Underdogs win in a spiteful game to begin round three.
The Wests Tigers have put off-field turmoil out of their minds as they outplayed and outclassed the South Sydney Rabbitohs to win 25-16.
In a spiteful game that featured several near all-in brawls and Luke Burgess being sin-binned, the heavily favored Rabbitohs team were never seriously in the contest.
Souths’ ryhthym was upset from early in the game when they lost superstar Greg Inglis when he was knocked out when attempting to catch a high kick off a restart.
But a lack of possession and poor use of the ball when Souths did have it, allowed the Tigers, thanks to Luke Brooks, James Tedesco and Robbie Farah made one of the early-season favourites look ordinary.
Souths opened the Tigers’ defence up early with a sensational set-move that saw Ben Lowe surge across the line.
However, the move worked so well three Rabbitohs players could have got the first try of the game in a worrying sign for the Tigers.
Adam Reynolds slotted the conversion and Bunnies jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
Off the restart, Souths star Greg Inglis was left groggy on the ground after he was cleaned up
by Tim Simona coming through to pressure the ball.
The fullback was attended to extensively on the ground as the game was held up for more than a minute, before he was taken to the sideline and administered a concussion test.
The hit by Simona landed the Tigers centre on report as it appeared his arm or forearm hit Inglis in the head as he fell into the tackle.
Off the back of a penalty, Tigers prop Keith Galloway looked to have scored for his side, only to have it
taken off him by the video referee after they found he lost the ball when he tried to ground the ball.
Tempers were running high after the Inglis injury, and after George Burgess was bent over backwards by Tigers prop Aaron Woods in a tackle.
The awkward position Burgess was put in prompted players from both sides to rush in, with Sam Burgess in particular
in the middle of it as he looked to stand up for his brother.
After a caution from the referee, Sam Burgess stayed on the field but gave away a penalty for rushing in after the fact as the Tigers went on the attack.
Luke Brooks set up his side’s first try for the night as put Bodene Thompson into a gap close to the line to make it 6-4.
The Tigers looked to have scored their second for the night after Braith Anasta put up a high kick before Simona crossed out wide after the ball was allowed to ricochet.
On the field the play was seen as a try, and crucially the try as given despite their being a hint of a knock-on from
Wests when the bomb came down.
However, the try was given the green light and Pat Richards landed the excellent conversion to give the away
side a 10-6 lead after 32 minutes.
A John Sutton knock-on gave the Tigers another chance to attack, and James Tedesco and Richards combined on the left wing for the Tigers.
But replays showed Richards was hit high and knocked the ball on as a result, giving the away side another set of tackles due to the penalty.
And that led to Simona grabbing his second for the night as the Tigers continued to dominate the game in the lead up to half-time.
In a sign of how much possession the Tigers have had in the first half, Souths made 150-76 tackles through the first 35 minutes of the game.
But it was the Tigers who enjoyed an expected lead of eight points at half-time in what was a fiery first 40 minutes.
Wests Tigers continued where they left off from in the first half when they set up the right-side defence of Souths, with Richards doing well to stand-up Nathan Merritt at fullback.
The bad defensive read was set-up by Souths failing to find touch with an early penalty.
And despite Richards hitting the upright again, the away side enjoyed a handy 18-6 lead.
The Rabbitohs were denied a try that could have sparked a comeback when Reynolds was ruled to have knocked the ball on.
The hero for the Tigers to date in centre Simona, was forced off the field in a very groggy fashion after copping an accidental shin to the head from Sam Burgess.
Both sides again clashed when James Tedesco was left dazed from a tackle from George Burgess, with the
Tigers’ fullback falling into the arm of the South prop.
However, it was heavy enough to see him put on report in what continued to be a spiteful game.
Wests’ young guns Brooks and Tedesco combined close to the line as the Tigers earned a major lead over their more-fancied rivals as the score turned over to 24-6 still with 26 minutes remaining.
Anasta extended his side’s lead with a quick field goal as he snapped it from in front with nothing else going on in attack, with the Tigers out to a nearly unbeatable 25-6 lead with 18 minutes left.
Bryson Goodwin was placed in report for a ‘slap’ high tackle on Tedesco as the Rabbitohs were warned that another tackle to creep up, would see a player sent to the sin-bin.
But with 12 minutes remaining in the game it was no more than a hollow threat along with a warning to the Bunnies to clean-up their behaviour.
The referee was true to his word when Luke Burgess was sent to cool his heels for 10 minutes after another high tackle.
Joel Reddy scored two consolation tries for the Rabbitohs, but it mattered little as they were outplayed from the opening minutes of the game.