GAMES OF THE YEAR | #9 – R23 Roos v Wests
Looking back on the remarkable year that was, NSWRL.com.au counts down the 10 best games from the 2018 Intrust Super Premiership NSW season. At No.9, one of Rugby League's emerging stars became the match-winner for the second week in a row.
It was a Mitch Cornish field-goal that sunk the hearts of the Magpies faithful in Round 3 of the 2018 season, but no-one could predict the events that would follow in their second clash of the year.
What transpired seemed to be a sense of deja vu for both sides – only this time it was Wests five-eighth Tyson Gamble who would turn the hero as a late field-goal gifted them an enthralling 25-24 victory, repeating his heroics from their 31-30 victory over the Mounties just one week prior.
Both sides headed into the contest with contrasting motives as a late-season surge had the Roos clinging onto eighth spot on the competition ladder, while the Magpies were desperate for a place in the top-four after a strong season to date.
Rip Taylor's men took a wealth of confidence into the Round 23 clash after seven victories in their last 11 fixtures, a considerable turnaround from their efforts in the first half of the season which saw them record just two wins in the first 10 rounds.
The Magpies, however, had built their game on a formidable defensive line that had them boasting the best defence in the competition – a common feature among the Wests Tigers ranks under coach Ivan Cleary and assistant Brett Hodgson.
But the attacking flair of the Roos would prove too strong in the opening stanza as they ran in four tries to two after a faultless first-half of footy – stunning the Magpies with a completion rate of 100%.
Sitili Tupouniua opened the scoring in just the second minute of play when he stormed onto a classy Lachlan Lam short-ball, before tries to Pita Godinet and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak bolstered them to a 12-6 lead after 20 minutes.
Brock Gray restored order for the home side with a determined effort from close-range reduciing the deficit to two points, before live-wire fullback Luke Sharpe sliced through off a scrum-base play to run 60m to score.
A try to Paul Momirovski gave them a handy 20-12 advantage at the break, but their luck would soon turn on it's head with an array of handling errors and ill-discipline becoming their achilles heel, creeping into bad habits with a 47% completion rate.
Two rapid-fire tries to Watene-Zeleniak not only gave the winger his hat-trick but saw the Magpies draw the game level in the early stages of the second-half, but a try to Lam with just 15 minutes remaining set a 24-20 scoreline.
When Braden Robson pounced on a deft grubber from Tui Lolohea it set up an entertaining finish with the scores level with five minutes remaining, but the maturity of Gamble shone the brightest as he calmly added the match-winning field-goal to ice the comeback victory
Although a character-building win at the business end of the season, a heavy defeat to the Newtown Jets a week later saw the Magpies finish just outside the top-four, with a bye for the Roos in Round 24 proving to be a silver lining.
The two competition points meant the Roos would finish in eighth place on the competition ladder, remarkably setting up a do-or-die clash with, none other, than the Western Suburbs Magpies in Week One of the Finals.
Watch the highlights of the game in the video at the top of the page.