In a game that lived up to it's billing of a semi final thriller, the Wests Tigers finished on top, downing the St George Illawarra Dragons 16-14 at the SFS in front of a bumper 27,000-plus crowd.
In a pulsating finish that threatened to erupt on several occasions the Tigers were able to shut down a desperate surge from the reigning premiers to extend their current steak of wins to four.
It was a positive night for the Tigers who fought tooth and nail with the Dragons before NSW Origin winger Brett Morris presented them with a chance fumbling a kick and conceding a goal line drop out.
From the ensuing set, West Tigers skipper put it on a platter for Liam Fulton who rose out of the pack to put the Tigers on the board.
Fulton's try gave the Tigers a sniff and as they're known to do were able to post back to back tries after Marshall scored off a long-range left hand side raid to put the Tigers in the lead.
Things went from bad to worse for the Dragons after Soward was forced to go off the field with what appeared to be a back injury.
This setback didn't prevent the Dragons from clawing back into the game as they touched down in the corner through winger Brett Morris.
Faced with a difficult kick from the sideline, skipper Ben Hornby stepped up to regain the lead nailing it from the sidelines.
The Dragons joy was short lived when Marshall engineered another left-side raid that saw the Tigers go 70m to score and take an enthralling game infront of a passionate Sydney audience.
Wests Tigers 16 defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 14
National Rugby League - Round 22 (Close the Gap Round) - Friday August 5, 2011 7:30pm
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Referee: Tony Archer and Shane Hayne
Video Referee: Chris Ward
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Daniel Eastwood
Halftime: Wests Tigers St George Illawarra Dragons
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Benji Marshall (1 Try, 2 Conversions)
2 Points - Bryce Gibbs
1 Point - Trent Merrin
WESTS TIGERS (16)
Tries: Liam Fulton, Benji Marshall, Beau Ryan
Conversions: Benji Marshall (2/3)
Penalty Goals: Benji Marshall (0/1)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (14)
Tries: Darius Boyd, Brett Morris
Conversions: Ben Hornby (1/1), Jamie Soward (1/1)
Penalty Goals: Jamie Soward (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary West Tigers get us underway as we kick off Round 22!
3 min: Funny bounce absolutely fools Utai who chases after it like a headless Chook. Morris regains the ball 10m out from the Tigers line but the play dies as soon as the Tigers scramble arrives.
4 min: Beau Scott instigates a fight between himself and Benji. Tigers with the ball on the halfway line.
5 min: Back to back penalties. This time for a slow play the ball. West Tigers choose to go for goal.
6 min: PENALTY GOAL ATTEMPT
From 30m out Benji pushes it wide.
7 min: On the repeat set the West Tigers go sideline to sideline and Lawrence finds himself on the outside of Soward. However in trying to ground the ball in the corner appears to have knocked on.
7 min: NO TRY, Lawrence has fluffed it.
13 min: Beau Scott gets a nice offload to Mark Gasnier who searches for Nightingale on the outside. Nightingale gathers it but when he's tackled it loses it on the Tigers 20.
14 min: A Farah pass goes behind Marshall who makes a meal of it. Dragons scrum 40m out from the Tigers line.
15 min: Just as the Dragons look to have stretched the Tigers line, Weyman loses it after meeting some heavy traffic.
15 min: It goes from bad to worse! Dragons penalised on halfway for a ruck infringement.
16 min: Poor kick ends a strange set where the Tigers look to be a little unlucky to be denied a six again call when it appeared Cooper had played at the ball during an attempted intercept.
17 min: After Robbie Farah had lost it attempting a show and go 25m out from his line. Creagh returns the favour losing it on tackle one.
19 min: West Tigers march the Dragons 80m before Boyd sheperds a Benji Marshall grubber dead.
21 min: Benji Marshall runs it on the last before being met by the Dragons defence. He desperately gets a pass away to Lawrence who hoists it up. Lui chases and gets another boot to it but Morris is there to clean it up.
22 min: A try goes begging as a pass goes behind Utai. In retrieving the ball, Utai puts his foot over the sideline
25 min: Jamie Soward keeps targetting Utai with his kick. Just about every kick if not every kick has been aimed at him. The trainers from both camps have been given their marching orders by the refs.
26 min: Robbie Farah with a great kick forces a goal line drop out.
27 min: Dragons penalised on tackle 1 for slowing down the play the ball. Marshall kicks for touch and the West Tigers are well on attack.
27 min: And it's all undone. Tigers nearly score but a loose ball is dived on by Brett Morris.
27 min: Dragons earn their first penalty for the night. Play begins 40m out from the Tigers line.
29 min: A big pass from Soward forces Nightingale to jump for it and spills it 40m out.
