Wests Tigers Tarsha Gale side have fallen agonisingly short of the 2019 Grand Final — going down 34-24 to the minor premiers Illawarra in their Preliminary Final today at Campbelltown.
Having led for the majority of the contest, Wests Tigers battled hard against their more-fancied opponents, but the class of the Steelers proved too much in the end as they finished the stronger of the two sides to emerge with a 10-point win.
In a match filled with momentum changes, Wests Tigers began the game in perfect fashion with two tries inside the opening 10 minutes giving the side an early 8-0 lead before the Steelers hit back to level the scores with two tries of their own.
Janaya Bent put Wests Tigers back in front when she crossed one minute in to the second third of the game, before Litiana Smith-Warwick continued her rich try-scoring form to extend the lead further just five minutes later.
When Anna Moa crossed in the 28th minute, Wests Tigers had quickly raced to a 24-8 lead off the back of three tries in seven minutes and looked to be comfortably in front, before the minor premiers showed their class and began to fight back.
Mikayla Kidd's effort in the 31st minute saw the lead cut to 10 points, and when Maddison Weatherall bagged her second try of the day soon after, suddenly the gap was back to just four points with 20 minutes still remaining in the contest.
With all the momentum, Illawarra continued to pile on the points and soon took the lead as Teagan Berry, Rhiannon Tungai and Nancy Misa all crossed.
With time running out, Wests Tigers battled hard to try and fight back in the match but were unable to convert in the end, as Illawarra held on to book their place in the 2019 Grand Final, where they will face either Newcastle or St. George.
Illawarra Steelers 34 (Weatherall 2, Berry 2, Kidd, Misa tries; Vale 3/7 goals) def. Wests Tigers 24 (Beaufils, E.Curtain, Bent, Smith-Warwick, Moa tries; E. Curtain 2/5 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium