Wests Tigers Holden Cup side have held on to defeat the South Sydney Rabbitohs 30-28 in tonight's season opener in a back-and-forth match at ANZ Stadium.
In a tight match that saw neither team able to pull away early in the contest, Wests Tigers senior players stood up in the second half to secure an opening round win for the visitors.
Wests Tigers were the first team to open their scoring for the 2017 season, with prop forward Siaosi Nasilai crashing over next to the goal posts in the 8th minute.
Five-eighth Hosea Leuea converted the try to put Wests Tigers in the lead 6-0.
Leuea’s halves partner Blake Higgins was next to make his mark on the game – kicking a stunning 40/20 to put his side on the attack in the 23rd minute.
Wests Tigers were unable to capatilise however, with a chance going begging as a short ball hit centre Liam Pakau close to the line but he was unable to gain control of the ball over the line.
South Sydney struck back in the 33rd minute through a runaway try to fullback Mawene Hiroti, with Adam Doueihi converting to level it up at 6-6.
Wests Tigers would go back ahead soon after though, as centre Toa Mata’afa crashed over out wide for his first try of the season.
Leuea’s conversion have Wests Tigers a 12-6 lead going into the half time break.
South Sydney would quickly strike back to begin the second half, with Cruz Topai-Aveai crossing under the posts, allowing Doueihi to level the match once again at 12-all.
After surviving a number of raids on their own line, Wests Tigers would show tremendous resolve in defence by forcing an error on the Rabbitohs' goal-line — allowing Mata'afa to swoop and grab his second try of the match.
Leuea's perfect day with the boot gave Wests Tigers an 18-12 lead after 55 minutes.
Daniel Peck's strong day continued with a solo effort that saw him cross under the posts — giving Wests Tigers a 12-point advantage with 20 minutes to go — but South Sydney refused to go away, crossing through Henry-Siriah Fuimaono to take the score to 24-18.
Another South Sydney error allowed Liam Pakau the chance to restore Wests Tigers' 12-point lead with 10 minutes remaining, before back-to-back efforts by Rangi-Paoa Boyce saw the Rabbitohs threaten to steal the win.
However, Doueihi was unable to add a conversion after the siren to steal the draw, allowing Wests Tigers to hold on for a gutsy two-point win to begin the season.
Wests Tigers 30 (Mata'afa 2, Nasilai, Peck, Pakau tries; Leuea 5/5 goals) def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 (Rangi-Paoa Boyce 2, Fuimaono, Topai-Aveai, Hiroti tries; Doueihi 4/5 goals) at ANZ Stadium.