A Luke Brooks field goal has secured back-to-back wins for Wests Tigers after defeating South Sydney 23-22 in a thrilling clash at CommBank Stadium.
A week after Jackson Hastings snatched the Tigers first win of the season with a last minute field goal to down Parramatta, his halves partner Brooks repeated the feat from 20-metres out in a set move by Michael Maguire's men.
It was a disciplined performance by the Tigers, who completed 45 of 47 sets of possession to wear the Rabbitohs down, with Souths captain Cameron Murray having to make 66 tackles.
The Rabbitohs were forced to play the second half with just 15 players after losing Hame Sele (HIA) and Jacob Host (shoulder), while Tigers fullback Daine Laurie (knee) failed to return after the break.
However, the Tigers barely missed a beat as Hastings took control - as he did last week - to steer his side to victory against another top four team from last season.
Match: Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs
Round 7 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
- The Tigers started where they left off in last Sunday's upset of the Eels and David Nofoaluma almost scored in just the eighth minute but Rabbitohs fullback Blake Taaffe manged to push the ball into touch just before the star winger could swoop on a Jackson Hastings grubber.
- Nofoaluma made no mistake when he got his next try scoring opportunity in the set after the goal line drop out after Hastings linked with fullback Daine Laurie, who cut out centre Luke Garner with a long pass to his winger.
Nofoaluma gets things going
- With Hame Sele out of the match after putting his head in the wrong place while attempting to tackle Zane Musgrove and centre Taane Milne sinbinned for a high shot after Laurie's pass to Nofoaluma, little was going the Rabbitohs' way.
- However, they managed to score twice while a player short, as Alex Johnston and Cody Walker combined to turn the game on its head.
- Walker scored in the 15th minute after Johnston forced his way over the tryline and was held up by five defenders but somehow managed to push the ball for the star five-eighth to pick up and stroll over for his side's first try.
Walker hits back for the Bunnies
- Walker then turned provider for Johnston when he fired a long pass across the face of stand-in centre Jacob Host to put last season's leading tryscorer over for his fifth try of the year.
- Just as the game looked to be slipping from the grasp of the Tigers, Ken Maumalo scored in the 24th minute after Luke Brooks fired a long pass to centre Starford To'a to create space for the Kiwis winger.
Maumalo takes back the lead
- Maumaolo had another chance to score in the 34th minute but he was unable to hang onto a Hastings' cross-field bomb after soaring above Lebanon international Josh Mansour and the teams went to the halftime break with the Tigers leading 12-10.
- The Rabbitohs had a chance to regain the lead before the interval after a long range break by centre Campbell Graham but Ilias was stopped just short of the tryline by Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle after pushing off an attempted Daine Laurie tackle.
- Graham repeated his efforts early in the second half and this time Souths were rewarded after Mansour pounced on a grubber by halfback Lachlan Ilias to score in the 48th minute.
Mansour rewarded for work in the middle
- Nofoaluma drew the scores level at 16-16 midway through the second half when he scored from a scrum win and the conversion attempt by Hastings from the sideline just missed.
- Brooks then put the Tigers ahead in the 67th minute when he picked up a loose ball put down by Graham and raced 70 metres to score and Hastings converted.
Brooks streaks away to take back the lead
- Rabbitohs forward Keaon Koloamatangi scored in the 71st minute after To'a, who moved to fullback after Laurie's injury, put down a kick near his own line and fullback Blake Taaffe converted to again level the scores at 22-22.
- Hastings missed two shots at field goal and Jock Madden had an attempt charged down before Brooks landed the match winner from 30 metres out with just a minute on the clock.
Luke Brooks the man of the moment
Play of the game
The Rabbitohs appeared set to snatch the lead just before halftime when centre Campbell Graham burst into the clear and broke the tackle of Daine Laurie before sending halfback Lachlan Ilais racing towards the corner but Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle didn't give up the chase and made a try saving tackle just before the line.
Liddle with the chase and tackle
What they said
"The belief within the group obviously continues to grow off the back of performances like that, against two big teams in the past two weeks. In the Warriors and Titans games we were very close, we had a bit of a hiccup against Newcastle and Cronulla. What I have seen over the last month is how the group has really galvanised and someone like Luke Brooks has gone through a fair bit in his career and what a special moment that was to see him kick the field goal. He has been challenged for as long as I can remember, and obviously he has got a good partner now in Jacko. Over the last couple of weeks we have been able to win the completions which is something every team talks about and it is an important part in winning the game": Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire.
Wests Tigers: Round 7
"We were under 70 per cent completions and had 16 errors - a lot of them at the back end of the field. We looked dangerous when we got through our sets but it is individuals - loose carries, not taking ownership of owning the footy, pushing passes we don't need to push. It is a recurring thing we are going to need to address. To our middle's credit, I thought their resilience was superb. For them to keep turning up and keep us in the fight was pretty special but we can't keep asking ourselves to keep doing it. I thought we played our best footy with 12 men. We got through our sets, we played a bit more composed because we knew we had too and it was probably a mindset we needed to have more": Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.
Rabbitohs: Round 7
Souths host Manly at Central Coast Stadium on Friday night, while Wests Tigers travel to Wollongong to take on St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium next Sunday.
Rabbitohs forward Hame Sele will need to pass the NRL's HIA protocols before being considered for selection after being forced from the field in the early exchanges against the Tigers, while Jacob Host also failed to finish the match after dislocating his shoulder.
Centre Taane Milne was sinbinned for a high tackle on Daine Laurie, while interchange forward Liam Knight may also have judiciary concerns after being placed on report for a crusher tackle on James Tamou.
Tigers fullback Daine Laurie will undergo scans after suffering a knee injury that prevented him from returning after the halftime break, with the initial diagnosis being that he has suffered MCL damage.