A Tyson Gamble field-goal has snatched a one-point Western Suburbs victory for the second time in two weeks, as the Magpies edged the Wyong Roos 25-24 at Morry Breen Oval.
Down by eight at the break, the Magpies shot back into the contest in the second stanza thanks to a Malakai Watene-Zelezniak hat-trick before five-eighth Gamble’s boot sealed a thrilling win.
The result is huge for Western Suburb’s top-four hopes, with the team looking to secure a prized double-shot in the finals in the last round of the season next week.
However, it was Wyong who started the better, taking only two minutes to hit the lead. After receiving a penalty in their first set, the Roos quickly rolled into attacking range and opened the scoring through hard-running back-rower Sitili Tupouniua on the right edge.
Halfback Mitch Cornish converted to propel the home side to an early converted try advantage.
Western Suburbs returned the favour in the 13th minute to lock the scores back at 6-6. Following a chunk of good-ball, the Magpies registered four points when crafty hooker Pita Godinet went over from close range.
Wests halfback Tui Lolohea added the extras.
The Magpies produced a little bit of magic to notch a second try. A series of last-minute offloads on the left edge saw winger Watene-Zelezniak eventually cross untouched.
Lolohea nailed the kick from the sideline to put the visitors ahead 12-6.
Having been starved of offensive chances since Tupouniua’s try at the very start of the match, the Roos’ eyes lit up when they finally began a set inside Wests’ 20-metre zone.
And they made the most of the opportunity, with Cornish throwing a neat pass for left second-rower Brock Gray to trample across the stripe.
The number seven couldn’t convert the try he assisted, leaving Wests two-point leaders after almost half an hour.
Wyong struck again via a brilliant individual effort from fullback Luke Sharpe. From within his own half, the speedster skirted around the would-be Magpies defenders before turning on the jets to blow away the chasers.
His try put the Roos back on top, although Cornish’s missed goal attempt meant it was only by two.
Wests’ grip on proceedings continued to slip as they booted the kick-off out on the full and gifted Wyong possession.
Sniffing blood, the Roos piled on a third consecutive try with a slick short-side move that ended in centre Paul Momirovski’s name being added to the score sheet.
Cornish relinquished the goal-kicking duties, so Momirvoski slotted the conversion to send the Roos into the break up 20-12.
A series of errors from Wyong to begin the second half invited Wests to score – and they accepted gleefully.
Watene-Zelezniak athletically touched down in the left corner for a double, scooping up the ball after Reece Robinson had knocked a pass down.
Lolohea’s goal kick was off target but the game was well and truly alive at 20-16.
Moments later, Watene-Zelezniak claimed his hat-trick. A lovely over-the-top pass from Lolohea presented the winger with a tight passage to the line, and he produced a breath-taking leap to score.
Lolohea hooked the conversion; the match hanging in the balance at 20-all.
Tempers flared and a scuffle ensued. When everything calmed, Wests were left with 12 men as the referee sent prop Josh Aloiai from the field.
Wyong made the most of the numerical benefit. First a booming 40/20 kick from Cornish gave the Roos prime territory, then five-eighth Lachlan Lam did it all himself to break the deadlock.
But the joy was short-lived. Wests centre Braden Robson desperately won the race to a grubber with seven minutes left, grounding the ball to tie the game again. Lolohea’s kick cruelly bounced off the upright.
On the set after points, Gamble kicked out on the full to hand Wyong a crack at a field-goal. Cornish stepped up to the plate but skewed the drop-goal to the left.
It set the scene for Gamble to shrug off his earlier mistake to pot the winning point once again.