The NZ Warriors have held off a fast finishing Wests Tigers side 28-26 in a huge upset at Leichhardt Oval today. The Tigers missing an ideal chance to advance on the table and the NZ Warriors keeping their distant semi-finals hopes alive.
Tigers full-back Brett Hodgson missed a sideline conversion after the bell which, had it been successful, would have sent the match into golden-point extra time.
The Warriors, missing State of Origin stars Steve Price and Brent Tate, held on for victory in Ruben Wiki’s 300th match after the Tigers scored two tries in the final three-and-a-half minutes in an entertaining clash.
The rare away win boosts the Warriors’ play-off ambitions but harms the Tigers chances of making the finals.
Inspired by Wiki’s landmark game, the Warriors peeled open some feeble Tigers defence in the first half to lead 16-0 after only 29 minutes.
Hooker Ian Henderson scooted over from dummy-half for the first try in the ninth minute – barely being touched as he found plenty of space behind the ruck.
The Kiwis were in again 15 minutes later but this time the final pass from Grant Rovelli looked like it drifted forward before Sonny Fia crashed over in the corner.
Warriors half-back Nathan Fien then brushed off some ordinary goal-line defence five minutes later before Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall provided a touch of magic after collecting the ball in the middle of the paddock 30m out from his line.
With little on, Marshall danced around three defenders before shedding a fourth seven minutes from half-time.
Just as the defence looked to have closed him down, he delivered his trademark flick pass to barnstorming winger Taniela Tuiaki, who sprinted 50m to reduce the deficit to 16-6 at half-time.
The Tigers looked like making further inroads in the early minutes of the second half but Lance Hohaia shut down the long-range movement with a trysaving tackle on Liam Fulton.
The home side only had to wait until the 50th minute with Robbie Farah stretching out for the tryline following another controversial call with the ball appearing to go well forward from Mathew Head to Tuiaki.
Two minutes later, the Warriors looked like self-destructing with Aidan Kirk dropping the ball near his line but Head pushed the pass and the New Zealanders mopped up the mess.
But the Tigers were full of running by now and the 56th minute Chris Lawrence stormed over out wide.
The Warriors rallied eight minutes later with Marshall’s being caught out in defence as Hohaia sprinted clear to end a brilliant 75m movement.
Warrior Sam Rapira then capitalised on a Tigers error by bumping off opposite number Bronson Harrison close to the line and crossing near the posts for a subsequent 28-16 lead in the 69th minute.
Tuiaki breathed life back into the match after being put through a big hole by Marshall as the Tigers moved back within a converted try with three minutes remaining.
After plenty of adventurous play, Tuiaki scored his third try of the match in the corner but Hodgson pressure shot was off target.
The Tigers and Warriors both have the bye next week, each side receiving 2 NRL competition points.