Newtown and Wests Tigers’ finals campaigns were dealt a severe blow as both sides battled to a 22-all stalemate at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
Both sides missed vital opportunities to clinch the game and have effectively made their up-hill climb to the finals even steeper.
With both sides sitting outside the eight with three games remaining, the two competition points were imperative in their desperate bid to make the finals.
The Jets appeared to claim the much-needed win after taking a 22-16 lead with 17 minutes left as Tarek El Masri burrowed his way from in close over the try line.
But in a match that saw each side trade blows and exchange momentum, Wests Tigers had the last say with two minutes to play as Kurtis Rowe found the try line with Josh Drinkwater converting for the drawn result.
Drinkwater had a final opportunity to claim a last-minute win but missed a 40-metre field goal attempt leaving the Jets and Wests Tigers having to settle for one point each.
The Jets dominated periods of the match behind their physicality in the forwards. Saulala and Malakai Houma were outstanding in a relentless effort as the Jets took the early 6-0 lead after seven minutes with Nathan Gardner diving for the try.
Tim Moltzen showed glimpses of his promising talent in a hit-and-miss effort, as he latched onto an offload before finding Nathan Milone for Wests Tigers to cross in the 12th minute.
Wests Tigers gained the lead after 17 minutes with a crafty set play as Joel Luani drifted across field from dummy half to pass to Drinkwater who lofted a perfect cross-field kick for Chance Peni to take the mark and run the ball in goal.
The Jets dominated possession but missed a valuable opportunity to level the scores before halftime as they were unable to penetrate the defence with three consecutive sets on the Wests Tigers’ try line.
With the pressure of Finals football on the line, the Jets and Wests Tigers came out of halftime looking more venturous but were guilty of vital errors and sloppiness at crucial times.
Man of the match Todd Murphy was superb in the second half as he steered the Jets in attack.
Murphy had the vision to shift the ball left and find Sami Sauiluma to race down the sideline before offloading to Gardner looming on his inside for his second try of the day. Murphy was unsuccessful with the conversion leaving the Jets trailing 12-10 with half an hour left.
Wests Tigers answered right back with Drinkwater nailing a monster 40-20 kick to advance his side ten metres from the try line. Peni capitalised to bag his second try and extend their lead 16-10.
The Jets scored the next two tries to hit the front with Daniel Abou-Sleiman scoring a brilliant solo try to bust out of two tackles and wiggle his way over the line before El Masri crossed.
However, the Jets and Wests Tigers were left hoping for results to fall their way as their narrow Finals chances begin to close.
Wests Tigers 22 (C Peni 2, N Milone, K Rowe tries; J Drinkwater 3 goals) draw with Newtown Jets 22 (N Gardner 2, D Abou-Sleiman, T El Masri tries; T Murphy 3 goals) at Leichhardt Oval.