South Sydney scrapes home to end Wests Tigers’ NRL finals chances


Wests Tigers’ NRL season is over but only after they refused to go down without a fight in a dramatic 26-24 loss to South Sydney.Key points:The Wests Tigers had trailed 20-0 during the first half before fighting back on the scoreboardThey were at one stage reduced to 11 players, with Luke Brooks and Alex Twal in the sin-binThe Rabbitohs are fifth on the ladder, having won six of their past seven matchesOn a chaotic Thursday night at the Western Sydney Stadium, Luke Brooks and Dane Gagai both spent time in the sin-bin after trading punches during a melee.The Tigers were at one stage reduced to 11 men with Alex Twal also off for a professional foul, but it did little to stop their comeback from 20-0 down.A week after scoring 16 points in the final 11 minutes to beat Manly, the Tigers looked like they were going to do it again.Unwanted star Benji Marshall showed signs of his magic best with a hand in three tries, but was left to rue a grubber-kick that went dead on the second tackle with three minutes to play.After the Rabbitohs scored three tries to lead 20-0 inside 27 minutes, the Tigers near-thing began when Luke Garner hit a gap from close distance.It was suddenly 20-12 at the break when Marshall floated a cut-out ball for Tommy Talau on the left edge.The comeback looked over when Cody Walker helped Campbell Graham take advantage of the 11-man defensive line to make it 26-12.But again, the Tigers refused to surrender.Brooks got one back with of the most bizarre tries of the season.After Marshall scooped up a loose ball and flicked it back to David Nofoaluma, Brooks chased down a grubber kick and kneed it over the line before falling on it.Marshall then put a two-man cut out ball on Asu Kepaoa’s chest to reduce the margin to two with 13 minutes to play and give the Tigers a chance to dream.That was where it stopped, however, with Marshall’s kick going over the dead-ball line in their last real attacking opportunity and leaving them four points outside of the top eight.It means if Cronulla beat the Warriors on Sunday, the NRL’s top eight will be set in stone.Meanwhile, the Rabbitohs are now provisionally fifth on the ladder and in a good spot for a home final, still possessing one of the most dangerous attacks in the NRL.They have now won six of their past seven matches, scoring the most points in the NRL during that run at an average of 32 per match.Walker and stand-in fullback Corey Allan were on fire early, with slick hands from Jaydn Su’A and Walker getting Dane Gagai over for the night’s first try.Walker was again involved in their second after he and Damien Cook busted the Tigers open in the middle, allowing Allan to go over.And the Rabbitohs looked set for a cricket score when Walker and Allan put Johnston away on the left wing in the next set, before Graham loomed up in support to cross.AAP

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