A sloppy first half, a stunning 6 minute period after the break and then good defence coupled with a bit of luck was enough to get the Wests Tigers home by two points against a determined Manly outfit, 22-20 at Campbelltown Stadium.
In just the third minute, a vintage Robbie Farah dummy and dart from dummy half saw him make 50 metres before linking with Michael Chee Kam who was tackled straight away. On the next play Mahe Fonua was held up on the last. From the following set, Manly went the length of the field in 4 tackles. On the last, Jake Trbojevic drifted left and hit halfback Daly Cherry-Evans out the back with a nice ball and he scored a good try beside the sticks. He then converted his own try.
Both sides were playing good expansive footy, produce plenty of second phase play, but were let down by poor handling late in their sets, especially the Tigers.
After half an hour, the hosts hit back when they went to the left side where Fonua sent a stunning pass over Moses Suli in the tackle, out to Kevin Naiqama who scored in the corner untouched. Esan Marsters nailed the goal from touch with a splendid kick.
Manly received a penalty with 8 seconds left in the half and Cherry Evans kicked an easy penalty goal from right in front.
Seven minutes into the second half, David Nofoaluma made a break before slipping over as he comes to the last defender. Within the next minute Farah drifted left from dummy half and then grubbered through the Manly line for Chris Lawrence who scored. Marsters converted.
On the second tackle after the restart, Alex Twal made a barnstorming run, where he stepped off his right and pushed away a defender on his left, busts the line and ran 50 metres before passing to Moses Mbye who scored under the posts. Marsters again converted.
From the restart, Manly gave away a penalty late in the set. Brooks found touch with a great kick inside the Manly 30m. On the first play after the touch finder, the Wests Tigers moved the ball left and this time Mbye drew and passed to Naiqama and the winger went over for another try. Marsters was unable to convert from touch this time. In the space of 6 minutes the Tigers went from being 8-6 down to leading 22-8.
Manly refused to lie down though. Addin Fonua-Blake had a try disallowed due to a forward pass and 4 minutes later, Cherry-Evans was tackled just inches from scoring.
In the 64th minute, Manly turned 3 straight sets on the Tigers line into points when Trent Hodkinson picked the ball up from dummy half, took to the line, stepped off his left and ducked under a tackle to score. He converted his own try.
After another powerful run by Fonua-Blake, the next play saw Brian Kelly denied a try when it was found that he dropped the ball in a tackle on the Tigers line.
On the 73rd minute Jack Gosiewski got out of a tackle with a great and offloaded to Tom Trbojevic, the pass was on Tom's toes but he magically caught it and quickly pooped a pass to Cherry Evans on the inside, who ran away to score under the posts. He converted his own try to reduce the deficit to just 2.
With just seconds left in the game, the Tigers gave away a penalty from a second effort in the tackle, 48 metres out from their own line and 1 metre in from touch on the left side. Cherry Evans decided to take a shot at the penalty goal to level scores after the siren had sounded. The kick was dead on target but it fell about 2 metres short of the mark and the Tigers hung on for the win.
The Tigers' mathematical hopes now hinge on the Roosters (v Broncos) and Panthers (v Warriors) notching up victories before the Tigers face South Sydney next week, while Manly's season ends with the 192nd and final NRL premiership match, away to Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday week.