32 min: Matt Cooper makes a nice little break to get the Dragons just 40m out from the Tigers line. The Dragons spread it wide to Gasnier but he's captured in a good tackle by Lawrence. Soward settles for a relieving kick that's cut off by Moltzen who traps it with his boot.
35 min: Soward puts up a bomb that's well taken by Moltzen in heavy traffic. Tigers with the ball 10m out from their own line.
36 min: Good set by the Dragons. Morris starts it off with a great little run where he beat 5 defenders and put the Dragons on the front foot. Dragons go left and put Cooper on the outside of Ayshford. Cooper then goes wide to Morris who puts in a chip and Moltzen gathers it and throws it over the dead ball line.
38 min: PENALTY GOAL
Tigers penalised for a dangerous throw. Nothing really in it but the player was in a dangerous position at one point. Soward 30m out nails it.
St George Illawarra Dragons 2-0
40 min: With one play left Gasnier gets his arms free and finds a tired Beau Scott on the wing. Scott takes it but is comfortably taken on the 50.
40 min: An underwhelming half of football. Tigers were the better side for the majority of the half but after absorbing considerable pressure the Dragons were able to finish the half with a two point lead and the momentum.
41 min: Dragons get us underway!
41 min: After Beau Ryan had somehow kept the ball in the field of play after a wayward pass, the Tigers butcher it on the other side of the field. Dragons with the ball 30m out from the Tigers line.
42 min: Then the Dragons lose it on tackle 3 inside premium field territory! Off the subsequent set, Marshall kicks it long and forces Boyd to collect the ball from his own in-goal.
46 min: After Robert Lui makes a halfbreak. Benji skips across the field and threatens the Dragons down their left hand side before a ball is swooped on by the ever present Morris. Dragons with the ball 20m out from their line.
48 min: TRY
Moltzen makes a meal of a Jamie Soward kick and Dean Young swoops on the ball and finds Boyd to his right and Darius is able to get the ball down 20m in from touch.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-0
50 min: An exciting passage of play that can only be described as vintage Tigers sees Robert Lui dab a grubber in behind the line it's taken by a Tigers player who finds Fulton who flings a pass back to Farah where the play breaks down until Marshall gets it and places a grubber that holds up for awhile before rolling dead.
55 min: Both teams are going set for set at the moment. Marshall places another smart kick behind the line by Boyd reads it beautifully - swooping on it and beating the oncoming chase of Lui.
60 min: Something finally gives! Morris fumbles a West Tigers kick and forces it dead.
61 min: TRY
Robbie Farah with a pin point cross-field kick right on the try line finds Fulton and gets the Tigers back into the game.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-6
64 min: Soward's been hobbling since the try was scored and is now coming off. It appears to appear to be a back injury.
66 min: TRY
Soward is actually told to stay on the field and Benji exploits the opportunity running right at him. He finds Lawrence who spreads it to Ryan, Ryan runs back inside and sets up Marshall who runs the rest of the way to score the try that puts them infront.
Wests Tigers 12-8
69 min: Soward's actually off this time.
69 min: Nightingale receives a penalty after some dangerous contact from Fulton. Dragons on the attack now and they force a goal line drop out after a ball is allowed to bounce by the Tigers.
71 min: TRY
Dragons go down their left hand side, to their bread and butter play and Brett Morris jots down in the corner. Big kick now for whoever has to replace Soward. It's captain Ben Hornby. And he's got it! Right over the black dot
St George Illawarra Dragons 14-12
74 min: TRY
Hasn't this game improved in the second half?! Wow, Benji goes left with a rapid fire cut out pass to Lawrence who beats the defence and suckers in Boyd for Ryan to race away and score!
Wests Tigers 16-14
77 min: 3 minutes remain and Dragons start their set inside their own 20.
78 min: Forward pass from Hornby 40m out from his own line just as the Dragons were making a raid down the Tigers right hand side.
79 min: 90 seconds to go and Farah throws the ball forward after a Dragons player interferes with the pass.
79 min: Boyd puts a grubber behind the line but McKinnon is the first player on the scene but loses it forward. Dragons with the scrum 40m out from the Tigers line.
80 min: Darius Boyd is kick happy! And it pays off again! This time Boyd kicks for Nightingale and McKinnon spills it in a similar manner. 20 seconds to go and only 15m out. This is Rugby League folks!
80 min: Matt Utai has just taken a swing at Gasnier! Penalty incoming?
80 min: No penalty, but now a fight is about to break out in the scrum. Wow...
80 min: What a finish! Dragons go left but Tigers contain Cooper before the last play where the Dragons put in a rushed kick that's batted dead. What a final 20 minutes!