Wests Tigers have come from behind to defeat the Canberra Raiders 16-10 in their first 2015 Auckland Nines match at Eden Park, Auckland.
Local junior Kyle Lovett was the star of the show — scoring two tries in the victory — which saw Jason Taylor's side come from 10-0 down against Ricky Stuart's men.
Despite Wests Tigers holding the early territorial advantage, it was the Raiders who crossed for the first points of the match. A sharp break from Sisa Waqa was finished off by Lachlan Croker next to the bonus-zone — giving Jack Ahearn a simple conversion to give the men from the nation's capital a 6-0 lead after just three minutes of play.
Another assist from Waqa extended the Raiders' lead moments later, with Ahearn finishing off a sideline move to extend the lead to 10-0 after four minutes.
After working back in to the match with some stiff defence, it was an unlikely try-scorer that got Wests Tigers on the scoreboard — front-rower Jack Buchanan crashing his way over after a sharp short ball from Manaia Cherrington close to the line.
Cherrington easily added the extras to reduce the margin to 10-6 at half-time.
Salesi Funaki threatened to put Wests Tigers in the lead shortly after the break with a strong run and offload, but his pass went to ground.
However, that gave Taylor's men strong field position to launch another attacking raid and they soon came up trumps. Some sharp footwork and clever passing from Samoa international Tim Simona created space for Lovett on the left edge to level the scores.
Lovett would grab a second not long after — this time after some more enterprising play involving Lamar Liolevave, Kevin Naiqama and Chris Lawrence — giving Wests Tigers a 16-10 lead following Pat Richards' successful conversion from out wide.
The Raiders would threaten to level the scores late, but thanks to some gritty defence, Wests Tigers were able to hold their line and hang on for a thrilling 16-10 victory — putting them second in the Hunua Pool behind the New Zealand Warriors.
Wests Tigers will take on the Gold Coast Titans at 4:15pm AEDT in their next match.