Tigers thump Knights to end losing run
The Wests Tigers have snapped a seven-game losing streak, thumping the Newcastle Knights 33-12 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
A dominant first-half performance from the visitors set up the victory for Ivan Cleary's men, with skipper Aaron Woods strong up the middle of the paddock and rookie Moses Suli dominating out wide.
It was a disastrous opening 40 minutes for the home side in their annual 'Voice for Mining' round with the visitors running in three tries and a penalty goal to race out to a 20-0 lead.
The late inclusions of Trent Hodkinson and Joe Wardle in the Knights line-up seemed to unsettle the home side's fluency, while their defence was a replica of their second-half performance against the Dragons a week ago.
Newcastle needed to be first to score after the break but fell short when Danny Levi was held up over the line.
The close call from the Bunker frustrated Levi, who came up with back-to-back errors that enabled the Tigers to extend their advantage.
Knights winger Ken Sio was forced from the field with a shoulder injury and Naiqama got on the outside of Sione Mata'utia in the centres to link with David Nofoaluma to plant the ball in the right corner.
Newcastle finally got on the board in the 61st minute when Fitzgibbon went over from dummy half after a quick play-the-ball from Feeney, and when Dane Gagai came up with some individual brilliance to send Joe Wardle over five minutes later the home side were given a chance for an unlikely win.
Despite the hosts' attempt to force their way back into the contest, a simple field goal from Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks with four minutes remaining killed off any chance of a fast finish.
Frustrations boiled over for the Knights when Mitch Barnett was placed on report for a high tackle in the 77th minute.
Earlier in the contest, Jaelen Feeney was guilty of coming up with a sloppy error to hand the Wests Tigers an early chance.
The visitors spread the ball wide early in the set and had immediate success with Tui Lolohea providing the cut-out pass for Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to stroll over the line.
Former Knight Kevin Naiqama then split Dane Gagai and Trent Hodkinson up the middle in the first set after points, but the last pass to David Nofoaluma went to ground with a try gone begging.
Hodkinson's last-play options in his return game were not up to scratch with the former Blues halfback relieving any pressure the Knights were able to put on the visitors' line in the opening half.
Ivan Cleary's side continued to pepper the edges of the Knights defence and some ill discipline from back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon helped extend the visitors' lead with back-to-back tries.
First Wests Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle threw two dummies close to the line and went through some clumsy defence from Mitch Barnett and Josh Starling to dart over.
The visitors' advantage was extended further two minutes later when Moses Suli busted past Feeney and Wardle out wide to send Naiqama over for his first four-pointer against his former club.
Things got worse for the Knights when Daniel Saifiti was penalised for a late shot on Naiqama with Lolohea taking the two points to ensure the Tigers took the lead out to 20 inside 28 minutes.
Newcastle fullback Nathan Ross scored a hat-trick last week but had some shaky moments in the No.1 jersey – allowing a spiralling kick to bounce and coming up with a costly error in retrieving the ball in-goal.
Woods was enormous for the visitors with 149 metres and helped set up two tries with three handy offloads.
Newcastle were unlucky to strike on the stroke of the break with Peter Mata'utia crossing in the corner, only for the final pass to be ruled forward – in a show the day belonged much to the visitors.
The icing on the cake came on the stroke of full-time when Matt McIlwrick was on the end of a Woods offload that sent Brooks over that now enables the side off the bottom of the Telstra Premiership ladder.
Wests Tigers 33 (Watene-Zelezniak, Liddle, Naiqama, Nofoaluma, Brooks tries; Lolohea 6 goals; Brooks field-goal) defeated Newcastle Knights 12 (Fitzgibbon, Wardle tries; Hodkinson 2 goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Half-time: Tigers 20-0. Crowd: 19,531.
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Luke Brooks. 2 points: Aaron Woods. 1 point: Kevin Naiqama.