Wests Tigers have been eliminated from the NSW Cup finals series today, going down to the Wyong Roos 26-8 at Leichhardt Oval.
Finishing the regular competition in sixth-place, it was a must-win encounter for Paul Fletcher’s side coming up against the seventh-placed Roos - who will now play Wentworthville next weekend.
It was a disappointing end to the year for a side very much depleted by the NRL injury toll, with regulars Jy Hitchcox and Asipeli Fine amongst others playing with first grade yesterday.
Wyong received a very early opportunity after a James Gavet offload went to ground on the second tackle of the match. The Wests Tigers defence held strong though as John Sila fielded a cross-field kick in-goal.
A strong tackle from Kyle Lovett forced a knock-on from opposing centre Jay Florimo, giving Wests Tigers their first real attacking opportunity of the game after seven minutes. The scoreboard remained untouched though as a Jack Madden grubber rolled dead.
The first points of the day belonged to Wyong as fullback Mark Kheirallah cleaned up a Michael Stevens kick and sliced straight through, finding an unmarked Mitch Williams who raced 70 metres to the first try. Kheirallah converted the try from under the posts for a 6-0 lead after 12 minutes.
Andy Fiagatusa and Nathan Brown combined for a strong tackle in the 24th minute, forcing a mistake from Wyong and giving Wests Tigers a full set 30 metres out from the try-line. Madden’s cross-field kick was fielded easily by the Roos and they escaped once more.
Wests Tigers centre Corey Brown was placed on report in the 26th minute after Wyong second-rower Bennett Leslie accused him of biting.
The flow of field position and possession in favour of Wyong continued late in the first half as Wests Tigers were forced to defend their line for back-to-back sets. However an error from Florimo in the play-the-ball took the pressure off.
Interchange prop Nathan Brown joined Corey Brown on report in the 33rd minute after allegedly lashing out with his boot in tackle whilst on the attack.
Despite the efforts of (Nathan) Brown in cover defence, Wyong winger Damon Goolagong managed to chip-kick back in field from a line-break to find a flying Kheirallah who scored out wide. The fullback was unable to convert the try, however his side held a 10-0 lead after 37 minutes.
Despite there being less than one minute remaining when the Wests Tigers kicked-off, a mistake from Wyong presented one last opportunity. Receiving the ball flat-footed, right winger Setefano Taukafa stepped his way through the defence to score in the corner. Corey Brown was unable to convert the try and Wyong went to the break with a 10-4 lead.
Both sides came out fired-up, with Wests Tigers enjoying the majority of field position in the opening eight minutes. Madden and Michael Bullock combined for an line-break, however they were unable to turn the opportunity into points.
Stevens produced a stellar kick in the 49th minute, which pulled up in-goal perfectly with Kheirallah spilling it in-goal and Kyle Lovett diving on the ball for what looked like a try. It wasn’t to be though as the referee ruled a drop-out.
On the next set of six, Wyong forward Zane Tetevano was put on report for a high tackle on Stevens, who was taken from the field with concussion and falied to return to the match.
From the penalty, the Wests Tigers eventually capatalised on the wealth of possession as Inno Inosesio showed great strength to barge over from dummy-half. Corey Brown added the tough conversion and Wyong held a 10-8 lead after 52 minutes.
Marching their way back up the field, Wyong hit straight back with a backline shift to the left finding Florimo who got on the outside of Lovett to score in the corner. Kheirallah couldn’t convert the try with the score remaining 14-8 mid-way through the second half.
The Roos made a break again down their left edge in the 64th minute with winger Dale Clacherty finishing the move as he sliced through the attempted cover defence of Rowe and Taukafa. Kheirallah made the scoreline even more daunting for the Wests Tigers, kicking the sideline conversion for a 20-8 lead.
A towering bomb from Wyong was spilled by Rowe and the Roos took full advantage – with Goolagong pouncing on a grubber from the scrum in the right corner. The conversion was waved away but Wyong held a convincing 24-8 lead.
Kheirallah added a late penalty goal in the 77th minute to make the final score 26-8.
Wyong Roos 26 (Mitch Williams, Mark Kheirallah, Damon Goolagong, Dale Clacherty, Jay Florimo tries; Kheirallah 2/5 goals, 1/1 penalty goal) defeated Wests Tigers 8 (Setefano Taukafa, Inno Inosesio tries; Corey Brown 0/2 goals