Wests Tigers have bounced back from a tough loss to the Gold Coast last weekend to record an impressive 22-14 win over the competition leaders Penrith in Holden Cup tonight.
Despite losing fullback Daniel Roberts to injury early in the game and having star hooker Jacob Liddle sin-binned just after half-time, Wests Tigers proved their premiership credentials with an important victory which secured the side a place in the finals series.
The forward pack was impressive for Willie Peters’ side, in particular Liddle, Taniela Paseka, Jakob Giles and Ray Stone.
Wests Tigers got off to a great start, with five-eighth Veiru Mapesone helping his side post first points of the match with a lovely grubber behind the line for centre Tony Tali; who pounced on the kick to score.
Winger Roman Ioelu had a tough task with the sideline conversion, however he made no mistake with the kick to hand Wests Tigers a 6-0 lead after just five minutes.
It was all one-way traffic early, with Esan Marsters coming close to extending the visitors lead in the 9th minute, however he was pinged for a double movement which let the Panthers off the hook.
Wests Tigers fullback Roberts was caught in a dangerous tackle from Panthers in the 14th minute, with the youngster stretchered off the field after landing awkwardly on his neck.
Penrith halfback Jarome Luai put up a towering bomb which was spilled by Wests Tigers winger Obed Karwhin in the 25th minute, handing the Panthers an attacking opportunity 20 metres out.
The home side took full advantage, spreading it back to their left edge, with fullback Dylan Edwards providing a nice ball for his centre Christian Chrichton to stroll over the line and score.
Luai was unable to convert the try from the sideline, leaving the Wests Tigers with a narrow 6-4 lead after 27 minutes.
Both sides had a number of opportunities leading into the break, however neither were able to get across the line in a low-scoring first 40 minutes.
It was a fast start to the second stanza, with Luai slicing through on the halfway and stepping past Ioelu at fullback, only to be chased down in an outstanding effort from Liddle.
However, the hooker was ruled to have held down Luai for too long however and was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 43rd minute.
Penrith took full advantage of the extra-man, with Sean O’Sullivan grubbering behind the line, which ricocheted off a Wests Tigers defender and into the hands of replacement forward Billy Burns.
Luai was unable to convert the try from the near the sideline, however the Panthers hit the lead 8-6 after 45 minutes.
A chargedown and regather from Stone led to another Tali try, with the speedy centre showing great awareness to burrow his way over in the corner for his second of the night.
Ioelu couldn’t convert, however Wests Tigers held a 10-8 lead over the Panthers just as Liddle returned to the field in the 58th minute.
Liddle made an immediate impact in his return to the field, making a line-break through the middle and finding Ioelu who was unable to handle the pass.
It wouldn’t be long before Wests Tigers would take advantage of the momentum, with Giles finding some space in the Panthers line to crash over in the 61st minute.
Ioelu converted the try to make it a 16-8 lead over the Panthers with 17 minutes of play remaining.
Liddle was carving up the Panthers middle men once more, going straight through on halfway and linking up with Veiru Mapesone who was pulled down 20 metres from the line.
Just two plays later, Wests Tigers spread it wide and found Esan Marsters, who had too much momentum and barged his way over on the right edge.
Ioelu landed another tough conversion from the sideline, extending his side’s lead to a comfortable 22-8 after 74 minutes.
Panthers prop forward Jack Hetherington barged over for a late consolation try, with Edwards converting from the sideline to bring the score back to 22-14 with just over one minute remaining.
Wests Tigers move into the top four for the time being and will head to Auckland next weekend to face the New Zealand Warriors.