Api days as Wests Tigers end 10-game losing streak to start Benji era

A 30-metre sideline penalty goal from Api Koroisau that hit the cross bar and went over has helped Wests Tigers snap a 10-game losing streak to beat the Dolphins 24-23 on Saturday.

In a see-sawing contest that built up to an even scoreline in the final stages, a Jamayne Isaako field goal with four minutes remaining appeared to give the Dolphins victory before Koroisau provided a short kick-off to get the ball back. 

When Isaako and Tesi Niu were penalised for taking Junior Tupou into touch it was Koroisau who put his hand up to take the unlikeliest of penalty goals from out wide - a 40-metre effort from the 30-metre line on the left sideline.

His strike curved in before hitting the crossbar and bouncing over in a result that summed up the captain's performance after he switched to the halves following the withdrawal of Luke Brooks due to a calf injury.

Koroisau's switch to the halves paid early dividends with the skipper placing a pinpoint kick in the air for Jack Bostock to spill and allow Stefano Utoikamanu and Fonua Pole to combine and score early.

The Dolphins struck back shortly after with Isaako finishing off a bullet pass from Kodi Nikorima to go over on the right edge for his 21st try of the season.

Jahream Bula's rookie of the year credentials were on full display in the 23rd minute when he slid through a hole to send Asu Kepaoa over with an inside ball close to the line. 

Dolphins halfback Sean O'Sullivan sold some candy to help the visitors to their second of the afternoon as the back-and-forth tries continued with a dummy to split past John Bateman and find Euan Aitken for a 12-10 scoreline.

The Dolphins broke the pattern four minutes after half-time to go in again when O'Sullivan provided the cross-field kick for Jack Bostock to pluck out of the air for his first NRL try. 

That lead though evaporated quickly as the home side crossed twice in four minutes to stretch out to an eight-point advantage through tries to Alex Seyfarth and Jake Simpkin. 

The Dolphins needed a spark with the injection of Trai Fuller providing it immediately with the NRL debutant weaving his way over the line on the right edge for a four-pointer that even got a smile out of coach Wayne Bennett. 

A blunder at the scrum while in possession proved costly for Wests Tigers as the Dolphins opted for a penalty goal to level the scores and bring the match to a grandstand finish. 

Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma went close to scoring a try late but was denied in a tackle by Tesi Niu deemed high but only sufficient of a penalty - the home side unable to capitalise in the following play. 

An effort from Fuller to get the ball out of his own in-goal continued an impressive debut for the Dolphins rookie but the final stages went the way of Benji Marshall in his first game officially in charge of the club.

Match snapshot

  • This was the first time both sides have met in the NRL despite 24 rounds already taking place in the competition. 
  • Benji Marshall coached in his first official game after taking over from Tim Sheens during the week. The rookie coach took on former mentor Wayne Bennett.
  • Luke Brooks was ruled out of the clash due to a calf injury with Api Koroisau switching to the halves and looked at home in the position in a move that could occur for the remainder of the season with Brooks no guarantee to be available. 
  • Herman Ese'ese was placed on report in the third minute for a dangerous tackle after an alleged crusher tackle. 
  • Wests Tigers hooker Jake Simpkin failed to finish the match due to a head injury assessment late. 
  • The Dolphins completed their inaugural season with a 4-8 record in away matches this year. 
  • The Dolphins have now lost all three games they have played in Sydney.
  • Wests Tigers' win was their first in five attempts at CommBank Stadium. 

Play of the game
Api Koroisau's goal was everything but it was his lead-up play with a short kick-off that allowed the attempt at a shot. The Wests Tigers leader did all he could on a day that appeared to be going in the Dolphins' favour until he stepped up when it mattered.

What they said
"I'm just so glad it went over, I thought it was a bit short there but grateful. There were a few flukes today so I'll take it. I bet Brandon Wakeham one kick from that exact spot yesterday at training. It was more comical than anything but we got there." - Wests Tigers captain Api Koroisau.

"I think there's a few questions the referees will have to answer. The issue was the tackle, I don't believe it should've been. If it is it's a new rule. Normally they would go back to a play the ball. The second part of it was, it was pretty simultaneous. It's a pretty important decision. We've lost a few games in the last minute or two so I wasn't certain we had the game." - Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.

What's next
The Dolphins are in action for their penultimate match of the season and could spell the end of the Cowboys' finals hopes when the two sides clash in a Queensland derby at Suncorp Stadium. It doesn't get any easier for the Wests Tigers, who take on a Roosters side looking to keep their season alive. 


Story first published on NRL.com

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Alicia Newton, NRL Reporter