Wests Tigers Intrust Super Premiership side has continued its impressive recent form with a 42-26 win over the Newcastle Knights today at Leichhardt Oval.
Boosted by the inclusion of several key players, Wests Tigers were dealt a blow with playmaker Jack Littlejohn forced from the field inside the opening 10 minutes after a late hit off the ball, but held their nerve well with changes to stay in the contest.
After a string of penalties on the visitors’ line, it was the home side who opened the scoring after 17 minutes when Kyle Lovett crashed over off a short ball from Justin Hunt.
Jordan Rankin converted from out on the left edge to give Wests Tigers a 6-0 lead.
Rankin showed great individual touch to double Wests Tigers’ lead moments later, soccering through for himself before regathering to score next to the posts.
The halfback had no problems converting his own try for a 12-0 lead 24 minutes.
The home side would make it three tries in 10 minutes when a clever edge play from Hunt and Lovett saw Watson Heleta cut back on the inside and crash his way over.
Rankin’s third conversion of the day extended the dominant start out to 18-0.
An error off the kickoff, however, would let Newcastle back into the contest, as Jacob Gagan touched down in the corner with Trent Hodkinson converting to make it 18-6.
Despite the blip, there was no denying the half belonged to Wests Tigers, with sharp hands from Rankin holding it up perfectly for Heleta to grab his second just before the half-time break, with Rankin’s sideline conversion giving the home side a 24-6 lead.
Needing to score first in the second half to stay in the contest, Newcastle would grab their second try in the 50th minute through Lachlan Fitzgibbon, who burrowed over next to the posts to cut Wests Tigers’ lead to 24-12 following Hodkinson’s conversion.
An error from Ryland Jacobs off a kick from Will Pearsall would gift Gagan his second try of the contest just three minutes later, with Hodkinson hitting the crossbar on his sideline conversion — leaving the scoreline at 24-16 in Wests Tigers’ favour.
However, it was clear that the day was going to belong to Wests Tigers and Heleta, who grabbed his hat-trick in the 57th minute after some sharp hands across the middle.
Rankin’s conversion took the hosts’ lead back out to beyond two converted tries, before Heleta sensationally grabbed a fourth in the 66th minute — taking the score to 36-16.
Newcastle battled away gamely, with Hodkinson showing his class with a superb 30m cut-out pass to Tom Hughes putting the winger over and cutting the score to 36-20.
The former Origin halfback was unable to convert from out wide, leaving the score at 36-20, before Heleta capped off a wonderful individual day by putting captain Nathan Milone over in the dying moments of the match to ensure a big win for Wests Tigers, despite Fitzgibbon crossing on the full-time siren.
Wests Tigers 42 (Heleta 4, Rankin, Lovett, Milone tries; Rankin 7/7 goals) def. Newcastle Knights 26 (Gagan 2, Fitzgibbon 2, Hughes tries; Hodkinson 3/5 goals)