Jack Littlejohn inspired the Wests Tigers to a crucial 26-16 victory over Wyong, ultimately ending their season and booking a spot in the Preliminary Finals against Mounties next week.
Littlejohn scored a try, set up another and kicked an important 40/20, while Wes Lolo put in a powerful and dominant performance that constantly put his side on the front foot.
Tyler Cornish wasted no time to inject himself into the match; he broke through the defence with a classy right-foot step, before out-pacing Watson Heleta to open the scoring adjacent to the posts.
It was a case of “anything you can do, I can match,” as the Wests Tigers seasoned veteran, Justin Hunt, sharply stepped off his right foot to accelerate through the Wyong defence and scored a brilliant short-range try.
The Tigers received a penalty of the ensuing set, and marched in to try-scoring range. Jordan Grant made the most of the field position, as he bullied his way through the Wyong defence to score an incredibly powerful try that gave them a 12-6 lead.
A willingness to throw the ball around caught the Wests Tigers un-done at the 25-minute mark, when a wayward pass hit the turf as they were coming out of trouble and was picked up by Luke Garner who ran away to score un-touched.
Wyong thought they took the lead back on the stroke of halftime, but Ikuvalu was ruled to have stepped into touch in the process of scoring the try.
Littlejohn responded with a beautiful 40/20, and followed that up with a brilliant individual try to take an 18-12 lead into half-time.
Both sides had try-scoring chances in the opening five minutes of the second half, but the first points came from a Wests Tigers penalty goal directly in front of the posts after Zane Tetevano hit Justin Hunt late, high and off the ball.
The next 15 minutes was a stalemate with neither side showing any signs of scoring, but the Wests Tigers began to control the game with smart kicks to gain field position.
It paid off with a set play that saw Littlejohn throw a perfect inside ball to Josh Addo-Carr who was steaming through on the inside, and it was executed so perfectly that it was wonderful to watch.
Wyong refused to give in, knocking the deficit back to 10 with 13 minutes remaining after they shifted the ball right with some quick hands for Garner to score his second try.
That was the final scoring play of the game, with the Wests Tigers facing the challenge of Mounties next week to earn a spot in the Grand Final.