Wests Tigers have overcome injury and adversity to emerge with a courageous 19-18 victory over the Canberra Raiders at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Despite losing four players to injury, a 25m field goal from Braith Anasta in the 72nd minute was enough to give Wests Tigers the two points on the night, and give the hosts plenty of confidence heading into their next match against the competition-leading Penrith Panthers.
The night started in disastrous fashion for the hosts, with James Tedesco going down injured in the opening tackle of the match with a knee injury.
It was later confirmed that the star fullback had suffered a broken patella and would get x-rays later on the night, with an expected recovery time of 10-12 weeks.
The news would get better soon after, though, with a good kick from Luke Brooks finding Nofoaluma after 13 minutes for the first points of the match.
Pat Richards added the extras from close to the sideline for a 6-0 lead.
Tim Simona was taken from the field in the 20th minute with a nasty concussion; he would not pass the cognitive test and also wouldn’t return for the match, yet the Wests Tigers continued to hang in there despite being two men down.
Brenko Lee helped level the score for the Raiders after finding himself on the end of a pass from Josh Papalii in the 21st minute, with Jarrod Croker’s sideline conversion seeing the score all locked up at 6-6. However, the hosts would soon restore their lead through Nofoaluma once more, who touched down in the right corner following some sharp hands.
Richards missed the conversion — leaving the score at 10-6 after 27 minutes.
Lee posted his second try of the night in spectacular fashion in the 31st minute — chipping and chasing over Blake Austin (filling in at fullback) — before beating the cover defence to plant the ball down in the right corner.
Croker added the extras to give the visitors their first lead of the night.
A penalty against Dave Shillington for a late hit on Martin Taupau saw Richards level the match at 12-all with nine minutes left in the half with a penalty goal.
Nofoaluma then looked to have added his third shortly after but was ruled to have been just short grounding the ball. However, there would be no denying Richards from scoring his ninth try of the year — spinning away from his man before planting the ball down in the left corner as half-time approached.
He then converted his own try to push the score to 18-12 at the break.
News filtered through at half time that Tim Simona (concussion) would not return for the remainder of the match, and the hosts were struck down shortly after the break as David Nofoaluma (knee) was forced off the field.
That left the Club with just two of their original starting outside backs, and players like Curtis Sironen and Bodene Thompson playing in the centres.
Croker soon took advantage of those player changes, as he sliced through the defence in the 48th minute — running around to score under the posts and give himself a simple conversion to level the scores once more.
The injury woes would continue for the hosts, with Sauaso Sue leaving the field with a shoulder injury in the 53rd minute. He also would not return.
Terry Campese missed a field goal attempt in the 70th minute from right in front as he sought to put the visitors in front, and the miss would prove costly as Braith Anasta marched the team up field and slotted one in the 72nd minute.
That gave the hosts a 19-18 lead with eight minutes to play.
Croker had a chance to put the Raiders in front with three minutes remaining after Shaun Fensom was ruled to have been tackled without the ball, but his kick was waved away to the right — much to the delight of the home crowd.
That allowed the Wests Tigers to hold on and record a remarkable victory in front of a crowd of 9,243 in cold and windy conditions at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Final: Wests Tigers 19 def. Canberra Raiders 18