Wests Tigers close out season in style
The Wests Tigers have finished 2017 on a high note with Ivan Cleary's men claiming a comfortable 28-16 win over the Warriors in front of a raucous crowd at Leichhardt Oval.
It was a night to remember for departing duo Aaron Woods (217 metres, 37 tackles and five offloads) and James Tedesco (221 metres, six tackle breaks and a try assist) who were farewelled in style.
The loss was New Zealand's ninth in a row and leaves coach Stephen Kearney facing a long off-season as he looks for ways to turn things around in 2018.
Defence was never going to be a priority for these two sides and the Tigers set the tone early with an electrifying break down the right edge that would have been the try of the season had Jack Littlejohn not been cut down a blade of grass short of the line.
The Warriors wouldn't be so lucky from the next set when Tigers centre Kevin Naiqama ran onto a perfectly-weighted chip kick from Luke Brooks to bring the Leichhardt faithful to their feet.
Both teams had tries denied by the Bunker in an eventful 10-minute period before the home side settled things down with Esan Marsters going over courtesy of a lovely pass from former Warrior Tui Lolohea.
The energetic five-eighth continued to torment his former teammates when he finished off a scintillating length-of-the-field movement that started with an offload near their own line and ended with Tedesco popping a sumptuous pass back on the inside to make it 16-0.
Just when it looked like the hosts would run away with it, Warriors centre Solomone Kata scored a trademark burrowing try out of dummy-half on the stroke of half-time to give the visitors some hope heading into the sheds.
The second half started much like the first with Brooks and Naiqama combining to extend the lead, although the halfback will be reluctant to claim a try assist given the pass was meant for anyone but his left centre.
It didn't take long for the Warriors to hit back when departing back-rower Ryan Hoffman popped a perfect ball on the inside to a flying Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and things would have been really interesting had David Fusitu'a managed to force a regulation grubber moments later.
Any hopes the Warriors had were officially dashed seven minutes from the end when David Nofoaluma touched down out wide to cap a stellar season by the ever-improving winger although the visitors would have the last laugh when Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad finished off a magical team try that will leave their fans wondering what could have been in 2017.
Wests Tigers 28 (Naiqama 2, Marsters, Lolohea, Nofoaluma tries; Lolohea 4/5 goals) def. NZ Warriors 16 (Kata, Tuivasa-Sheck, Nicoll-Klokstad tries; Luke 2/3 goals)