By Dan Talintyre
Wests Tigers VB NSW Cup squad has pulled off one of the most improbable comeback victories over the New Zealand Warriors with a last-second 32-26 win at Westpac Stadium.
The visitors scored three tries in the final seven minutes, including one after the siren to Blake Austin to comeback from 26-16 down for the most unlikely of wins.
The Warriors looked set for victory when they led 20-8 just after half-time and 26-12 with 20 minutes remaining.
A strong run from Joel Luani won a repeat set for the hosts, and it was Setefano Taukafa who hit back for the visitors after burrowing over from dummy half. Austin’s conversion was wide, leaving the score at 20-12.
The Warriors restored the lead soon after, though, when Dominique Peyroux ran on to another short ball close to the line. Rowe did his best to hold the centre up, but he simply had too much power and planted the ball down next to the posts. Lolohea converted to blow the score out beyond two tries.
It took a line break from front-rower Nathan Brown to get the Wests Tigers back into the match in the 61st minute. The prop found winger Jy Hitchcox on the inside, before Austin shifted the ball wide to Taukafa on the following play who acrobatically managed to plant the ball down in the corner despite heavy attention from the defence. Austin missed another tough conversion to leave the score at 26-16.
The score seemed destined to be a Warriors victory, but it was clear that nobody told the Wests Tigers.
Another barnstorming run from Naiyaravoro, beating four defenders down the sideline, reduced the gap to 26-20 before a try to Kurtis Rowe in the 78th minute gave the visitors a chance at leveling the scores. Austin nailed his first conversion of the day to lock the scores at 26-26. What would follow was utter madness.
Austin missed a field goal attempt with 45 seconds to go before an improbable one-on-one strip by Naiyavoro gave the visitors one last chance at victory.
Waters made a line break and a quick play the ball before Austin stepped through four defenders on the siren to plant the ball down and give the Wests Tigers one of the most incredible comeback victories seen this season.
The Tigers head to Leichhardt Oval on Sunday to take on the Sea Eagles while the Warriors go to Remondis to face the Sharks.
Wests Tigers 32 (T Naiyaravoro 2, B Austin 2, S Taukafa 2, K Rowe tries; B Austin 2 goals) def. New Zealand Warriors 26 (C Tuimavave, D Peyroux, D Fusitua, R Faitala Mariner, A Papalii tries; T Lolohea 3 goals) at Westpac Stadium.