Wests Tigers’ unlikely push toward the NRL finals remains alive after they scored three tries in the last 10 minutes to eliminate the Warriors.
The frustrated Warriors were left ruing two controversial bunker obstruction calls as they ponder a fifth consecutive season without finals football following the 36-24 home defeat.
Having started the season with a 2-6 record after eight rounds, the vibrant Tigers are now ninth but need ninth-placed Gold Coast to lose to North Queensland on Saturday before they meet Canberra in their final round clash on Sunday.
Proud Tigers coach Jason Taylor didn’t want to talk about that yet as he reflected on the dramatic finish after prop Sauso Sue, five-eighth Mitchell Moses and centre Kevin Naiqama scored late tries to clinch the win.
“The way we came home like we did was an absolute credit to the group,” said Taylor. “It was really, really impressive.
“The biggest thing was the way our forward pack kept fighting. We just kept coming. That is how you win a big game.
“We are really happy with the situation. We are playing semi-final football every week and it is great for us.”
For the Warriors there was only heartbreak.
Coach Andrew McFadden declined to blame the video referee for the loss and accepted his side dug their own grave with a woeful closing period.
“It’s really shattering because we got the chance last night and we threw it away today,” he said. “We were just too loose, it’s not good enough at this level.”
But McFadden felt there were genuine issues around the obstruction rules after a first-half Solomone Kata try and second-half Shaun Johnson effort were annulled.
McFadden said the video referee’s decision to disallow the tries – the former for an interference by Bodene Thompson and the latter after Tigers skipper Aaron Woods made contact with a Warriors attacker – lacked match awareness.
“If you play them in live motion they’re just not obstruction,” McFadden said.
The second one there with Woods, he’s engaged the attacker, he’s never going to get Johnson there. He’s just milked it.”
Warriors captain Ryan Hoffman was aghast at his side’s collapse but likewise wondered about the obstruction decisions.
“The video referee had failed to take the context of the play into account,” Hoffman said.
“It’s become a black and white rule but it’s not a black and white situation.”
“You can’t run around your own player and gain an advantage, it’s as simple as that,” Taylor said.
“If the opposition are disappointed by that, they need to have a clear look at the rule.”
The two sides produced a tit-for-tat match in the opening 70 minutes, hitting each other with punches and counter-punches.
After back rower Bodene Thompson gave the Warriors the lead, the Auckland-based side were pegged back by similar crashing efforts by props Woods and Sue.
The Warriors then scored two tries in two minutes to take the lead into the break, before losing it again after winger Josh Addo-Carrs 70-metre dash to the line.
A try to utility Tuimoala Lolohea gave the Warriors a brief glimpse of victory that they ultimately wasted through tries to Sue, Mitchell Moses and Kevin Naiqama.