A resurgent Wests Tigers have celebrated Robbie Farah’s 300th first grade game – and moved within reach of the NRL top eight – with a thrilling 28-26 win over Newcastle.
The Tigers’ finals hopes looked grim when the Knights shot out to a 12-0 lead inside the opening seven minutes at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.
However, Michael Maguire’s side showed plenty of character to claim the halftime lead and then hold their nerve in a high-scoring affair.
Knights star Kalyn Ponga, who was arguably his team’s best, had a chance to level the game in the 70th minute but hooked his conversion attempt right.
The home side pushed hard late but the Tigers held on to leap to 10th spot on the ladder but equal on 18 points with eighth-placed Newcastle.
“Milestone games don’t necessarily get you a win unless you show up and prepare to get the win,” Farah said.
“We came here with our season on the line and it’s obviously a big week for the town up here. Newcastle obviously have had their backs against the wall as well.
We had our work cut out and then at 12-0 down it’s even tougher. I’m just really proud of the boys that we could find a way to win and keep our season alive.”
The win was soured though by a heavy concussion to second-rower Michael Chee Kam, who was taken from the ground on a medicab late in the game.
The long stoppage resulted in Ponga being sin-binned for shoulder charging Chee Kam in a race for a loose ball in the Knights in-goal.
Chee Kam was immediately taken to John Hunter Hospital as a precaution and will be monitored overnight.
The Tigers had plenty of contributors in the season-saving victory, including two-try hero Corey Thompson and halfback Luke Brooks, who laid on two try assists.
Farah, 35, also marked his milestone with a crucial second-half try.
The signs were ominous early for the Tigers after Jesse Ramien and Ponga crossed inside the opening seven minutes to be ahead of the clock.
Ponga wowed the crowd of 21,029 with his individual effort, stepping five defenders with his wicked left foot.
Thompson’s 22nd-minute try came against the run of play, especially after Tim Glasby seemingly crashed over on the half-hour mark.
But try was rubbed out after replays showed Tigers winger David Nofoaluma dislodged the ball with his try-saving attempt.
And the Tigers made them pay with two tries just before halftime through Thompson and a strong solo effort from veteran Benji Marshall.
Knights coach Nathan Brown was furious with his team’s defence and vowed to make changes for next week’s clash with Manly.
“Maybe a couple of people thought it was acceptable not to put the right effort in I’m not sure,” he said.
“We haven’t had a lot of changes in the past 4-5 (weeks) that have been forced.
“There’ll certainly be changes next week that are going to be unforced changes – that is 100 per cent guaranteed.”