Brooks brilliance keeps Tigers in finals hunt
A WIN'S a win and Wests Tigers will be glad for it after escaping with a 25-16 victory over a defiant Newcastle side at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Tigers had led 22-4 with 30 minutes to play and looked fully in control behind the direction of Luke Brooks but needed a field goal from him with five to go to give themselves a buffer as the clock wound down.
The home team had clawed their way back through tries to Kalyn Ponga and Aidan Guerra to be just a converted try off the pace in the final stages, but it was Brooks who coolly slotted the one-pointer to wrest back control for his team. A penalty goal two minutes later officially sealed the game.
The Tigers' finals hopes remain alive, and by coming away with two competition points it's a success no matter how they went about it.
"At the end of the day we just came here to win and that's what you've got to do at this time of the year," Brooks said.
"We can worry about what we can control and that's playing good and hopefully winning games.
"We're not thinking about finals, we're thinking about the game ahead of us. We're not worried about other results, it would be handy for them to go our way but we can't worry about the things we can't control."
In a match in which injuries struck down key players for both sides, Brooks stood tall in attack and defence as the Wests Tigers patiently chipped away.
The halfback finished with a try, try assist, plus the field goal and was solid in edge defence as halves partner Benji Marshall struggled through the match with a calf injury, eventually going off with about 10 left in the match.
"He (Brooks) ran the ball whenever he could and it seemed that every time he did that something good happens," coach Ivan Cleary said.
"That's his strength. He's had a really good season and he's progressing nicely and I thought he was key to our victory tonight."
The Tigers' top tryscorer in Corey Thompson also battled through with an ankle injury. The winger was unable to cross for his 10th try of the season, denied in the 53rd minute when he put a foot on the sideline before he touched down.
From that point momentum started to shift.
The Knights lost their own key player when Mitchell Pearce went off with a badly corked quad a couple of minutes into the second half, giving fans a chance finally to see Ponga in the halves.
They weren't disappointed. He directed the attack and only a few minutes after the Thompson no try he put on a big right foot step to cruise through for Newcastle's second four-pointer.
The Knights rallied and were just a converted try off after Aidan Guerra charged at the line from 10 out, unable to be stopped.
But defensive errors hurt Newcastle once more and Brooks took the first opportunity presented to extend the lead.
The Tigers have issues to be addressed but Cleary was comfortable with the team's effort.
"I was pretty happy overall," Cleary said.
"I thought our first half was pretty solid; we controlled the ball well, kicked pretty well, our defence was OK.
"It was hard with a couple of guys injured … we had to change things around on the run.
"Second half we made it harder for ourselves than we needed to … but we got the win, which is the main thing right now."
WESTS TIGERS 25 (L Brooks R Farah R Packer tries E Marsters 6 goals L Brooks field goal) bt NEWCASTLE 16 (A Guerra S Mata'utia K Ponga tries K Sio 2 goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Referee: Grant Atkins, Matt Noyen. Crowd: 18,561.