Wests Tigers Intrust Super Premiership have gone down 20-18 to Mounties RLFC this afternoon in a high-quality game of football at Aubrey Keech Reserve.
Coming in to the match without a number of key players but welcoming the inclusion of Ava Seumanufagai, David Heath’s side showed tremendous resilience throughout the first half to withstand a myriad of Mounties opportunities, trailing just 10-6 at the break.
Wests Tigers would hit back in the second half to take the lead 18-14 late in the piece, before 75th minute effort to Willie Mataka would give Mounties the two points.
With a number of repeat sets to start the match, it was Mounties who eventually posted first points of the afternoon after nine minutes through Eddie Aiono down the left wing.
Jordan Turner converted from out wide to give the hosts an early 6-0 lead.
Off the back of a penalty in the ensuing set, Mounties would go back-to-back in quick succession, this time down the right wing as Zac Santo’s grubber sat up perfectly in the in-goal for Kato Ottio to race through and score. This time, Turner was unable to convert from out on the sideline, leaving the home side with a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes of play.
Working the ball down to the Mounties defensive line for the first time, Wests Tigers would make the opportunity count as they posted their first points of the day — Matt Eisenhuth wrapping around well behind the ruck before putting Luke Garner over.
Veiru Mapesone converted from in front to cut the scoreline to 10-6 after 23 minutes.
As they had done for the majority of the match, Mounties threatened to score late in the half with a number of repeat sets on Wests Tigers’ line, but a stirring defensive effort under pressure ensured the gap remained just four points at the half-time break.
Starting the second half with continued energy on both sides of the ball, a great chase and tackle from Nathan Milone gave Wests Tigers the chance to strike first in the half, with the captain proving to be the man on the spot later that set — reacting quickest to a grubber from Mapesone to race through and dive over out on the left wing.
Mapesone’s conversion gave Wests Tigers their first lead, 12-10 after 50 minutes.
Mounties would hit back, though, with Santo collecting a late offload to touch down out wide, with Turner’s unsuccessful conversion giving Mounties a 14-12 advantage.
Ottio looked destined to score his second try of the afternoon when he picked up a charge down from Turner and tore away down the right wing, before a call from the touch judge denied the winger with his foot ruled to have touched the sideline.
That decision would prove to be a turning point in the match, as Wests Tigers retook the lead with less than 15 minutes remaining in the contest — Bayley Sironen, Watson Heleta and Mapesone keeping the ball alive before Junior Tatola crashed over.
Mapesone’s strong afternoon with the boot continued, giving Wests Tigers a 18-14 lead.
However, it wasn’t to be enough for Wests Tigers, with Mounties working the ball down field and eventually crossing for the match-winner through Mataka, whose effort back on the inside gave Turner a simple conversion from in front for a 20-18 victory.
ISP FULL TIME — Mounties RLFC 20 (Aiono, Ottio, Santo, Mataka tries; Turner 2/4 goals) def. Wests Tigers 18 (Garner, Milone, Tatola tries; Mapesone 3/3 goals)