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Momirovski stars as Tigers set up Leichhardt pre-finals blockbuster

Three weeks ago Wests Tigers centre Paul Momirovski had tears in his eyes after missing a match-defining kick against the Bulldogs, but at the SCG on Sunday he let loose against the Dragons with a hat-trick in his side's 42-14 victory.

The 23-year-old's efforts – add in seven goals for a 26-point haul – provided the backbone to the Wests Tigers' march-to-the-finals win. Halves Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks were also superb.

They now travel to their beloved Leichhardt Oval in a pistols-at-dawn duel with the Cronulla Sharks next Sunday to see who snags a top-eight spot in the last club game of 2019.  And the question on everyone's lips all week will be if Robbie Farah's fractured tibia has healed enough to allow him to play.

Complementing Momirovski's starring role were the showmen Marshall and Brooks – who each scored a try – with a highly-commended to hooker Josh Reynolds.

But Marshall was on fire with a line break, two line-break assists and two try assists as well as his own four-pointer.

He then scored the Tigers' fifth try of the afternoon with a dummy, a hop, a skip, and a dart through a gap. Brooks scored his try five minutes later by picking up a loose ball and racing 90 metres.

The Dragons were in it at half-time but a burst of five second-half tries sunk them not long after.

Wests Tigers players took to the field not knowing the result at PointsBet Stadium due to that match being forced into golden point extra time.

Commentators during the match said club trainers were ordered not to pass the message on. Coach Michael Maguire further ensured the Sharks' loss – a dream result for the Tigers – was no part of his half-time delivery with his men up 12-8.

The lead changed three times in the opening 40 minutes, so Maguire would have still impressed the importance of holding onto it. And that they did.

Momirovski answered that call with his second try scored just three minutes after the resumption of play. He intercepted a Gareth Widdop pass to race 80 metres for an 18-8 lead.

Widdop made up for that mistake by regathering a Ben Hunt bomb to fall over the line. Suddenly it was a four-point ball game at 18-14 with 30 minutes to play.

But the Wests Tigers were irrepressible and continue to keep their season alive.

The scoring started with a Brooks 70-metre run down the left sideline after picking up a loose ball, which led to a try on the right in the next play. Marshall threw a long cut-out pass to an unmarked Momirovski, who then converted his own handiwork.

Momirovski has his hat-trick

Earlier the Tigers struck in just the fourth minute with Momirovski's first try but then the Dragons surge came. A near-try to winger Jonus Pearson led to the real thing for Euan Aitken in the 17th minute. Robert Jennings fluffed trying to ground a Gareth Widdop kick allowing Aitken to pounce.

Tristan Sailor then nearly scored but a Momirovski escort penalty on Luciano Leilua handed the Dragons a penalty goal for an 8-6 lead.

James Graham missed the grounding of a Cameron McInnes grubber to make it three near-missed tries for the half by Paul McGregor's men.

But the Wests Tigers were able to capitalise on their good fortune. Brooks – who made his NRL debut at the SCG in 2013 against the same opposition as today – sent a grubber through the defensive line for second rower Luke Garner to score his sixth try of the season. 

There were a few high-velocity collisions. Wests Tigers backrower Chris Lawrence left the field after a heavy knock but passed his HIA, while Dragons winger Zac Lomax copped an accidental knee to the back of the head from Esan Masters after slipping over and was ruled out of the game with a head knok. Dragons prop James Graham was also sent for an HIA in the 30th minute – his second in consecutive games – but passed.

Cameron McInnes had to be helped from the field in the 74th minute by two trainers after a right leg injury.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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