Andrew Pelechaty reviews the Saturday night clash between the Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs at CommBank Stadium …
Wests Tigers 23
Tries: David Nofoaluma 2 (8, 59), Ken Maumalo (22), Luke Brooks (65)
Goals: Jackson Hastings 3 (9, 24. 67)
One-Point Field Goal: Luke Brooks (79)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 22
Tries: Cody Walker (14), Alex Johnston (18), Josh Mansour (47), Keaon Koloamatangi (71)
Goals: Blake Taaffe 3 (14, 48, 72)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Coming off the back of their Easter Monday win over Parramatta, Wests were almost first to score, with a beautiful grubber from last week’s hero Jackson Hastings nearly pounced on by David Nofoaluma.
There was concern for Souths’ Hame Sele after a head knock in a tackle. He went off for a HIA and his night was over.
Nofoaluma (who scored two tries last week) made up for his early near miss with the Tigers’ first try down the right, with a beautiful cut-out ball from Daine Laurie. Hastings nailed a difficult conversion to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead. There was controversy afterwards with Taane Milne taking Laurie high in the try-scoring movement, with Milne sin-binned: it was a triple blow for Souths (HIA, try, sin bin) in a short timeframe.
Alex Johnston came close to scoring for Souths, but somehow popped the ball out backwards for Cody Walker to score. While Walker was offside initially, he ran around Johnston to get back onside and no Tigers defenders was impeded. While we’re used to seeing Johnston score plenty of tries, this was an amazing piece of heads-up play from him. Blake Taaffe converted to tie the scores at 6-6 after 14 minutes.
Johnston added a try of his own four minutes later: Walker playing assistant this time with a wonderful cut-out pass as Souths went down the left again to lead 10-6. What was more incredible was Souths scoring two tries with 12 players: a scary though for Wests.
While Souths looked like warming up for a big night, Wests quickly hit back after a Souths error, with Ken Maumalo scoring in the left corner. Hastings hit the sideline conversion to give Wests the lead again.
Wests were close to scoring again when Souths knocked on a Laurie grubber close to their tryline, giving Wests a scrum in prime attacking position, and getting the ball back after another Souths error as they tried to clean up some poor Tigers passing. Another nice Laurie grubber to the corner resulted in a goal-line drop-out. Maumalo nearly scored off a bomb, but knocked-on, giving Souths a reprieve.
With three minutes left in the half, Wests pinched the ball 10 metres from Souths’ line, but Souths survived and nearly scored a length-of-the-field try and Alex Twal was binned for off-side during the Rabbits’ counter-attack. Out of nowhere, Souths had turned desperate defence into attack, but squandered their chance with a dropped ball.
It’s fair to say that was one of the best halves of footy in 2022, with Wests completing 25/26 sets, though Souths would be unhappy with their 11/18 completion rate.
HALF-TIME: Wests Tigers 12 South Sydney Rabbitohs 10Embed from Getty Images
Souths got back infront (off a Campbell Graham break) when Josh Mansour scored off a Damien Cook grubber, which ricocheted off Liddle. Amazingly, it was the third try tonight while a player was in the bin. Taafe converted to give Souths a 16-12 lead.
The Tigers earned a penalty after Johnston caught a Hastings bomb, but Walker ran an escort line.
Wests looked to have scored off the next set with a try to Jock Madden, but Maumalo was offside, though it appeared line-ball to the naked eye.
Then it was Souths’ turn, with George Burgess going over, but Cook knocked on. It was Souths’ ninth error of the game so far.
Wests levelled the scores off a centre-field scrum, going to the right with Nofoaluma scoring his second try. Hastings just missed the sideline conversion to keep the score 16-16 with 20 minutes left. We were set for a cracking finish.
Luke Brooks put the Tigers back infront with a 70-metre run after picking up a loose Lachlan Ilias pass. Hastings converted to give Wests a 22-16 lead.
Souths successfully Captain’s Challenged a knock-on call close to Wests’ line, with Starford To’a knocking on.
Souths got a couple of Six Again’s as the tried to level the scores, and were eventually held up. Keaon Koloamatangi then went over to cut the margin to two, and Taafe nailed the crucial conversion to level the scores at 22-22 with eight minutes left. It was incredible considering Souths were reduced to 15 players, with Sele and Jacob Host unavailable.
There was a Captain’s Challenge from the Tigers after a penalty, which was successful when Jai Arrow knocked on with no ruck interference, which cost Souths a kickable penalty goal.
Hastings tried to repeat his Easter Monday field goal heroics with a couple of long-range attempts, but missed both. Even Arrow tried a field goal attempt, but his rushed attempt gave away a seven-tackle set as Souths bungled the field goal set-up.
Madden’s field goal attempt was charged down, but Souths were offside, with Wests getting the ball back. Souths challenged it – Cook charged the ball down and it hit Arrow, who was accidentally offside, so the challenge was unsuccessful. With a minute-and-a-half left, Wests had one more shot with a midfield scrum 30 metres from Souths’ line.
Brooks nailed the field goal on the fourth tackle, giving Wests their second straight one-point win.
While the Tigers were tenacious and deserved their win (with 45/47 sets completed), Souths will rue their 25/37 completion rate, along with a touch of bad luck with the accidental offside.
FULL-TIME: Wests Tigers 23 South Sydney Rabbitohs 22
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Luke Brooks (Tigers), 2 pts – David Nofoaluma (Tigers), 1 pt – Keaon Koloamatangi (Rabbitohs)
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