his way past the fullback to score next to the left-hand upright. That gave Craig a simple conversion, and the hosts were back in front once more with a score of 20-16.
Another linebreak for Koroibete saw Wests Tigers on the attack, and Knights’ fullback Nathan Ross sent off for tripping in the play the ball.
That left the visitors undermanned for the remaining 23 minutes of the match, and the vision of Sironen and Moses — combined with the speed of Koroibete — would soon see them fall even further behind on the scoreboard.
After scooping up an error from the Knights, Moses threw a great cut-out pass to find Koroibete, who simply blew past his opposite number to race 80m and score his second length-of-the-field try of the afternoon.
Craig converted from in front for a 26-16 lead after 63 minutes.
Newcastle hit back with a somewhat dubious try again through Ikinofo in the left corner to reduce the margin to just four points for the final 10 minutes, but the result was seemingly always going the way of the hosts with an extra man advantage.
Wests Tigers hung on for a 26-22 win, and ensured they finished the week inside the top four of the 2014 VB NSW Cup ladder.
Final: Wests Tigers 26 def. Newcastle Knights 22