Wests Tigers NSW Cup side have survived a late comeback from the Newcastle Knights to emerge with a 20-18 win from their Round 10 clash at Hunter Stadium.
After trailing 10-0 early, Wests Tigers fought back to take a 16-10 lead mid-way through the second half, before a Knights try on the siren gave the home side a chance to steal a 20-all draw, which was missed — leaving the visitors with a nail-biting two-point victory.
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Despite a strong opening quarter of the match from Wests Tigers that saw plenty of attacking opportunities, it was the home side who picked up the first points of the match after 13 minutes when Nathan Ross beat Keith Lulia on the edge to score.
Dylan Phythian added the extras from out on the wing to give his side a 6-0 lead which was quickly extended to 10-0, as Honeti Tuha crossed untouched down the short side after 26 minutes with Rowe and Salesi Funaki outnumbered on their wing.
The try went unconverted, with the Knights holding a 10-0 lead at Hunter Stadium.
After a weight of possession on the Knights’ line, Wests Tigers would finally cross the line through Lamar Liolevave after 31 minutes, who strolled through untouched close to the pasts following a good short ball from halfback Josh Drinkwater.
Drinkwater had no problems adding the extras and reducing the score to 10-6.
The visitors would strike again before the break following a good run from Kurtis Rowe, with Sitaleki Akauola drifting into the back-field and throwing a superb cut-out ball down the left — allowing John Sila to race away for his second try in as many matches.
Drinkwater was unable to convert, leaving the score locked at 10-10, which is how it would read as both teams went to the half-time sheds at Hunter Stadium.
Just 30 seconds into the second half, Wests Tigers would take the lead for the first time in the match, with halves Joel Luani and Drinkwater combining well to put Brenden Santi into space, who linked up with fullback Tim Moltzen to score under the posts.
Drinkwater added the extras to give Wests Tigers a 16-10 lead after 41 minutes.
Despite an injury to Ross, the home side would hit back down the left wing soon after through Tuha, who bagged his second try of the game off a smart kick from Danny Levi.
Phythian was unable to convert, giving Wests Tigers a 16-14 lead after 47 minutes.
The home side threatened to take the lead again, but some superb cover defending on two separate occasions from Kurtis Rowe and Drinkwater saw Wests Tigers hold firm and preserve their two-point lead heading into the final few minutes.
Wests Tigers would seemingly have the game wrapped up in the 77th minute when Manaia Cherrington and Moltzen combined to put Nathan Milone over out wide, but a missed conversion from Drinkwater gave the Knights one final chance to win the match — which they almost did when Tuha crossed for his third try as the siren sounded.
However, Phythian was unable to convert from the sideline and force a draw, allowing Wests Tigers to escape with a thrilling 20-18 win from their Round 10 clash.
Wests Tigers will look to make it four wins in a row when they take on the Wyong Roos next Saturday, May 23 as part of a three-game program at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
FULL TIME — Wests Tigers 20 (Liolevave, Sila, Moltzen, Milone tries; Drinkwater 2/4 goals) def. Newcastle Knights 18 (Tuha 3, Ross tries; Phythian 1/4 goals).