Wests Tigers have gone down in disappointing fashion to the St. George-Illawarra Dragons on Saturday, with the visitors running out 20-10 winners at Leichhardt.
Despite a plethora of attacking opportunities, particularly in the first half, Ivan Cleary's side were plagued by poor execution and handling close to the line — allowing the Dragons off the hook time and time again.
In the end, the home side would simply run out of chances to post points against the Dragons, with Paul McGregor's side making the most of their limited attacking time to end their run of defeats.
The result leaves Wests Tigers four points adrift of the top eight with two games still remaining in the season, starting with next Thursday night's home game against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.
Off the back of a stunning 6-0 penalty count inside the opening 25 minutes, it was Wests Tigers who dominated possession and field position but incredibly count not cross the line — Mahe Fonua and Chris Lawrence going agonisingly close on a number of occasions, only for the ball to come free.
In spite of the sheer volume of tackling they were forced to do, St. George-Illawarra incredibly stole the lead after 25 minutes when Luciano Leilua broke through on the right edge, linking up with Kurt Mann in support before Jordan Pereira danced his way down the sideline to score out wide.
Tim Lafai showed great touch in slotting the sideline conversion for a 6-0 lead, but he couldn't back up his efforts shortly after with a penalty attempt from close range striking the post and staying out.
The lead could have been greater for the Dragons at the half had it not been for Luke Brooks and Moses Mbye — the pair combining for a stunning tackle on Tariq Sims to somehow deny the Origin forward a four-pointer that would ensure the visitors' lead remained at just six points at the break.
Needing to improve drastically in the second half, Wests Tigers would be gifted an early attacking set with Ben Hunt spilling the kickoff from Benji Marshall — much to the delight of the parochial crowd.
From that set, it would be Brooks and Chris Lawrence who combined in the back-rower's return from injury, with the club's all-time leading try-scorer crashing over just 90 seconds in to the second half.
Esan Mrsterrs was unable to add the extras, however, leaving the Dragons in front by two points.
Hunt's tough second half would continue when a string of penalties by the visitors defending their line saw him sent to the sin-bin after 50 minutes, allowing Marsters the chance to redeem his earlier miss.
Despite being a man down, the Dragons would pull back in front when Matt Eisenhuth was adjudged to have tackled Matt Dufty without the ball — giving Lafai an easy two points from in front of the posts.
As Hunt returned to the field, it would be a one-on-one miss from Michael Chee Kam that allowed the Red V to grab their second try of the night and crucially extend their lead beyond a converted try.
Leilua's fourth try of the season with 15 minutes to play would see Lafai extend the lead to 14-6.
With their season on the line, Wests Tigers defence couldn't hold firm inside the final few minutes as Tyson Frizell crashed over next to the posts to ensure the Red V would end their run of four straight defeats — Lafai converting to give the Dragons a 20-6 lead and their first win at Leichhardt Oval since 2001.
Kevin Naiqama would cross in the final minute of the game in his final appearance at the suburban ground, but it would matter little for Wests Tigers as they ended up defeated 20-10 in the end.
St. George-Illawarra Dragons 20 (Pereira, Leilua, Frizell tries; Lafai 4/5 goals) def. Wests Tigers 10 (Lawrence, Naiqama tries; Marsters 1/3 goals) at Leichhardt Oval — Crowd: 18,387