Wests Tigers Holden Cup side have recorded a thrilling 24-24 draw against the New Zealand Warriors today in their Round 25 match at Mount Smart Stadium.
Despite coming into the match missing a number of key players, Wests Tigers saw the better of the attacking opportunities early in the match but were unable to get the better of the home side, with a last-minute try to Ray Stone rescuing a crucial point for the side.
The Warriors opened the scoring after just four minutes when back-rower Ofahiki Ogden found some space back against the grain to crash over next to the posts.
Junior Pauga converted from in front to give his side a 6-0 lead.
The home side looked destined to extend their lead with a number of repeat sets on the visitors’ line, but some stirring goal-line defence on the right edge saw the Warriors spill the ball over the line on two occasions — giving Wests Tigers a much-needed reprieve.
A bullocking run from Esan Marsters looked to have leveled the match after 22 minutes, but the Junior Kiwi international forward was ruled to have lost the ball over the line.
As Wests Tigers continue to come up just short of the Warriors, it was the home side that posted a crucial try just before half-time, as Pauga came up with a one-on-one strip before beating two defenders to score next to the posts and take the score to 12-0.
Despite plenty of chances to score, that is how the score would remain at the break.
Whatever Coach Willie Peters said to the team at half-time clearly left in impact, as the visitors began much better in the second stanza with a flurry of quick tries.
Thomas Bartley began the scoring in the 52nd minute with a superb individual effort, before two try-assists from Daniel Peck in the space of five minutes saw Daniel Roberts and Mark McCormack both cross to give Wests Tigers an 18-12 lead after 60 minutes.
However, as easily as they found the lead, Peters’ side would relinquish their advantage as Sheldon Pitama dummied his way over from dummy half to level the match, before Pauaga grabbed his second try of the day with some sharp footwork to re-take the lead.
Wests Tigers refused to go away, though, and after a thrilling final passage of play, it was big prop Pio Sokobalava who came up with a crucial offload under the posts to allow Stone to score in the final play of the game and secure a 24-24 draw for the team.
Wests Tigers will play their final game of the regular season next Sunday against the Canberra Raiders at Leichhardt with a win potentially giving the team a top four finish.
NYC FT — Wests Tigers 24 (Bartley, Roberts, McCormack, Stone tries; Ioelu 4/4 goals) drew with NZ Warriors 24 (Pauga 2, Ogden, Pitama tries; Pauga 3/3, Tavita 1/1 goals)