Wests Tigers NSW Cup side have ended a run of four straight defeats with a 36-16 victory over the Newcastle Knights in their Round 15 clash at Campbelltown.
Boosted by the pre-game inclusion of 2014 NYC Five-Eighth of the Year, Te Maire Martin, for his NSW Cup debut, Wests Tigers would strike first blood through a familiar combination, with Martin finding Lamar Liolevave off a good short ball after six minutes.
Kurtis Rowe — taking over kicking duties for the injured Josh Drinkwater — added the extras off the post, giving the home side an early 6-0 lead after seven minutes of play.
Paul Fletcher’s side looked to have extended their lead just moments later when Liolevave grounded a grubber from Martin in-goal; however, the referee ruled the kick to have run long and the Junior Kiwi back-rower was not rewarded for his efforts.
Newcastle would hit back in the 17th minute when a back-line move caught Wests Tigers short on the far side, with Chanel Mata’utia sending Honeti Tuha over out wide.
Kerrod Holland was unable to add the extras, leaving the score at 6-4, but he would have a chance to quickly make up for his mistake with a break down the right wing, before linking back up on the inside with Jaelen Feeney, who raced away to score.
Holland converted to give the Knights a 10-6 lead after 20 minutes of play.
The visitors would extend their lead in the 28th minute when Feeney found Marvin Filipo close to the line with a flat pass that appeared close to forward.
Again, Holland had no problems with the extras and pushed the Knights’ lead to 16-6.
Wests Tigers would hit back in the 33rd minute through Martin, who collected the ball out the back before stepping and weaving his way through the line to score out wide.
Rowe nailed the tough conversion to reduce the margin to 16-12 after 35 minutes, which is how it would read at half-time despite late changes for both teams.
Fletcher’s side quickly picked up where they left-off after half-time, with a cross-field kick from Penani Manumalealli spilled by the Knights, allowing Hoeter to score the simplest of tries after 46 minutes. Matthew Woods took over the kicking duties from Rowe and had no problems converting to give the home side the lead once again.
Wests Tigers would extend their lead through Nathan Milone in the 49th minute in a passage of play that had to be seen to believe. With the kick allowed to bounce on last tackle, the home side kept the ball alive through a dozen sets of hands, before Lulia eventually found space on the left wing to send the youngster over in the corner.
Woods then nailed the sideline conversion to give Wests Tigers a 24-16 lead.
Following another error off a kick from the visitors, Fletcher’s side pushed even further in front thanks to a brilliant piece of skill from Rowe, who collected the ball out the back, before stepping on the inside of three defenders to somehow plant the ball down.
Woods’ successful conversion took Wests Tigers lead out to 30-16 after 61 minutes.
Having spent most of the second half in the Knights’ end of the field, the visitors would throw plenty at Wests Tigers in the final 20 minutes of the match but, despite a high penalty count, were unable to convert as errors continued to plague their attack.
In the end, it would be Martin who finished off the match for Wests Tigers in the 75th minute, with a show-and-go close to the line catching out some tired defenders for his second try of the night, with Woods adding the easy extras from in front of the posts.
That would give Wests Tigers a 36-16 lead, which is how it would read at full-time to give the home side their first win in five weeks and keep their finals aspirations alive.
Wests Tigers 36 (Martin 2, Liolevave, Hoeter, Milone, Rowe tries; Rowe 2/2 goals, Woods 4/4 goals) def. Newcastle Knights 16 (Tuha, Feeney, Filipo tries; Holland 2/2 goals).