A stunning late try to Corey Thompson and sideline conversion from Tui Lolohea have helped the Wests Tigers to a thrilling and hard-earned 10-8 upset win over the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Spoiling the party of former Tiger James Tedesco – who was roundly booed by a partisan home crowd every time he touched the ball – the Roosters will be left to rue a questionable decision to level up at 2-all early in the second half rather than press their advantage against a 12-man defensive line following a Luke Brooks sin-binning.
The clutch passage that followed from the Tigers was a masterclass in how to handle a sin bin period as veteran Benji Marshall – remarkably running the team on his own after five-eighth Josh Reynolds was ruled out with a hamstring injury – kicked well to the corners to play the possession game and soak up the clock.
Though the Roosters eventually hit the front 8-4 through a try to the impressive Blake Ferguson midway through the second half, the Tigers rallied to steal a shock win in the dying moments.
Centre Esan Marsters and winger Corey Thompson – each close to the best on ground – combined to break the Tigers downfield before a superb Marshall cut-out ball landed in Thompson's hands (via a falcon from a teammate) with the winger producing a stunning grounding inches inside the touch-in-goal line. Fullback Tui Lolohea's clutch sideline conversion iced the remarkable win.
Earlier, a fascinating but try-less first half was notable mostly for some incredible scrambling defence from the Tigers, who at times looked a little flimsy on the flanks as Roosters wingers Blake Ferguson and Daniel Tupou racked up plenty of metres. Despite that they were impressive on their own goal line to keep the Roosters scoreless in the opening 40.
After Lolohea took a settling two points from an early penalty shot, both teams struggled to make the most of their attacking chances.
The most glaring was when Tedesco – heartily booed by the Tigers faithful every time he touched the ball – failed to cling on to a catchable pass while supporting a Ferguson line break with the try-line begging, much to the delight of the partisan home crowd.
A 40/20 from Cooper Cronk – whose club debut was solid but unspectacular – handed the Roosters their other gilt-edged attacking chance of the opening 40 but swarming Tigers defence bundled Tupou into touch a few plays later.
Match: Wests Tigers v Roosters
Round 1 -
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney
The Tigers spent less time in the attacking 20 than in their defensive 20 and in what few chances presented themselves in the first half they presented the Roosters' defence with few concerns.
The Roosters levelled up straight after half-time after the Brooks sin-bin, though they were arguably lucky to finish the 10-minute period level as Lolohea missed a gettable penalty kick (the second time in the game the Roosters were penalised for a sloppy play-the-ball) that soaked up the last minute of sin-bin time.
The fullback edged the Tigers back in front soon after when Napa was penalised for a high shot but were unlucky not to go ahead a try shortly before that when a Luke Brooks grubber forced an error from Tedesco and Marshall's grounding in-goal came an instant after Mitch Cornish's to defuse the scoring play.
Shortly after Ferguson scored from a straightforward overlap play and the Roosters seemed destined to escape with the win but the Tigers' right edge of Marsters and Thompson came to life, creating space and breaking the line as the Tigers refused to yield, and it was Thompson's stunning sideline grounding and Lolohea's remarkable conversion that sealed the upset.
Wests Tigers 10 (Thompson try; Lolohea 3 goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 8 (Ferguson try; Mitchell 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 18,243
Marshall feels at home