Wests Tigers have gone down in a golden point thriller to the St George Illawarra Dragons 32-30 today at ANZ Stadium in the Club’s final match of the 2015 NRL season.
The game marked the final match for two Club legends in Keith Galloway and Pat Richards – however they were unable to finish their Wests Tigers career with a win as the finals-bound Dragons landed a controversial penalty goal in the 85th minute to win the match.
Wests Tigers posted points very early in the game with a wayward pass from Mitch Rein reeled in by Luke Brooks who sprinted 40 metres down field to score in the left corner. Pat Richards was unable to convert from the sideline, with the score remaining 4-0 after just three minutes.
A dropped ball from James Tedesco during the next set put pressure back on Wests Tigers, with fullback Josh Dugan crabbing across field and finding a hole in defence to score. The Blues’ fullback was unable to convert his own try as the scores remained locked up at 4-all after seven minutes.
A penalty to Dragons had them back on the attack and Drew Hutchison put up a cross-field kick for winger who Eto Nabuli who leaped above David Nofoaluma to score. Dugan made no mistake this time, making it 10-4 after 10 minutes.
Euan Aitken extended St George Illawarra’s lead in the 17th minute, getting through the left edge defence to score. The Dragons held a 14-4 advantage after Dugan missed the conversion.
Wests Tigers hit back in the 26th minute of play, with Robbie Farah wrapping around Aaron Woods from the play the ball and shifting it to the left to find Richards who dived over in the corner. The departing Club legend was unable to add the extras, however the Dragons' lead was cut to 14-8.
Benji Marshall capitalised on the Dragons continued pressure in the 34th minutes, finding Tyson Frizell who crossed for his fourth try of the season. Dugan converted the try to extend his side’s lead out to 20-8 – a scoreline which would remain going into the half time break.
Mitchell Moses kicked a huge 40/20 in the 44th minute, however Wests Tigers were unable to break through the Dragons defensive line for a much-needed try.
Marshall played a hand in the Dragons next try - running across the face of the defence and grubbering for his winger Jason Nightingale who pounced on the ball just before the dead-ball line. Dugan was unsuccessful with the conversion – however his side held a 24-8 advantage after 48 minutes.
Tedesco was denied a try in the 54th minute due to obstruction, with the on-field decision overturned by the video referee.
Aitken crossed for his second try of the match in the 59th minute, which was converted by Dugan for a 30-8 scoreline.
Wests Tigers were quick to strike back – with Richards crossing for his second on the back of a nice cut-out pass from Brooks. The Catalans-bound winger missed his third conversion for the day, with the Dragons leading 30-12 after 65 minutes.
Aaron Woods - the only player in the 17 not to have scored a try this season – crashed over from a short ball from Manaia Cherrington in the 67th minute. Richards slotted his first goal of the game to narrow the margin to two converted tries.
The comeback was in full flight when Moses made a break down the right edge and found Tedesco on his inside who finished the exciting passage of play. Richards made no mistake with the kick to bring it back to 30-24 with just two minutes remaining.
The game looked to be over when Galloway’s offload was intercepted by Nightingale on the very next play. However, the Dragons shifted it left and Nofoaluma came up with a great play – intercepting the ball and running 90 metres to score. Richards locked it up at 30-all with a simple conversion.
With 20 seconds on the clock, Richards had a shot at field goal from 45-metres out; however it swayed away to the right and extra-time was on the cards.
Marshall had the first real chance at field goal three minutes in to extra time – spraying a shot from 10 metres out to the right.
With Richards and Marshall both missing chances at a field-goal – the game finished in controversial circumstances in the 85th minute when the Dragons were awarded a penalty for offside 20 metres out right in front of the posts. Dugan landed the penalty goal for a 32-20 full time score.
St George Illawarra Dragons 32 (Aitken 2, Dugan, Nabuli, Nightingale Frizell tries; Dugan 4/7 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 30 (Richards 2, Brooks Woods, Nofoaluma, Tedesco tries; Richards 3/6 goals)