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Tiger cubs come to party against Bulldogs


It was the ultimate coming of age party for the Tigers' raft of youngsters, with rookie fullback Mitch Moses overcoming a groin injury to help set up six of his side's eight tries, while 27-year-old winger Keith Lulia bagged a career-high four tries.

From trailing 18-16 at half time the Tigers did all of the damage in a second half avalanche, crossing for six unanswered tries and halting a worrying two-game slide to stay within striking distance of the top eight.

For the Bulldogs, their worst defensive performance of the season snapped a three game winning streak and wasted an opportunity to jump Manly to the top of the table.

From the moment Moses burst through the NRL's best defensive wall in the first minute, you knew this was going to be one of the great advertisements of dry weather football or, as the great Ray Warren put it, "like watching a fast game of tennis." 

For at least the first half. 

On the back of Moses' stunning start it was the home side that could've broken first, but Pat Richards' swivelled into the corner post and over the sideline. 

So it was left to the Bulldogs to draw first blood, fullback Mitch Brown breaking into the backfield on a Sam Kasiano offload. And after he was corralled by Moses with 20m to go, the Bulldogs immediately went left and took the early 6-0 lead on Krisnan Inu's second try of the season. 

But Brown went from hero to villain in a matter of seconds, fumbling the kickoff and watching Tigers second-rower Bodene Thompson charging over on Blake Austin's double-pump not long after. 

On a fast ANZ Stadium track, it was like the Tigers of yesteryear when an ad lib Robbie Farah grubber again proved too hot for Brown, who would've searched high and low for the nearest hole after the Tigers' rehearsed right side shift ended in right winger Keith Lulia crossing for the first of his four tries. 

However not only did the visitors get the match back on serve when halfback Trent Hodkinson's little 17th minute dink behind the line bounced up for him to put Lafai over, but they also had the advantage when the biggest sweeper in rugby league history, Sam Kasiano, channelled his inner Darius Boyd and fired a cutout for wingman Corey Thompson on a right side shift three minutes later. 

Just as the Bulldogs looked to be gathering momentum though, the Tigers returned serve with another sweeping movement – they were obviously targeting the inexperienced defensive combination of Tony Williams and Inu – giving Lulia his first career double and keeping the deficit to a reachable two points at halftime. 

What began as a first career double turned into a first career hat-trick for Lulia when yet another Mitch Brown mistake – from a Kasiano offload on the first hit-up of the second half – set the 27-year-old up for his third try on a sublime Chris Lawrence tip-on. 

But the former Knight, would you believe, still wasn't done.  

After a Moses grubber was placed perfectly for second-rower Curtis Sironen to take a 24-18 lead, Lulia defied his standing as the third oldest player in the Tigers line-up by equalling the club record four tries in one game with a supremely athletic one-handed putdown millimetres inside the goal post in the 55th minute. 

A stunned Bulldogs side could only watch as the Tigers went back-to-back-to-back-to-back, Austin finally getting an opposition big man to fall from a dummy and offload for Moses who drew the fullback and put Brooks over, before props Aaron Woods and James Gavet finished the rout with tries in the 71st and 80th minutes. 

Hodkinson (lifting) and Josh Jackon (tripping) were both put on report in the first half, while Austin will also have a case to answer for a high shot on Drury Low in the 47th minute. 

Wests Tigers 46 (Lulia 4, Thompson, Sironen, Brooks, Woods, Gavet tries; Moses 2, Richards 3 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown 18 (Inu, Lafai, Thompson tries; Hodkinson 3 goals). Crowd: 22,225.
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