There was no fairy tale comeback this time, with the Wests Tigers running out comprehensive 38-14 victors over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
Bulldogs welcomed back Sam Kasiano from suspension while Tim Browne also returned to the side after recovering from the knock he suffered against St George. Josh Morris had to wait another week with Moses Mbye slotting in at centre again, pairing with the competition’s top try scorer Curtis Rona.
The two sides of course met only four weeks ago, where the Bulldogs came back from an 18-point deficit to win in golden point courtesy of a Moses Mbye field goal.
Bulldogs went into the fixture having won seven of their past eight meetings against the Tigers but it wasn’t to be this time, with the Tigers setting up an early lead and never taking their foot off the pedal against a lacklustre Bulldogs outfit.
A mistake from Aiden Tolman in the 3rd minute gave Tigers possession just 30m out and an acrobatic flick from Kevin Naiqama to keep the ball in play was collected by James Tedesco to post the first points of the match. Pat Richards converted for a 6-0 lead.
Tigers gifted Bulldogs the chance to strike back in the following set, making a mistake of their own. Kasiano went close but in the end the Bulldogs came away empty-handed.
Corey Thompson came even closer to scoring in the 13th minute, finishing off a backline move, but the winger was correctly ruled to have lost control by the video referee.
The video referee flashed the red light again in the subsequent set with Tiger backrower Sauaso Sue losing the ball just short of the line.
In the 24th minute Tedesco returned the earlier favour to Naiqama, grubbering the ball into the right-side corner for Naiqama to pounce. Richards failed to add the extras to leave it 10-0.
Tigers struck again in the 32nd minute after a Luke Brooks bomb was let bounce before striking the post and fortuitously back into the arms of the halfback who scored next to the sticks. With Richards being attended to in the sheds for a cut under his eye, Mitchell Moses stepped up for the conversion to make it 16-0.
Bulldogs mounted their comeback in the 37th minute with a great offload from Rona setting Mbye free, who found Frank Pritchard in support. Trent Hodkinson slotted the two to cut the lead back to 10.
Tigers were awarded a penalty with only seconds left in the first half and Richards stepped up to take an ambitious 54m shot at goal. He nailed it for an 18-6 score line at the break.
Michael Lichaa racked up 30 tackles in the first forty minutes while Tolman again led by example with eight runs (for 65m) and 18 tackles.
In a less than ideal start to the second half, Antonio Kaufusi, after a strong opening charge, dropped the ball as he attempted to play it. Tigers failed to capitalised though, with the Bulldog’s defence standing tall.
However, the Tigers were at it again in the 45th minute with Naiqama brushing off Mbye in his own half to streak clear and set up Tedesco in support. Richards converted the try for a 24-6 score. The same score Bulldogs came back from to beat Tigers in Round 4…
That score line didn’t last long though with Richards soon after slotting another long-range penalty goal to make it 26-6.
Brooks collected his second of the night in the 53rd minute with the pivot slicing through the line after a show-and-go. Richards added the two for 32-6.
Frankie Pritchard proved too big and too strong for Moses in the 59th minute to crash over for his second of the match. Hodkinson’s kick was waved away, leaving things 32-10.
Bulldogs looked certain to score again in the 62nd minute after creating an overlap but a mix up between Mbye and Rona saw the play break down. It was all Bulldogs for the next 10 minute period but they couldn’t crack the Tigers’ defence, repelling waves of attack.
Rona added a ninth try to his season tally in the 76th minute, doing well to plant to ball down in the corner before being forced into touch. Hodkinson failed to convert for a 32-14 score.
Richards sealed the deal for the Tigers in the final minutes before converting his own try from the sideline.
The regular NRL season is put on hold next weekend with Australia facing New Zealand while there is also the City vs Country clash. The week after, Bulldogs travel north to play the Cowboys. Check the site for further details.
TIGERS 38 (Tedesco 2, Brooks, 2 Naiqama, Richards; Richards 6, Moses 1 Goals) def. BULLDOGS 14 (Pritchard 2, Rona Tries; Hodkinson 1 Goal)
At: ANZ Stadium