By Michelle Boon at Kirkham Park
The Wests Tigers staged an incredible comeback to defeat the NZ Warriors 28-22 at Kirkham Park on Saturday to maintain their position in the top four on the VB NSW Cup table.
The Tigers, fielding a team almost unrecognisable from the program, proved more than a match for the Warriors in the opening minutes and it wasn’t until the 19th minute that Warriors’ centre Ken Maumalo scored out wide through an overlap created by sustained pressure in the Tigers’ attacking zone. Five eighth Carlos Tuimavave converted to lead 6-0.
Four minutes later Warriors’ replacement David Bhana charged over under the posts and Tuimavave’s conversion took the score to 12-0.
With nine minutes remaining Tuimavave went over out wide slicing through an enormous gap down the left hand centres from 20m out and was never headed. Halfback Sam Cook added the extras making it 18-0.
It looked at this stage like any score line was possible but a try to Tigers’ winger John Tohi with five minutes to go seemed to stem the tide.
Tohi crossed in the right hand corner running straight through a gap in the right hand centres five metres out from the Warriors’ line and winger Corey Brown converted to go into half time trailing 18-6.
The half time break was beneficial for the Warriors with winger Jarrod Tua scoring in the left hand corner after three minutes, taking advantage of an overlap down the touchline, but Tuimavave failed to convert, extending their lead to 22-6.
Eleven minutes later Brown went over in the left hand corner punishing a Warriors’ turnover in their 20m zone. He couldn’t convert, leaving the score 22-10.
Soon after Brown notched his double crossing in the left hand corner finishing off a smart backline move and his sideline conversion edged them closer at 22-16.
With nine minutes to go the Tigers’ comeback continued when fullback Daniel Abou-Sleiman scored under the posts following a great break through the right hand centres by centre Kyle Lovett, who made 40 metres before turning it inside to Abou-Sleiman to go on a 20 metre unopposed run to the line. Brown added the extras and it was game on at 22-all.
The stage was now set for another epic finish between these teams and just as it did in their first encounter this year it came down to the final play of the match to decide the outcome.
The Warriors had 12 seconds on the clock and one tackle up their sleeve so they opted to chance their arm rather than settle for a draw.
They spread it right and attempted a kick chase through the right hand centres which only succeeded in allowing Tigers’ centre Jy Hitchcox to grab the ball one-handed on the bounce then race 40 metres unopposed to touch down out wide after the siren.
Brown converted to give the Tigers an unlikely but much-needed and welcomed victory at full time.
This weekend the Tigers are at Leichhardt on Saturday when the host fellow top four side the Cutters while the Warriors will have their hands full when they head to Newcastle to tackle a rejuvenated Knights outfit.
Wests Tigers 28 (C Brown 2, J Tohi, J Hitchcox, D Abou Sleiman tries; C Brown 4 goals) def. NZ Warriors 22 (K Maumalo, D Bhana, C Tuimavave, J Tua tries; C Tuimavave 2, S Cook goals) at Kirkham Park, Camden.