Wests Tigers have gone down to the St. George-Illawarra Dragons 16-12 in a tight and scrappy affair on Saturday afternoon at ANZ Stadium for their Round 13 clash.
Trailing 12-2 at the half-time break, Wests Tigers showed glimpses of potency in attack throughout the second half and threatened to fight their way back in to the contest, but weren’t quite able to find the final pass or play capable of unlocking the Dragons’ defence.
After a promising start to the match from both teams, it was the home side that eventually posted first points after 12 minutes — Kurt Mann escaping the clutches of Kevin Naiqama before drifting across field to find returning captain Gareth Widdop.
The Englishman converted from the sideline to give his side an early 6-0 lead.
The Dragons looked to have doubled their lead shortly after when a frantic passage of play saw the home side go the better part of 70 metres and touch down through fullback Josh Dugan, but the Bunker denied the try after Jack de Belin was ruled offside.
They would soon get their try, however, when an error under pressure from Kyle Lovett was swooped upon by Widdop, who raced away to score his second try of the afternoon.
Widdop converted to give the Dragons a commanding 12-0 lead after 30 minutes.
The home side looked destined to take the scoreline into the half-time break, before James Tedesco was ruled to have been tripped right on the siren — giving new recruit Tuimoala Lolohea the chance to post his first points as a Wests Tiger with a penalty goal.
Coming out of the second half trailing 12-2, Wests Tigers reduced the margin further seven minutes into the second half when a swift pass from Tedesco found Kevin Naiqama out wide, with Fijian international showing great touch to score in the corner.
Lolohea was unable to add the extras from out wide, leaving the score at 12-6.
Wests Tigers could have made it two tries in quick succession when a late offload from Esan Marsters put Jacob Liddle in open space, but his pass couldn’t find Michael Chee Kam. That would give the Dragons good field position, and they would soon restore their two-try lead when Hame Sele found Tyson Frizell in space close to the visitors’ line.
Widdop was unable to add the extras this time, with the score staying at 16-6.
Battling away with the game on the line, Wests Tgers gave them a late shot at stealing victory when Tedesco and David Nofoaluma broke open the Dragons defence, allowing Michael Chee Kam to cross for his first NRL try with just three minutes on the clock.
However, Wests Tigers were unable to complete the comeback as time wore down — allowing the Dragons to hold on for a 16-12 win in the end in front of 12,983 fans.
St. George-Illawarra Dragons 16 (Widdop 2, Frizell tries; Widdop 2/3 goals) def. Wests Tigers 12 (Naiqama, Chee Kam tries; Lolohea 1/3 goals) at ANZ Stadium