In a game that epitomises the term ‘roller-coaster ride’, the Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors contest at Campbelltown Stadium had everything.
Tries, big hits, bad moments, poor defence and so much more. Whether the Warriors were jet-lagged or just tired for some reason is unknown, but they started very slow out of the blocks.
The Tigers started like a bat out of hell and flew away to a handy 28-4 lead at half-time. Young half in Mitch Moses proving some critics wrong with smart play and accurate goal-kicking to help the Tigers to victory.
There was some razzle-dazzle by the Tigers, who have an early contender for try of the year that involved a banana kick, some good hands and slick passing.
Truly spectacular in the first half, it was the exact opposite for the Warriors. Struggling and dropping passes left, right and centre, they could produce many quality attacking moments.
But somehow, things kicked into gear in the second half as a Shaun Johnson-led assault saw them roar back into the contest and make a game of things.
They could have pulled the deficit back even further, but a racing Tuivasa-Sheck could not out-run Tim Simona in cover.
The match went down to the wire, as the Campbelltown faithful saw the lead dwindling by the minute after two quick tries for the Warriors in the second half.
Biting their fingernails and shutting their eyes, they did not know what to expect.
Had an audacious kick and chase come off, the Warriors may well have been celebrating a win. But, as luck would have it for the Tigers, Johnson’s chip and chase went awry and James Tedesco capitalised to race 50m to score and seal the game for the Tigers.
And the Warriors loss was only further compounded by the unfortunate news that utility Ben Henry has suffered what looks like another season-ending knee injury.
Crowd is such an important factor in rugby league and the home support helped the Tigers greatly.
“It was a great atmosphere out there today. It was a really good crowd,” Tigers coach Jason Taylor said.
“The club worked really hard to get people to come and watch us play. That was massive out there today. I thought the crowd played a big part in getting the boys home.”
With ACL injuries in both 2013 and 2015, in his return to NRL, early reports suggest that Ben Henry suffered a dislocated kneecap and Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said the prognosis does not look good.
“It looks like it at this stage. It’s not looking good. I’m shattered for him actually. It’s very disappointing, so we’ll wait and see,” McFadden said.
The character of his side is what pleased Jason Taylor the most.
“There wasn’t at any stage where I thought we were gone but it got scary when you’re leading like we did and they got within two,” he said.
“But we showed a lot of character and I saw the group come together and grit their teeth. That’s not easy to do when an opposition gets a roll like they had.”
Player of the Game:
3. Mitch Moses
2. Chris Lawrence
1. Simon Mannering