Tigers snatch late win over Warriors
A stunning 36-24 come-from-behind victory over the Warriors in Auckland has kept the Wests Tigers' top-eight hopes alive heading into the final round of the season.
Despite trailing 18-12 at half-time, and 24-18 with 10 minutes to go, the Tigers refused to go away and scored three tries in the last nine minutes to simultaneously revive their season and end that of their opponents.
A victory next week against Canberra, coupled with a Gold Coast loss when they take on the Cowboys, will see Jason Taylor's side clinch a spot in the finals.
The match at Mt Smart Stadium was full of drama and desperation from the early exchanges, but the Warriors proved no match for the fast-finishing Tigers when it mattered most.
A David Nofoaluma drop had led to the Kiwi side scoring the opening try directly off a scrum, with Bodene Thompson strolling through and late inclusion Issac Luke adding the extras.
A lovely piece of prop-to-prop passing then saw Aaron Woods set up Sauaso Sue with a deft short ball on 19 minutes, before the Tigers' captain scored himself with a powerful charge from close range, capping a strong first half where he carried the ball 14 times for 141 metres.
Winger Jordan Rankin was on the mark with both kicks to make it 12-6.
The back-and-forth nature of the contest continued just after the half-hour mark, as Ryan Hoffman's looping offload put Solomone Kata away for his 15th try of the season.
Blake Ayshford set Simon Mannering up with the easiest of tries minutes later, after the former Tiger leapt high and batted the ball back for the Kiwi captain to score untouched under the posts and make it 18-12.
The fist of Kevin Naiqama, which punched the ball away from the hands of Solomone Kata metres from the line, and some intervention from the NRL Bunker prevented the visitors from going into the sheds even further behind.
Pure pace from Josh Addo-Carr saw the Storm-bound winger pierce through the heart of the Warriors off a scrum and score a spectacular 80-metre effort on 56 minutes, with Rankin on target from out wide to lock scores once again.
When the heat came on it was the Tigers who initially broke, after some hot-potato footy from the Kiwi side eventually created an overlap on the right for Tuimoala Lolohea to score.
Cue the drama and a series of plays which meant the 17,020 in attendance rarely touched their seats for the final 15 minutes.
First Shaun Johnson had a try disallowed for obstruction, before opposite number Luke Brooks booted a clever 40/20, gifting the Tigers possession which they converted into a second try for Sue on the next set.
Tries to Mitchell Moses who stepped his way through the tired Warriors defence with three minutes remaining and Naiqama in the final minute secured the victory for the visiting side.
Wests Tigers 36 (Sauaso Sue 2, Aaron Woods, Josh Addo-Carr, Mitchell Moses, Kevin Naiqama tries; Jordan Rankin 6 goals) defeated Warriors 24 (Bodene Thompson, Solomone Kata, Simon Mannering, Tuimoala Lolohea tries; Issac Luke 3, Ata Hingano 1 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Half-time: 12-18. Crowd: 14,020.