By Nathan Beuman
The Wests Tigers have continued their perfect start to the season, scoring a flurry of late points to post a 31-18 victory over Wentworthville Magpies at Leichhardt Oval.
Despite the scoreboard indicating a blowout win by the Tigers, it was a see-sawing battle for most of the match, with scores level at 18-all with five minutes remaining before the home side put two late tries and a field goal on Wentworthville to hand them their second straight loss to start the season.
Once again, it was the Tigers halfback Josh Drinkwater who was close to best on ground, with the 22-year-old playing his hand in a number of tries, before kicking a field goal with five minutes remaining to break the 18-all deadlock.
It took the Magpies only four minutes to get on the board, with Luke Kelly throwing a cut out pass to centre Ryan Morgan, who went over untouched on the right edge. Kelly nailed the conversion from out wide, giving the visitors an early 6-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to hit back though, with some quick hands on the right edge allowing winger Kurtis Rowe to score in the corner, before Drinkwater converted from just inside the touchline.
Luke Kelly was at it again for the Magpies, putting in a pinpoint across field kick for his winger, who batted it back to an unmarked John Folau to give the visitors a 12-6 lead after 15 minutes following Kelly’s conversion from the sideline.
The Tigers were finally able to turn field position into points soon after, when some hot potato football caught the Magpies napping on the left edge, with Delouise Hoeter scoring in the corner. Drinkwater’s conversion was waved away to leave the scores at 12-10.
When Chase Peni found himself in space with ten minutes remaining in the opening half, the crowd went up as one, before the 2014 Junior Kiwi found winger Kurtis Rowe, who scurried away for his second four pointer of the afternoon. Drinkwater converted from directly in front to make in 16-12.
A penalty right on half time gave the home side an opportunity to extend their lead, with Tigers captain Josh Drinkwater opting to take the two points, nailing the kick from 45 metres out to send his side into the sheds with a converted try lead.
In a back-and-forth content to start the second half, it wasn’t until Ben Crooks showed off his soccer skills in the 62nd minute that the stalemate was broken, with the Wentworthville winger diving on the ball in the in goal to level the scores up following Kelly’s conversion.
Despite having two certain tries in three minutes called back for a forward pass and a knock on, the Tigers managed to remain composed, with Drinkwater connecting on a field goal to give the home side a 19-18 lead with five minutes remaining.
To further rub salt into the wounds of the Magpies, converted tries to Wesley Lolo and Shannon McDonnell in the final three minutes sealed a 13 point win for the Tigers, who move into second place on the competition table.
WESTS TIGERS 31 (K Rowe 2, D Houter, W Lolo, S McDonnell tries; J Drinkwater 5 goals; Drinkwater field goal) d WENTWORTHVILLE MAGPIES 18 (R Morgan, B Crooks, J Folau tries; L Kelly 3 goals)