Wests Tigers have kept their finals hopes alive with a stunning upset 20-16 win over the high-flying St. George-Illawarra Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Having already witnessed the Canberra Raiders record victory earlier this weekend, it was up to Wests Tigers to get the job done against the second-placed Dragons if they were to stay in touch with the top eight — duly delivering to hand the Red V their first loss at home of the 2018 season.
The game wasn't without drama and nervy moments for Wests Tigers fans, with a late rally from the Dragons threatening to eat in to Wests Tigers lead, which seemed unassailable with 15 minutes to go.
However, in the end, it was the cool heads of Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall — playing in the first game together since 2013 — that saw Wests Tigers home and ended the team's run of four consecutive defeats.
Playing in his 100th first-grade game, Luke Brooks was the spark for Wests Tigers in the opening 10 minutes of the game — almost laying on a perfect try for Kevin Naiqama with a clever kick before eventually crossing for the opening four-pointer off a clever short side play from Robbie Farah.
2018 Match Highlights: Rd.18, Dragons vs. Wests Tigers
Esan Marsters' conversion gave the visitors an early 6-0 lead that silenced the Jubilee Oval crowd, before Ben Hunt's stepping run after 17 minutes sparked their interest once more and levelled the score at 6-6.
In his return from injury, Benji Marshall looked to have put the visitors back in front just before the break with a double-pump catching out the defence and sending Michael Chee Kam over out wide — only for Ben Cummins to rule a forward pass against the five-eighth, leaving the half-time score at 6-6.
The better side for the opening 40 minutes, Wests Tigers would eventually grab their second try of the afternoon as Farah again created havoc for the Dragons defence — this time darting from dummy half before holding the ball up for Moses Mbye, whose 30m cut-out put Corey Thompson over out wide.
Marsters' sideline conversion pushed the visitors back in front by six points with 30 minutes to play.
Looking to extend their winning streak at home to 10 games in a row, the Dragons continued to apply plenty of pressure on the visitors line and seemed destined to level the game as Tariq Sims and Paul Vaughan went close — only to be denied by resilient goal-line defence from Wests Tigers.
With the season on the line, it was Farah who again broke open the Dragons defence to put the visitors up by 12, with his clever kick in behind sending David Nofoaluma for a try on his return from injury.
Marsters again continued his perfect afternoon with the boot as he slotted a conversion from out wide, before putting Wests Tigers up by 14 points soon after as Gareth Widdop's kick went out on the full.
Widdop would soon make up for his error, though, as he raced through on a kick from Hunt to cut the score to 20-12 with less than 10 minutes remaining, before Luciano Leilua sent Matt Dufty over with five to go.
However, the visitors had done enough to stay in front of the Dragons — holding on for their first victory since Round 12 to ensure they remained in touch with the top eight with a crucial four-point win.
Wests Tigers 20 (Brooks, Thompson, Nofoaluma tries; Marsters 4/4 goals) def. St. George-Illawarra Dragons 16 (Hunt, Widdop, Dufty tries; Widdop 2/3 goals) at Jubilee Oval
Press Conference: NRL Round 18