James Tedesco has continued his undeniable claim for a State of Origin debut with a starring role in the Wests Tigers’ 34-26 NRL win over Penrith.
Just two days out from Blues coach Laurie Daley naming his team for game three, the Tigers’ star claimed a points decision on Origin rival Matt Moylan in a high-scoring affair.
Moylan struck first with involvements in Penrith’s opening two tries of the match, however Tedesco responded by twice burning fellow Blues hopeful Bryce Cartwright to set up tries either side of halftime.
Compounding the loss for the Panthers is a suspected season-ending knee injury to prop Sam McKendry, who was folded by a Jesse Sue tackle early in the first half and was taken from the field on a stretcher.
Tedesco was assisted by strong outings from Mitchell Moses and Sue, while Cartwright made up for his defensive deficiencies with 10 offloads for the visitors.
The win lifts the Tigers to within two points of the eighth-placed Panthers.
In front of a crowd of 10,582 on Saturday evening at ANZ Stadium, the Panthers led 14-2 at the 24-minute mark when the Tigers poured on four tries in 15 minutes to take a shock eight-point lead into halftime.
Jordan Rankin finished off a Tedesco break early in the second stanza to increase the advantage for the home side, who turned away numerous Panthers raids midway through the second half.
Veteran hooker Robbie Farah then sealed the win when he backed up a Sue break in the 63rd minute, before Trent Merrin and Isaah Yeo grabbed consolation tries late in the match.
Earlier, Penrith winger Josh Mansour opened the scoring with an acrobatic putdown, which was followed by James Fisher-Harris finishing a Tyrone Peachey tap-back just three minutes later.
However, the tide turned quickly afterwards, Ava Seumanufagai backing up a clean Chris Lawrence break in the 32nd minute which was sandwiched between twin Tim Simona efforts.
Tedesco set up his first before he intercepted a Moylan pass and ran 60 metres for his second, and then David Nofoaluma gave his team an unlikely lead on the halftime siren.
Penrith’s mid-season recruit Zak Hardaker also made his NRL debut with a lively 30-minute cameo in the second half.