The Wests Tigers faced an improving Canterbury Bulldogs at Bankwest Stadium but knew it would be a tough game despite Steve Georgallis’ side sitting at the foot of the latter.
In the 7th minute, it was the former-Bulldog Moses Mbye who picked up the first points.
A lung-busting run from David Nofoaluma put the Tigers on the front foot, and two tackles later Luciano Leilua pushed through Jack Cogger and offloaded to the Tigers captain to slide over.
In the 15th minute, Cogger made up for his weak defence as he attacked the space in behind the ruck and broke the Tigers defensive line.
With just Adam Doueihi to beat, The half-back pushed the ball to Nick Meaney to race away and score under the posts.
Kerrod Holland converted to level the scores.
Just after the 20-minute mark, Nofoaluma set up another score for the Tigers.
He cut back inside just five metres out, skipping past three tackles before popping back inside to Luke Garner to drop over the line for a four-pointer.
Following a 40/20 from Benji Marshall, the Tigers attacked through their right-edge once more as Doueihi and Joey Leilua combined to put Nofoaluma in space once again but this time walked in from 10-metres out.
Wests extended their lead further just before the half-hour mark as Marshall’s kick through bounced up for Garner to gather and slide over for his second of the game.
With five minutes to go until the break, The Bulldogs pulled a score back.
Kieran Foran picked the ball up from the ruck, stepped to the left and threw a rainbow pass out to Marcelo Montoya to dive over in the corner.
A quickfire second followed for the visitors as Foran broke from his own 40-metre line, and had just Doueihi to beat.
He passed inside to the debutant Matt Doorey who outpaced the Tigers full-back to score.
The Tigers also lost Benji Marshall to an ankle injury, meaning Josh Reynolds would enter the field of play, and Jacob Liddle now expected to play the whole 80-minutes.
HALF-TIME: Wests Tigers 22-16 Canterbury Bulldogs
The start to the second half was very scrappy with both sides making plenty of errors and conceding a number of penalties.
The Bulldogs had a chance to level up in the 55th minute as they attacked from a 10-metre scrum.
However, Foran’s pass to Sauaso Sue wasn’t claimed by the forward and the Tigers escaped.
Just minutes later, Jeremy Marshall-King was certainly going to score himself after breaking the line and spinning out of the last tackle.
Instead of dotting the ball down, he passed to Aiden Tolman who looked to have been wrapped up by Marshall and Garner but the prop-forward did enough to ground the ball.
Holland converted to make it 22-22.
With 16 minutes to go, Foran picked up an injury after a tackle he made of Joey Leilua, but it would force him off the field for the remainder of the game.
A few minutes later, the Tigers began to win the ruck, with multiple quick play-the-balls putting the Bulldogs on the back foot.
A chipped kick over the top from Brooks was chased by Marshall and Cogger, but the Wests half-back couldn’t quite claim the ball quick enough to pick up the try.
Canterbury should have started a fresh set from just 10-metres out, but Katoa decided to put boot to ball, which was booted beyond the dead-ball line by Joey Leilua and they started back on the half-way line instead.
At the end of the set, Marshall-King showed he was just as skilful as brother Benji, as he beat the tackle of Luke Garner and pushed an offload out the back of his hand to Holland who scored.
Cogger attempted a field goal to take a seven-point lead but couldn’t quite wing the ball inside enough.
The Bulldogs half-back then made a crucial error in defence as he slipped when shooting up on Marshall, who’s quick catch and pass allowed Joey Leilua time and space to accelerate towards Meaney, and palm off the full-back to score.
Mbye converted to level the scores again with six minutes remaining.
With four minutes remaining, Marshall attempted a one-pointer for the Tigers but couldn’t make good enough contact on the ball, but the contact from Josh Jackson did cause some concern.
He collided with the standing leg of Marshall but the half-back did manage to hobble away and continue.
Cogger missed another shot at goal before Luke Brooks had a go for the Tigers.
This time, the number six struck the ball sweetly right down the middle of the uprights for a slender one-point lead with two minutes left.
The Bulldogs managed to regain their own short kick-off.
Meaney made a half-break for Canterbury but lost the ball in the contact, which gifted the Tigers possession with 68 seconds remaining.
Wests kept careful control of the ball in the set and Nofoaluma took the ball into contact on the hooter to bring an end to the game.
FULL-TIME: Wests Tigers 29-28 Canterbury Bulldogs
Doueihi, Nofoaluma, J. Leilua, Mbye, Talau, Brooks, Marshall, Aloiai, Liddle, Packer, L. Leilua, Garner, Eisenhuth
Interchanges: Reynolds, McIntyre, Seyfarth, Taylor
Tries: Mbye, Garner (2), Nofoaluma, J. Leilue
Goals: Mbye (4/5)
Meaney, Montoya, Lafai, Holland, Smith, Foran, Cogger, Ogden, Katoa, Napa, Jackson, Faitala-Mariner, Thompson
Interchanges: Marshall-King, Tolman, Sue, Doorey
Tries: Meaney, Montoya, Doorey, Tolman, Holland
Goals: Holland (4/5)
Referee: M. Cecchin
Touch Judges: G. Badger, J. Stone
Video Referee: B. Norrie
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)