Wests Tigers withstood a second half Bulldogs fightback to claim a 36-22 win at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night that ensured they avoided last place on the NRL ladder.
The Tigers led 18-0 at halftime but Mick Potter's first half time speech since taking over as Canterbury's interim coach mid week coincided with a dramatic turn around after the break.
The Bulldogs piled on three unanswered tries but the sin-binning of centre Aaron Schoupp for a lifting tackle on Starford To'a turned the game back in favour of the home team, who piled on three late tries to move ahead of their rivals on the ladder.
While there had been much attention on Brent Naden's midweek switch from Canterbury to West Tigers, it was the debut of another former Bulldog in Fa'amanu Brown that had a greater impact on the result as he scored two second half tries.
The Tigers had to overcome the second half sin binning of star playmaker Jackson Hastings, who ignored the discomfort of a foot injury he carried into the game to lead his team to their third win of the season.
Match: Wests Tigers v Bulldogs
Round 11 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
- Luke Garner opened the scoring for Wests Tigers in just the sixth minute after lock Joe Ofahengaue combined with Jackson Hastings and put the Penrith-bound second-rower over with a short pass near the line.
- Tigers recruit Brent Naden, who was initially set to be named on the wing for the Bulldogs before a mid-week switch of clubs, received a hostile welcome from his former team-mates as Jayden Okunbor, Jake Averillo and Kyle Flanagan combined to bundle him into touch on his first touch of the ball.
A not so warm welcome for Naden
- Tigers fullback Starford To’a was held up over line in the 12th minute and Okunbor denied Garner his second try just a minute later after he knocked a Jacob Liddle grubber into touch.
- The weight of possession finally told when Hastings put To'a over for a 15th minute try with a short pass close to the line.
Hastings puts To'a in
- After winning a captain's challenge against a knock-on when he fielded a Kyle Flanagan bomb, Kiwis winger Ken Maumalo scored in the 25th minute after the Tigers spread the ball wide through Ofahengaue, Hastings, Jock Madden and Naden.
- Maumalo then scored his second try just seconds before halftime to give the Tigers an 18-0 lead after Hastings combined with To'a to create an overlap on the left edge from a scrum win.
Ken does it again
- It was a different Bulldogs team that came out on the second half and they immediately showed their intentions when Tevita Pangai jnr stepped his way through the Tigers defence before putting Matt Burton over with a sublime flick pass in the 43rd minute.
Burton breathes life into Dogs
- Hastings was sin-binned for a professional foul after tackling Pangai jnr from an offside position after Jeremey Marshall King broke into the clear in the next set of tackles after the re-start and sent Matt Dufty racing for the line only to be stopped short.
- Marshall-King then made the Tigers pay when he dived over from dummy-half in the ensuing set of tackles and Burton's conversion reduced Canterbury's deficit to 18-12 just seven minutes into the second half.
The Dogs go back to back
- Lebanon international Jacob Kiraz scored his first NRL try in just his second appearance for the Bulldogs but Burton missed the sideline conversion.
Kiraz continues Bulldogs comeback
- Momentum swung back the Tigers way after Canterbury centre Aaron Schoupp was sin binned for a lifting tackle on To'a in the 62nd minute and the 12-man Bulldogs outfit couldn't hang on.
- After replacing hooker Jacob Liddle in his first NRL appearance since playing for the Bulldogs three years ago, Fa'amanu Brown extended the lead for his new club when he dived over from dummy half in the 63rd minute.
Schoupp binned for dangerous tackle
- Madden then all but sealed the win for the Tigers when he chipped over Dufty and win the race for the ball to extend the home team's lead to 30-16 with just 10 minutes remaining.
- A disallowed To'a try gave the Bulldogs some hope and when Burton scored and converted from out wide in the 75th minute the game was still in the balance.
Brown puts cherry on top for Wests Tigers
Play of the game
With injured playmaker Luke Brooks watching from the coaches box, Jock Madden stepped into the Wests Tigers No.6 jersey and the rookie showed what he is capable of when he spotted Matt Dufty up in the defensive line and chipped behind the Bulldogs fullback before winning the race to score.
Madden collects own kick to score
What they said
"We had a lot of possession in the first half, we applied a lot of pressure in the first half and you know you are going to get rewarded with that later in the game. I always felt in the boys could get back in control we would be able to get the game. I think our attack is really coming along. I thought Jock came in and did what he needed to and did a really good job for us so we know what we are capable of. We have just got to tidy up those moments in the game that are hurting us," Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire.
Wests Tigers: Round 11
"Our discipline needs to change and we just made a few errors that we need to rectify. We should be able to defend our line, we shouldn't let in cheap tries. Our defence let us down in the first half and let us down a bit in the second half. We can do better. We can't have two barge overs on the tryline. There is some positive points out of the game, but we need to rectify other things. It's a real rollercoaster ride, you get all that hope up and then it dies. I did enjoy it and I am happy about being back," Bulldogs coach Mick Potter.
Bulldogs: Round 11
The Tigers travel across town to Accor Stadium seeking their second win of the season against arch rivals South Sydney on Saturday night, while the Bulldogs host St George Illawarra at their spiritual home of Belmore Oval on Sunday.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire will be sweating on the fitness of halfback Jackson Hastings after he limped from the field late in the match with a leg injury that needed treatment at halftime.
Kangaroos and Blues winger Josh Addo-Carr is expected to return for Canterbury after missing the trip to Leichhardt due to the 'flu.
His replacement Jacob Kiraz was placed on report for a mid-air tackle that forced Junior Tupou from the field for a HIA before halftime, while centre Aaron Schoupp was sinbinned for a lifting tackle on Starford To'a.
Interim coach Mick Potter will have more time to prepare the squad after only taking charge of his first session on Wednesday.