Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup side have fought back from an early 12-0 deficit to defeat the Illawarra Cutters 24-16 in their Round 23 clash at Leichhardt Oval.
The win sees Wests Tigers move to outright second on the NSW Cup ladder and put them in a great position to end the year with a top-four spot.
After a back-and-forth first 10 minutes, it was the visitors who crossed for the first points of the match through fullback Tyran Cranston after 13 minutes.
Sam Duggan added the extras from in front for an early 6-0 lead.
Sitaleki Akauola came close to leveling the scores in the 19th minute following Michael Stevens’ cross-field kick, but he was unable to ground the ball. That would prove costly as the Cutters went back down field from the seven-tackle set and crossed through Josh Ailomai in the 21st minute following a good inside ball.
Duggan again added the extras to push the visitors’ lead to 12-0.
A strong run from Andy Fiagatusa soon reduced the margin though after 27 minutes, and a determined run from Andrew Vela not long after saw the scores locked at 12-12 with just three minutes remaining in the first half.
It appeared that margin would be the scoreline at the interval, but a strong piece of handling as the siren sounded saw Corey Brown cross in the corner.
The winger then converted his own try to give hosts an 18-12 lead at the break.
After starting the second half with a weight of possession and good field position, Wests Tigers quickly pushed further in front thanks to a darting run from Jarred Farlow in the 56th minute, which was converted by Brown for a 24-12 lead.
Cutters hit back with a controversial try through Pene Botiki in the 63rd minute. Farlow appeared to be taken out by the lead runner, but the try was given and the margin was reduced to eight points following Duggan’s missed conversion.
The Cutters would threaten to come back in the match after a string of penalties, but some inspired defence from Setefano Taukafa and Jack Buchanan in particular allowing the hosts to emerge with their line untroubled, and the two points firmly in hand.
Final — Wests Tigers 24 def. Illawarra Cutters 16