Wests Tigers NYC Holden Cup side have gone down 28-22 to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in their sudden-death Semi Final tonight at Allianz Stadium.
Coming into the match as heavy underdogs on a short turnaround, Brett Kimmorley’s side showed tremendous fight and courage to keep pace with their superior opponents all night — even leading 18-16 at the half-time interval — before the Sea Eagles simply finished the stronger to emerge with a six-point victory from the Semi Final clash.
The Sea Eagles were first to score when front-rower Liam Knight jumped highest to collect a cross-field kick from Will Pearsall after just five minutes of play.
Hugh Pratt had no problems converting to give his side an early 6-0 lead.
A strong tackle on Addison Demetriou from Jeremy Marshall-King looked to have snuffed out the Sea Eagles’ next attacking read moments later, but a follow-up raid down the short side on the next play saw them extend their lead through Kyle Saunders.
Pratt landed the sideline conversion to give the Sea Eagles a 12-0 lead after 10 minutes.
With the Sea Eagles continuing to dominate field position and force Wests Tigers to work it from their own end, the David Heath-coached side pulled even further in front when Luke Gardner wrestled his way over out wide after 15 minutes of play.
Pratt was unable to add the extras this time, however, leaving the scoreline at 16-0.
Off the back of some desperate defence from Veiru Mapesone — saving a certain try from Will Pearsall in the corner — Wests Tigers posted their first points of the night when Te Maire Martin put Veiru Mapesone through the line with a good face ball.
Matthew Woods converted from near the posts to cut the margin to 16-6.
Wests Tigers were in again shortly after when an error off a kick from Saunders allowed Marion Seve to pick up the crumbs and dive over in the corner after 27 minutes.
Woods’ superb sideline conversion reduced the Sea Eagles lead even further to 16-12.
After Knight was denied his second try of the day after 31 minutes when he was ruled to knocked the ball on over the line, Wests Tigers took their first lead of the match just minutes before half-time when Jacob Liddle threw a great ball down the short side for Seve to score his second try of the match. Veiru Mapesone converted the try to give Kimmorley’s side an 18-16 lead, which they would take into the half-time sheds.
Beginning the second half with an early penalty, Wests Tigers went agonisingly close to extending their lead just two minutes into the half when Mapesone went over out wide.
However, after inspection from the video referee, the decision was ruled no try, with Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trobjevic ruled to have taken the back-rower over the sideline.
Off the back of that 20m tap, Trbojevic would continue to leave his mark on the match as he burst through the line off a sharp inside ball, before racing down field to link up with interchange forward Luke Garner to put the Sea Eagles back in the lead.
Pratt’s successful conversion gave the Sea Eagles a 22-18 lead after 45 minutes.
Unable to crack Wests Tigers’ line after a wave of attacking sets, the Sea Eagles would be forced to settle for a penalty goal in the 55th minute — taking their lead to 24-18.
The Sea Eagles would eventually cross for the crucial try in the 72nd minute after a weight of possession, with Demetriou offloading for Saunders to score in the corner.
Wests Tigers would make sure the match went right down to the final whistle, however, with a deft kick from Mapesone seeing Obed Karwhin cross for a try in the corner.
Woods’ missed conversion would see the score remain at 28-22, and while Wests Tigers had one final chance to take the match into golden point, they were unable to crack the Sea Eagles’ line, who held on for a thrilling six-point win to end Wests Tigers’ season.
Sea Eagles 28 (Saunders 2, Knight, Gardner, Garner tries; Pratt 4/4, Demetriou 0/1 goals) def. Wests Tigers 22 (Seve 2, Mapesone, Karwhin tries; Woods 2/3, Mapesone 1/1 goals).