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Wests Tigers close on NRL wooden spoon with 18-14 loss to St George Illawarra

Zac Lomax scores in St George Illawarra's win over Wests Tigers.

Zac Lomax scores in St George Illawarra's win over Wests Tigers. Photo: AAP

Wests Tigers have one hand on the wooden spoon after falling 18-14 to St George Illawarra in a clash of the NRL’s battlers.

Thursday night’s loss in Wollongong means, to leapfrog the Dragons into 16th place and avoid back-to-back wooden spoons, the Tigers likely need to win three of their final six games given their inferior for and against.

That’s as many as they have won in 18 starts this season, and the equation will become even harder if the Dragons manage to win again on the run home.

Playing through a knee injury, Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa went from zero to hero in the second half, scoring the try that snatched the lead back and ultimately won the game.

As has been the case all month, the Tigers were competitive in patches but missed the game-management skills of an established halves pairing, notwithstanding some moments of promise from five-eighth Daine Laurie.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a number of times,” Tigers coach Tim Sheens said.

“Five yardage penalties walked them down our end, that didn’t help, and half-a-dozen loose balls.

“We probably didn’t deserve to win.”

Wests’ first-choice halfback Luke Brooks is sidelined with his hamstring injury for at least another week and by the time he returns the season could well and truly be gone.

But Sheens rejected suggestion his side would be short on motivation for the remainder of the season.

“They’re professionals,” he said.

“By the end of every week, they’re ready to play. There’s ups and downs and media and so on and so on around our club.

“But as we’ve said to the players, you’re paid to play professional football and that’s what you’ve got to do.

“It’s their living and if they want to continue to make a decent living they’ve got to do better than that.”

Ravalawa had a defensive nightmare on the right wing early, caught in-field ahead of each of the Tigers’ three first-half tries.

Two of those came while fullback Tyrell Sloan was in the sin bin for the professional foul he conceded on the Dragons’ goal line just before the half.

Ravalawa’s opposite man Junior Tupou bagged a double, with Tigers captain Api Koroisau snatching the lead in the minute before half-time by grabbing Tupou’s kick from the wing.

Saints had looked likelier than the visitors prior to Sloan’s sin-binning, Ben Hunt and Junior Amone each setting up first-half tries.

But neither side could alter the 14-12 halftime scoreline amid some seriously low-quality football.

The Tigers appeared poised to raid the Dragons’ right edge when Ravalawa played on despite corking his knee in a tackle.

But it was the wounded winger at the centre of the game-defining try.

Centre Zac Lomax bulldozed through four defenders and flicked to Ravalawa on the right to help the Dragons reclaim the lead with 16 minutes to play.

“It sort of represents how we played tonight, just tough and gritty,” said Dragons interim coach Ryan Carr.

“We just wouldn’t say die, we wouldn’t say never and we found a way to fall over the line.”

Mathew Feagai went on report for making late, high contact with Tigers fullback Jahream Bula and teammate Jack de Belin could join him on the charge sheet for a chicken-wing tackle on Fonua Pole.

The Tigers lost forward Shawn Blore in the warm-up to a quad injury but Sheens is hopeful he may return next week.

-AAP

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