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An inspirational performance by Wests Tigers captain Api Koroisau helped deliver the first win under new coach Benji Marshall against a stunned Sharks outfit at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night.

Koroisau produced two try assists and five tackle breaks, while running 106 metres from dummy half and making 42 tackles before coming from the field with 12 minutes remaining as the Tigers triumphed 32-6. 

Marshall revealed after the match that Koroisau had been affected by a gastro bug in the lead up to the match and was in discomfort but was never going to miss the game.

"Before the game he could hardly walk and had no energy, so for him to punch out what he did in the game shows how much his teammates mean to him and that's why he's the skipper," Marshall said of Koroisau.

Isaiah Papali'i Try

Cheered on by a crowd of 15,990, the Tigers scored 32 unanswered points to deliver Cronulla's first loss of the season in a triumph built on scrambling defence and relentless offloading in attack.

The Sharks finished the match with just one available player on the interchange but they were unable to match the enthusiasm and desperation of the young Tigers, led by fullback Jahream Bula and five-eighth Lachlan Galvin. 

Bula scored two tries, while Galvin produced three of his side's 18 offloads as the back-to-back wooden-spooners turned entertainers in just Marshall's second match in charge.

Jahream Bula Try

After an opening round bye, the win has lifted the Tigers into the top eight.

Sharks prop Tom Hazleton opened the scoring in the 14th minute when he bumped his way over the tryline from a Blayke Brailey pass after a strong run by centre Siosifa Talakai.

However, the Tigers responded just six minutes later when rookie centre Solomona Faataape tapped back an Aidan Sezer kick for Kiwis second-rower Isaiah Papali'i to score.

From then on it was largely one way traffic.

Koroisau appeared destined to score next when he burrowed over from dummy half only for Sharks fullback Will Kennedy to knock the ball from his grasp but the home side were clearly on top.

The Tigers eventually took the lead when Koroisau put interchange forward Alex Seyfarth over in the 34th minute and the Fijian hooker ensured his team went further ahead by laying on a try before halftime for PNG centre Justin Olam.

Alex Seyfarth Try

Koroisau extended the Wests Tigers lead to 20-6 with a 45th minute penalty goal and fellow Fijian Bula put them further ahead when he pounced on a loose ball in the Cronulla in-goal to score in the 52nd minute.

Bula sealed the win when he scored his second try of the match in the 70th minute. 

Match snapshot

  • Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon only had 16 players available for the match after prop Royce Hunt suffered a calf injury warming up on the bench.
  • Sharks forwards Dale Finucane (head gash) and Toby Rudolf (ankle) did not finish the match.
  • Cronulla captain Cameron McInnes was placed on report for a high tackle.
  • Dally M leader Nicho Hynes made an uncharacteristic three errors for the Sharks, including two kicks out on the full in the first half. 
  • Wests Tigers had not beaten Cronulla at Leichhardt Oval since 2014.
  • The Sharks made 14 errors and conceded seven penalties as well as three six-again calls.
  • Wests Tigers playmaker Jayden Sullivan came off the bench for the last 12 minutes.
  • Sharks winger Sione Katoa ran a game high 205 metres with the ball.
  • The match was Wests Tigers' first game at Leichhardt since their 66-18 defeat of the Cowboys in 2023.

Katoa V Bula in a foot race

Play of the game

Star recruit Justin Olam scored in his club debut to give Wests Tigers an 18-6 halftime lead after hooker Api Koroisau ducked under a Nicho Hynes tackle and broke into the clear before finding the PNG centre in support.  

Justin Olam Try

What they said

"It feels good for the team. It's not about me, it's about the team and just for the club on a whole. If I'm being honest, what I saw in the preseason and how much work we put in, was put into 80 minutes tonight. What I'm most proud of is I asked the boys to just follow the game plan for 80 minutes and give us that, and they did it. It's special, it’s in front of our own fans in our first home game, so off the back of last week and the performance so to turn it around like we did tonight, it's all credit to the boys," - Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall.

Wests Tigers: Round 3

“We got out enthused, they were great and we were not. They just kept a real simple style. That's what we've been doing to teams the last couple of weeks and we lost that battle. I was pretty pleased with how we got into the game at the start but when two teams are just going head to head you can't be the one that keeps turning the ball over and searching for points and searching for a feeling. We just had to knuckle down and we didn’t do that tonight," - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.

Sharks: Round 3

What's next

Wests Tigers meet Parramatta in their annual Easter Monday clash at CommBank Stadium, while the Sharks host the Raiders next Sunday night.

Sharks forwards Royce Hunt (calf), Dale Finucane (stitches) and Toby Rudolf (ankle) are all in doubt.



Acknowledgement of Country

Wests Tigers respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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