Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup side have seen their hopes at a top-four finish slip away with a 26-16 defeat to Wyong Roos in their Round 25 clash on Saturday.
Despite leading 10-4 at half-time, the visitors scored two quick tries after the break to take the lead, and crossed again when both teams had players in the sin-bin to ensure that they emerged from Campbelltown Sports Stadium with the two points — also guaranteeing them a position in the finals next week. The loss for Paul Fletcher’s men now mean that they will face off against Wyong next Sunday in a do-or-die elimination final at Leichhardt Oval.
With the late withdrawals of Asipeli Fine and Brenden Santi to first-grade, it was somewhat of a makeshift and out-of-position side that took the field against Wyong, with James Gavet and Sam Hollis in the second-row and Kyle Lovett back in the centres.
And it didn’t take long for wiry Roos hooker Mitch Williams to take advantage of players out of position when his darting run found the try-line after six minutes.
Mark Kheirallah missed to leave the visitors with an early 4-0 lead.
Wests Tigers soon leveled the match when Setefano Taukafa got on the end of Jarred Farlow’s grubber in the right corner. Corey Brown was unable to convert from the sideline, though, and the score remained locked at 4-4 after 15 minutes.
Dropped back into the mix after being originally named in first-grade, Jack Buchanan showed his class with strong run that broke the line in the 25th minute, before he fed an inside pass to Inno Inosesio for the lock to score under the posts.
Brown's conversion gave the hosts a 10-4 lead and all the ascendency in the match.
And while both teams would have chances to add to their totals before the break, it would remain 10-4 in favour of the hosts as the half-time siren sounded.
After earning a repeat set from the second half kickoff, Wyong quickly crossed again when Kheirallah burst through a yawning gap close to the line following a good wrap-around ball from Brock Molan. The fullback improved the angle before touching down, and as such, had no problems leveling the match at 10-10.
A determined run from Boss then saw the interchange forward give Wyong the lead in the 46th minute, with Kheirallah’s conversion taking their lead to 16-10.
Down to 16 men following a concussion to Inosesio, Wests Tigers were crippled even more in the 54th minute when Michael Stevens was forced from the field with injury.
They were soon reduced to 12 men when Kyle Lovett was sent to the sin-bin for fighting along with Jay Florimo, while James Gavet was placed on report for his involvement in the all-in brawl — giving Wyong a penalty.
That penalty gave the Roos great field position to post more points, and they did just that in the 64th minute when Bernstrom beat his man to score out wide.
Kheirallah missed the sideline conversion — leaving the score at 20-10.
Jay Ford then sealed the match for Wyong when he sent Zane Tetevano over in the 70th minute with a lovely cut-out ball to take their lead to 26-10.
And while Wests Tigers fullback Kurtis Rowe would touch down in the 73rd minute following a wonderful 60m effort that saw him beat three players before rounding the fullback, it would be too little too late for the hosts.
Wyong would emerge with a strong 26-16 victory from Campbelltown Sports Stadium, and will look to back that up next Sunday in their elimination final.
Wests Tigers, meanwhile, will wait to see if they have any case to answer from the judiciary — as well as the latest injury news on halfback Michael Stevens.
Final: Wyong Roos 26 def. Wests Tigers 16