The Wests Tigers’ slim finals hopes have disappeared after they squandered a half-time lead to lose 18-16 to the New Zealand Warriors at Suncorp Stadium.
Michael Maguire’s men led 10-0 at the break but capitulated in the second half and were unable to score in the last fifteen minutes to win the match.
The Warriors’ victory was particularly impressive given the absences of Tohu Harris, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Addin Fonua-Blake, and Matt Lodge.
The Tigers had most of the possession through the early stages of the game but were unable to capitalise on several attacking opportunities.
Their attack wasn’t helped when breakout Fullback Daine Laurie was helped off the field in the first five minutes with a suspected broken leg.
The Warriors did eventually crack as David Nofoaluma finished off a left-to-right shift with a diving finish in the corner.
The @WestsTigers strike first! ?#NRLTigersWarriors #TelstraPremiership pic.twitter.com/8gyrBxysQ6
— NRL (@NRL) July 30, 2021
Fill-in fullback Moses Mbye then responded to rumours that he would be leaving the club by crossing for a try of his own by rolling over Reece Walsh on the try-line.
Shortly after half-time, Euan Aitken made the most of his new position in the second row by nabbing his fourth try of the season.
Bunty Afoa then crashed over five minutes later to give his side a two-point lead before a short dropout from the Tigers landed in the lap of Euan Aitken, who completed his double.
“Mine.” – Euan Aitken, probably#NRLTigersWarriors #TelstraPremiership pic.twitter.com/fZBKK2izaS
— NRL (@NRL) July 30, 2021
Adam Doueihi took it upon himself to bring the Tigers back into the match, stepping off his right foot to beat several defenders in a strong run to the line.
Behind by two, the Tigers appeared to have the Warriors on the ropes on several occasions but could not get themselves across the try-line.
Luke Brooks scooped up a scrappy Sean O’Sullivan kick and ran the length of the field but was denied by the bunker due to a knock-on, while both Tigers halves missed two-point field goal attempts.
The defining moment of the match arguably came with minutes to go and the Tigers just one metre out from the Warriors try-line.
Joe Ofahengaue rumbled his way towards the line and earned a fast play-the-ball, but no Tigers player lined up at dummy half as Reece Walsh dived on the ball and claimed possession for his side.
With the win, the Warriors have drawn level with the Tigers on 14 competition points.
Sitting two wins behind Cronulla, St George, and Canberra, both sides will now struggle to make the top eight despite their relatively easy remaining fixtures
The Tigers will fancy their chances of fighting back against Trent Barrett’s Bulldogs next Sunday afternoon, while the Warriors will come up against the Sharks on Saturday evening.
NRL News Player of the Game
3 Points – Euan Aitken – 2 tries, 6 tackle busts, 33 tackles
2 Points – Adam Doueihi – 1 try, 1 try contribution, 2 line breaks.
1 Point – Luciano Leilua – 1 line break, 2 line break assists, 5 offloads.