Wests Tigers Holden Cup side have drawn with to the Canberra Raiders in their final game of the regular season in front of a strong crowd at Leichhardt Oval.
The result means Wests Tigers will finish the regular season in the bottom half of the top eight, and will play an Elimination Final next weekend with final details to be confirmed.
In an extraordinary finish to the clash, Raiders winger Harry Van Dartel had the chance to win the game for the visitors on two occasions, including after the full time siren from in front of the posts.
However, a full house Leichhardt Oval put the pressure on and he hooked the penalty kick from in front as both teams had to settle for a draw.
Wests Tigers came into the clash with a top eight position wrapped up, however the opposition for the first week of the finals was determined on this fixture.
The home side suffered a double blow prior kick-off with Junior Kiwi representative Esan Marsters (Instrust Super Premiership) and five-eighth Veiru Mapesone (knee) unavailable for the game.
Mark McCormack and Jai Doolan were called in to replace both players.
Both sides went end to end in the first ten minutes of the match before Toa Mata’afa broke through on the right edge to score the opening try of the game.
Roman Ioelu missed the difficult sideline conversion for a 4-0 lead early.
The home side took advantage from a penalty to extend their lead eight minutes later when back-rower Mark McCormack ran a perfect line off Thomas Bartley to extend the lead 10-0 after a quarter of the game.
Canberra controlled the remainder of the half with possession and were rewarded with a four-pointer as Sione Afemui crashed over beside the posts in the 31st minute.
Harry Van Dartel converted to narrow Wests Tigers’ lead, 10-6 and the score remained as both teams went into the half time sheds in front of a huge crowd building for the main game.
Willie Peter’s men came out firing in the second half, forcing an error and earning a penalty to build some momentum as their lead extended with three converted tries.
Late inclusion Jai Doolan was first to cross the line, stepping inside the Raiders defenders planting the ball down beside the posts.
Wests Tigers were over five minutes later when Mata’afa scored his second try of the day, carrying three defenders over the line after a nice ball from Daniel Roberts.
The momentum continued for the home side when Daniel Peck threw a dummy close to the line and burrowed his way to score next to the posts.
Ioelu converted all three tries, as the score blew out to a 28-6 advantage with a quarter of the game to play.
Just as the game looked to be one sided, Canberra had all the momentum in the final stages and hit back with five tries in twenty minutes to level the scores when Andre Niko dived over in the corner after the Raiders created the overlap on the right edge.
Van Dartel converted from the sideline to narrow Wests Tigers lead 28-12.
The Raiders took advantage of an Obed Karwhin error three minutes later to put on a nice set play for William Samuel to crash over and further cut the lead to 28-18 after Van Dartel’s conversion from in front of the sticks.
A perfect set after points for the visitors earned a repeat set and Ron Leipai crashed over to narrow the lead at 28-24.
Another Wests Tigers error had Canberra level the scores with Afemui scoring a double, before Van Bartel missed both chances at goal with a minute left in the game.
Wests Tigers 28 (Mata’afa 2, Peck, Doolan, McCormack tries; Ioelu 5/6 goals) drew with Canberra Raiders 28 (Afemui 2, Leipai, Niko, Samuel tries; Van Bartel 5/7 goals).