Courage and character shine through for Tigers
Trailing 24-18 with 10 minutes remaining on the road against a team who had everything to play for, the Wests Tigers looked done and dusted on Sunday afternoon against the Warriors.
But brewing away inside each of the 17 men who took the field was a certain confidence and belief, which come the closing minutes at Mt Smart Stadium counted for everything, as they revived their hopes of making the finals with a thrilling 36-24 comeback victory over the Warriors.
Behind at half-time and having only possessed the lead of the match for nine of the first 76 minutes, Tigers captain Aaron Woods said his side never doubted they could get the result in the must-win clash.
"I just thought we were in the game the whole time," Woods said post-match.
"I never felt like we were out of the game at all, it was just one of those games that was really weird when you are on the field, it felt like we were equal with them but down on the scoreboard.
"It's a credit to the boys who just kept fighting and big raps [go to] Mitchell [Moses] and Luke [Brooks], just taking control of the game with both hands, and they dominated in the end there, it's as simple as that for us."
Three tries in the final nine minutes to Sauaso Sue, Moses and Kevin Naiqama secured the win for the Tigers, who now require victory against third-placed Canberra, along with a Cowboys' victory over the Gold Coast, to book their first finals appearance since 2011.
Centre Tim Simona said his team believed they would be right in the contest come the final quarter if they completed their sets and kept an even share of possession, relying on being able to prey on the Warriors' weaknesses under fatigue.
"One hundred per cent [we felt confident], when they scored [the talk] behind our line was positive, we knew we were in the game and we just had to hold the ball," Simona said.
"Once we complete our sets, keep in that grind and get field position then we are a hard team to stop.
"It was positive talk on the field and it showed in the outcome.
"We just kept going, kept at it and the tries came at the end which was good.
"Obviously the Warriors are big boys and we think they struggle to get back, and with us being a fit team we got over them today.
"We knew we were going to come in for a big challenge and we knew it was going to need to be a big effort to come back in that second half, and the boys did a good job."
While the mood was understandably cheerful in the Tigers' sheds immediately after the upset win in Auckland, the reality of the challenge awaiting them next week was quick to dawn according to Simona.
Regardless of other results the Tigers will need to beat Canberra at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday to have any chance of making the finals, with the Raiders heading into the match as the NRL Telstra Premiership's form side, boasting nine-straight wins.
"They [Canberra] have been proving everyone wrong with their form, they are a top-four team and they are a quality team," Simona said.
"It's going to be a big game for us back home at Leichhardt Oval, hopefully all the fans will come out and support us, we really need them behind us."