Five-eighth Luke Brooks has nailed a late field goal to earn the Wests Tigers a season-saving 29-28 win over Canterbury in a thrilling contest featuring 10 tries.
- Luke Brooks kicked the winning field in the 77th minute against the Bulldogs
- The Tigers are in ninth place on the NRL ladder, four points outside the top eight
- The Sea Eagles dropped to 10th after recording their eighth loss of the season
Brooks nailed a 33-metre field goal with three minutes remaining at Parramatta Stadium to break the 28-28 deadlock after the Tigers appeared to have blown a 16-point lead against the competition cellar dwellers.
The heart-stopping victory propelled the Tigers up to ninth spot on the ladder, but still four points adrift of the top eight as they bid to break the NRL’s longest finals drought.
Earlier on Sunday, Manly fell to the Knights 26-24 in Newcastle to leave its finals hopes hanging by a thread.
The Tigers have finished painfully short in ninth spot the past two seasons and still require a minor miracle to scrape into the finals for the first time since 2011 despite their great escape against the Bulldogs.
With a horror run home, ninth place would be an admirable finish this time around.
Michael Maguire’s men are the only side who will face the current top four teams over the closing six rounds.
For now, they can saviour getting out of jail against the Bulldogs.
It looked like being Benji Marshall’s day early before his half-brother Jeremy Marshall-King stole the veteran playmaker’s thunder with a decisive late play that appeared to have won Canterbury the rollercoaster match.
With the scores locked up at 22-22 and the clock winding down, Marshall-King somehow managed to pop up a pass in the tackle for centre Kerrod Holland to crash over and give Canterbury the lead for the first time in the 68th minute.
But a try to Joey Leilua four minutes later and a conversion by Moses Mbye from out wide set up the grandstand finish and the stage for Brooks to strike.
The frenetic finish looked light years away after the Tigers raced out to a 22-6 lead after 30 minutes.
Marshall had a hand or boot in three of the Tigers’ first four tries scored by Mbye, David Nofoaluma and Luke Garner (two).
But two tries in three minutes to centre Marcelo Montoya and debutant interchange forward Matt Doorey, had the Bulldogs suddenly back in the contest before further tries to Aiden Tolman and Holland briefly put Canterbury in front.
Knights sneak home against Sea Eagles
Enari Tuala scored two tries and Kalyn Ponga again starred in the Knights win, as the hosts moved one step closer to their first finals series since 2013.
The only issue for the Knights was another knee injury for Daniel Saifiti, who left the field in the first half and did not return in his comeback match from a similar injury.
The story could not be any more dire for the Sea Eagles.
Seventh on the ladder when Tom Trbojevic was injured in round six, they have won just two of their past eight matches to be placed ninth, two wins shy of the top half of the competition.
With a poor for-and-against record, Des Hasler’s team will likely need to win at least five of their last six matches to make the finals.
The Sea Eagles were dogged on Sunday without starting props Martin Taupau and Addin Fonua Blake.
Trbojevic’s replacement at fullback, Brendan Elliot, suffered a knee injury and played just 20 minutes, while five-eighth Cade Cust was hampered by knee and ankle injuries.
Manly led 12-0 early but endured a nightmare 20 minutes before half-time after Elliot’s injury.
After Ponga and Mitchell Pearce combined for the Knights’ first try, Kurt Mann grabbed a four-pointer to level the scores, before Tuala crossed to give the hosts a 16-12 advantage at half-time.
When Hymel Hunt made it 20-12 just after the break, the Knights looked in control.
But Jack Gosiewki scored for Manly from a Daly Cherry-Evans grubber, before Lachlan Croker was the beneficiary of Taniela Paseka and Sean Keppie’s power in the middle.
But the Knights would not relent.
Tualia landed the knockout blow when he beat Manly’s defence from 20 metres out with eight minutes to play.
The victory lifted the Knights to sixth place on the ladder, just one point off the top four.