Wests Tigers came from behind to gain a vital 18-12 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
With the scores locked at 12-all with four minutes remaining, the Tigers appeared to be getting ready for a field-goal attempt before halfbacks Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks both threw dummies to give Kevin Naiqama the chance to score the decisive try.
Brooks’ grubber kick rebounded off the leg of the Bulldogs’ Josh Jackson and Naiqama grabbed it gratefully to give Wests coach Ivan Cleary his second win from three games in charge since he took over the hot seat.
Brooks had started at halfback for the Tigers with Jack Littlejohn dropping out of the 17. Joel Edwards started in the second row, with Josh Aloiai moving to the interchange bench.
For the Bulldogs, David Klemmer returned from an ankle injury and Matt Frawley joined the interchange bench at the expense of Raymond Faitala-Mariner.
The Tigers started the game strongly, with James Tedesco creating a try for David Nofoaluma on ten minutes, but it was Tedesco’s error that enabled Bulldogs winger Marcelo Montoya to force his way over the line shortly afterwards.
Nofoaluma then ran 80 metres before he was just caught by Josh Morris to prevent the try, and the Tigers increased their lead with two penalties before half-time from Mitchell Moses.
Aaron Woods had suffered some booing from a section of the Tigers supporters after a week of transfer talk, but he led from the front, gaining 218 metres and earning the Anzac Medal for being the best player on the field. Nofoaluma, who re-signed with the Tigers last week, also made 255 metres from 17 carries.
Five minutes after half-time, and trailing 10-6, the Bulldogs threw caution to the wind, as the ball went through nine sets of hands to score a 60-metre try with Kerrod Holland finished off the move. The bunker awarded the try, overlooking a second movement because Naiqama had fallen off the tackle close to the line.
Holland’s conversion hit the post, but the Bulldogs then took the lead after Tim Grant conceded a penalty next to the posts.
Twelve minutes from full-time Bulldogs centre Brenko Lee was sent to the sinbin for a professional foul on Tigers backrower Chris Lawrence.
Trailing by two points, the Tigers levelled the scores with a penalty goal to Moses and stormed home on the back of their extra man.
Tigers: 1 James Tedesco, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Michael Chee Kam, 4 Mosese Suli, 5 Kevin Naiqama, 6 Mitchell Moses, 21 Luke Brooks, 8 Aaron Woods (C), 9 Matt McIlwrick, 10 Ava Seumanufagai, 16 Joel Edwards, 12 Chris Lawrence, 13 Elijah Taylor; Interchange: 11 Josh Aloiai, 14 Tim Grant, 15 Sauaso Sue, 17 Jacob Liddle.
Bulldogs: 1 Brett Morris, 2 Kerrod Holland, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Josh Reynolds, 7 Moses Mbye, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 James Graham (C), 11 Josh Jackson, 12 Greg Eastwood, 13 David Klemmer; Interchange: 14 Sam Kasiano, 15 Danny Fualalo, 16 Adam Elliott, 20 Matt Frawley.
A full review of all the weekend’s NRL action and a preview of Tuesday’s Anzac Day matches will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express