NSW Cup Qualifying Final v Wests Tigers
By Olivia Barry
The Illawarra Cutters were 32-22 winners over Wests Tigers at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Saturday.
The Cutters started strongly in both halves and notched six tries, including a double to winger Kala Faifai Loa, which proved beneficial in earning passage to the Preliminary Finals.
The homeside struck first through halfback Drew Hutchison who muscled his way over the line for points in the fifth minute.
This was followed-up by Faifai Loa, who managed to find space down the sideline for an impressive try from ten metres out in the 13th minute.
The flanker worked his magic again nine minutes later, hitting a hole on the same wing for another four pointer.
Unfortunately, five-eighth Shaun Nona managed to convert only one of his three attempts during this period to give his team a comfortable 14-0 lead.
The Tigers however managed to find gaps in the visiting defence during the dying minutes of the period, and scored twice courtesy of lock Matthew Eisenhuth and second-rower Jackson Williams.
Tigers winger Justin Hunt successfully converted both tries to bring the half-time score to 14-12.
The hosts returned to the second-half with new found energy, displaying a true team effort.
In the 55th minute, a silky ball from Nona sent second-rower Chris Lewis through a hole for a twenty metre try.
Shortly after, prop Shannon Wakeman added his name to the scoresheet after running over the Tigers defence in the 67th minute.
This was compliments by centre Levi Dodd two minutes later, who scored a magnificent thrirty metre try off a line-break and quick offload by Wakeman.
Nona made no mistakes from his three attempts at the tee to and made it 32-12.
However, a final gallant effort from the Tigers managed to send Manaia Cherrington over the line, shortly followed by prop JJ Felise in the last minute.
Hunt successfully converted both tries to bring the closing score to 32-22.
Illawarra Cutters 32. Tries: Faifai Loa (2), Hutchinson, Lewis, Wakeman, Dodd. Goals: Nona (4/6).
Wests Tigers 22. Tries: Eisenhuth, Williams, Cherrington, Felise. Goals: Hunt (3/4).