Wests Tigers Intrust Super Premiership side have gone down 24-18 to Mounties in heartbreaking fasgion in their Semi Final clash at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
In constant rain and tough conditions, Wests Tigers led by 12 points at the break but were made to do a mountain of defensive work — allowing Mounties to fight their way back into the match and steal the win in the final minutes to book a Grand Final spot.
Playing as the away team at Leichhardt Oval, the match began in perfect fashion for Wests Tigers when a strong tackle from halfback Justin Hunt forced an error from the minor premiers, Mounties, in their opening set — paving the way for fullback Watson Heleta to cross in the corner off the ensuing scrum for his 12th try of the season.
Hunt was unable to land the sideline conversion, leaving the score at 4-0.
Off the back of some sturdy goal-line defence, Wests Tigers would again threaten the home side’s line, with a ruck penalty allowing Hunt the chance to make it 6-0.
An inch-perfect 40/20 kick from Jack Littlejohn would see Paul Stringer’s side go back on the attack, and soon extend their lead to two converted tries when hooker Jeremy Marshall-King proved too strong close to the line, making it 12-0 after 25 minutes.
A string of penalties would gift Mounties the ball on Wests Tigers line, and they would soon post their first points of the day when a smart cross-field kick from halfback Sam Williams found winger Eddie Aiono in space on the left edge after 28 minutes of play.
Williams’ sideline conversion would reduce Wests Tigers lead to 12-6.
However, after Mounties produced an error from the kickoff, Wests Tigers would go back on the attack and soon restore their 12-point advantage as Marshall-King again got the better of the home side’s markers close to the line to crash his way over the line.
Hunt’s successful conversion took Wests Tigers lead to 18-6 after 35 minutes, which is how it would remain at the half-time interval as the rain continued to pour down.
A nervy start to the second half from Wests Tigers would gift Mounties the chance to hit back with several attacking sets, which they would quickly do through Zac Santo.
Williams again converted from out wide to make it 18-12 after 45 minutes of play.
Made to do a mountain of defensive work in the second half off the back of errors and a composed kicking game from Mounties, the home side would eventually level the match through Jarrad Kennedy, who crashed his way over with 10 minutes remaining.
Williams’ successful conversion leveled the match at 18-18.
An error from Josh Addo-Carr would allow Mounties the chance to take the lead, and after setting up for the field goal, it would be hooker Adam Clysdale who fooled everyone by throwing the dummy and scoring the decisive try under the posts.
Williams’ fourth conversion of the day made it 24-18 with three minutes to play.
Wests Tigers would have one last chance to send the match to Golden Point after regathering the short kick off, but Michael Chee Kam was unable to ground the grubber from Littlejohn in the final minute — giving Mounties a stunning 24-18 victory.
Mounties RLFC 24 (Aiono, Santo, Kennedy, Clysdale tries; Williams 4/4 goals) def. Wests Tigers 18 (Marshall-King 2, Heleta tries; Hunt 3/4 goals) at Leichhardt Oval