The Warriors season lays in ruins after cracks started to show in the squad following the sacking of coach Stephen Kearney, and the decision of several players to return to their families in New Zealand.
Tenth placed Tigers went into the game as firm favourites with the bookies and knew that a win would lift them into seventh in the table. A win for the Warriors would lift them to twelfth but a heavy loss could have seen them drop as low as fifteenth, and possibly finish the round propping up the table.
There were multiple changes from both coaches with Twal, Garner and Mikaele in for the Tigers and Alvaro, Jennings, Herbert and Egan named in the Warriors side after several players elected to return home to their families in New Zealand.
A superb Tigers start saw them open the scoring on five minutes after a tremendous offload from Luciano Leilua into the hands of Moses Mbye to round behind the sticks. Mbye was unable to add the conversion, the ball smacking into the upright.
The second came on twelve minutes as David Nofoaluma took a difficult pass above his head, walked the touchline tightrope and rounded behind the sticks. Adam Doueihi had a go at the conversion but was unable to put the ball between the uprights.
Within a minute of the Tigers having a try ruled out for a knock-on, the Warriors went downfield with Karl Lawton scooting from acting half-back and splitting four tacklers to dive over. Kodi Nikorima added the conversion, the visitors behind by 6-8.
A Nikorima penalty on twenty-five levelled the scores, a great comeback from the Warriors after the spent the opening twenty defending their own line.
Two minutes out from the interval Sam McIntyre threw a dummy, stepped inside, and went five metres to score for Wests. Benji Marshall took his turn with the kicking tee and he slotted the ball between the uprights for a 14-8 lead at the interval.
Peta Hiku put the New Zealand Warriors right back in the frame on forty-seven as he crashed the line for a four pointer. Nikorima added the conversion for 14-14.
With just over twenty minutes remaining the Warriors hit the front with Hiku doing well to remain in the field of play as he went over to score under the tackle of Doueihi. The referee sent the decision to the bunker as ‘NO TRY’ but he was over-ruled. Nikorima converted brilliantly from the touchline for a six-point lead.
On sixty-two the lead was extended as Adam Pompey took a high kick and passed to Tohu Harris for a walk-in try. Nikorima kicked his fifth goal of the game for 26-14, the Warriors now in total control.
Seven from the end and the Tigers grabbed a lifeline as Tommy Talau collected a Benji Marshall long pass and ground by the left corner flag. Mbye converted from the touchline to reduce the arrears to six points.
The Tigers ended the game deep in the Warriors half but a last ditch pass went into touch and the last chance had passed for Wests to grab a draw and a punt at golden point.
A brilliant second half from the New Zealand Warriors stunned the Tigers who came into the game as strong favourites for the win. Against all the odds they fought back from eight points behind to secure a six point win. Plenty of guts and courage on display for the New Zealanders to lift them to twelfth in the league, but the top eight is still a mountain to climb.
Wests Tigers: Doueihi, Nofoaluma (T), Lawrence, Mbye (G, T), Talau (T), Walters, Marshall (G), Aloiai, Grant, Clark, Garner, Leilua, Twal. Subs: McIntyre (T), Mikaele, Brooks, Blore.
New Zealand Warriors: Tuivasa-Sheck, Herbert, Pompey, Hiku (2T), Jennings, Nikorima (5G), Green, Taunoa-Brown, Lawton (T), Hetherington, Katoa, Harris (T), Tevaga. Subs: Egan, Blair, Alvaro, Burr.
Referee: Peter Gough.
Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney.