Wests Tigers have gone down in heartbreaking fashion to the Newcastle Knights, losing 24-18 in their Round 23 clash on Saturday at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Leading 16-12 at the break, Jason Taylor’s side endured a back-and-forth second half as both teams took and regained the lead, before a couple of controversial decisions allowed the Knights to take the lead, and seal the win with a late try to Tyrone Roberts.
Fielding the same side that snuck home against the Canberra Raiders last week, it took Wests Tigers just six minutes to open the scoring through David Nofoaluma, who finished acrobatically in the right corner after some sharp handling out wide.
Pat Richards converted from the sideline to give his side a 6-0 lead.
Richards would extend the lead himself just three mintues later — diving over in the opposite corner after Tim Simona released the veteran winger with a good no-look pass.
This time, however, he couldn’t convert from out wide and the score remained 10-0.
After a error in the ensuing set was compounded by a penalty, Newcastle were able to go on the attack for the first time of the afternoon and soon crossed for points, with Jake Mamo wrapping around the back to throw a cut-out ball for Akuila Uate to score.
Roberts converted to cut the home side’s lead to 10-6 after 14 minutes.
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Wests Tigers quickly hit back with a lovely try to James Tedesco, picking up a sublime grubber back on the inside from Mitchell Moses to crash over after 17 minutes.
Richards’ successful conversion put his side back out by 10 points, leading 16-6.
Newcastle would hit back in the 33rd minute in somewhat fortunate circumstances, with Tariq Sims knocking back a deft cross-field kick from Kurt Gidley into the path of Moses, which bounced perfectly for Roberts to ground under the posts.
Roberts converted his own try to reduce the margin to 16-12, which is how it would read the break despite two close efforts from Mamo and Ava Seumanufagai.
With the news that star forward Aaron Woods wouldn’t return for the second half with a knee injury, Wests Tigers would find themselves behind on the scoreboard momentarily in the 45th minute after Tyler Randell was on hand to ground Clint Newton’s scrappy offload — Roberts converting from close to the posts to give his side a 18-16 lead.
However, the visitors’ advantage would be short-lived as a penalty goal to Richards right in front of the posts allowed him to lock the game up at 18-all after 50 minutes of play.
After Sims was denied a try in the 57th minute following a knock-on in the in-goal, the home side found themselves on the wrong end of a controversial decision in the 60th minute, with Nofoaluma denied a try — ruled to have planted the ball on the sideline.
Sims was denied again in the 67th minute as he came agonisingly close to crashing over next to the posts, but the Knights were still able to take the lead through a penalty goal, with the video referees ruling Kyle Lovett not to be square at marker in the process.
Gidley’s conversion gave the visitors a 20-18 lead with 13 minutes left to play.
After surviving an onslaught of Knights’ attacking opportunities, Wests Tigers had just one final chance to win the game in the final stanza but couldn’t quite put it together as Simona’s pass went behind Richards with the try-line seemingly at his mercy.
That would be the final opportunity for the home side, with a late try to Roberts giving the Knights’ a six-point victory and their second win over Wests Tigers this season,
NRL FULL TIME — Newcastle Knights 24 (Roberts 2, Uate, Randell tries; Roberts 4/5 goals) def. Wests Tigers 18 (Nofoaluma, Richards, Tedesco tries; Richards 3/4 goals).