Naiqama miracle sets up Tigers win
Kevin Naiqama has set up an early contender for try of the season as the Wests Tigers put the Bulldogs to the sword with a 38-14 mauling at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Bulldogs v Wests Tigers: Five key points
Hasler experiment fails to spark Dogs
Inglis's was better: Naiqama
WATCH: Naiqama's miracle assist
WATCH: Wests Tigers press conference
WATCH: Bulldogs press conference
WATCH: Full match highlights
Match stats, scores, highlights
Almost seven years after Greg Inglis' famous try assist for the Kangaroos in the ANZAC Centenary Test, the Wests Tigers winger repeated the effort with a similarly acrobatic flickback for James Tedesco in just the 5th minute of the match.
"I think his was more acrobatic than mine. But it was just real lucky to pull it off and get the try in the end," Naiqama said after the game.
The miracle throwback was just one of six highlight reel-worthy tries – Tedesco and partner-in-crime Luke Brooks both bagged doubles – for an exuberant Tigers side that out-enthused a lethargic Bulldogs outfit minus five first-grade regulars.
"The big thing was we got some of those pieces of brilliance but we did it around good controlled play as opposed to it being three or four really exciting things in amongst trying 10 or 15 of those things. That's the big thing and that's what we're working hard on," coach Jason Taylor said.
The visitors opened the scoring on Naiqama's gravity-defying leap, causing Channel Nine commentator Phil Gould to suggest that "this fella's run into Auburn to flick this one back."
Canterbury almost returned the effort when an airborne Corey Thompson flew outside the field of play in the 13th minute, only to lose the handle inches from the grass.
Twice the Tigers should've extended their lead after that, but Sauaso Sue also mishandled in his driving attempt in the 15th minute, and then Sam Perrett came up with a try-saver on Dene Halatau under the posts in the 23rd minute.
But an irresistible Wests Tigers attack wouldn't be turned away a third time, and it was again Naiqama's go-go-gadget arms in the 24th minute that reeled in another Tedesco grubber destined to go dead.
The Tigers continued to ride the luck of the bounce eight minutes later when a Luke Brooks bomb - that looked long off the boot - bounced into the upright and back into the halfback's arms for another freak try.
With Pat Richards controversially being tested for concussion – Bulldogs football manager Alan Thompson was up in arms on the sideline over the Tigers' use of the free interchange – Mitchell Moses stepped up to kick his side out to a commanding 16-0 lead.
The home side finally got out of the barriers three minutes before halftime when a Curtis Rona offload sent Moses Mbye down the sideline before finding a supporting Frank Pritchard on the inside.
However the Tigers took an 18-6 lead into halftime on Pat Richards' 54-metre penalty goal after the siren.
It took just five minutes after the break for the Tigers to extend their lead, and again it was the Naiqama-Tedesco combination doing the damage. The newly re-signed flyer broke out of an Mbye tackle and ran 40 metres into the backfield before finding a supporting Tedesco on the inside.
Richards kicked the lead beyond two converted tries with a 37-metre penalty goal, before Brooks nabbed his second of the night on a wicked right foot step in the 53rd minute.
The Bulldogs got one back when Pritchard steamed onto a Trent Hodkinson short ball in the 59th minute, and then Curtis Rona made the scoreline slightly more respectable with his ninth try of the season with four minutes remaining.
Richards punctuated the victory with a try with a minute left on the clock, finishing the night with a personal 16-point haul.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said his team simply wasn't good enough on the night. "And we paid the price for it," he said.
Wests Tigers 38 (James Tedesco 2, Luke Brooks 2, Kevin Naiqama, Pat Richards tries; Pat Richards 6, Moses goals) defeated Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14 (Frank Pritchard 2, Curtis Rona tries; Trent Hodkinson goals) Crowd: 18,521. Halftime: 18-6.