Tigers snap nine-game losing run with win over Titans

George Clarke |

Head coach Benji Marshall is heaping praise on Api Koroisau after the Wests Tigers captain’s selfless move to halfback helped snap a run of nine straight losses with a win over the Gold Coast Titans. 

A try-scoring double from Papua New Guinea centre Justin Olam and a 76th-minute winner from youngster Fonua Pole helped the Tigers fight their way to an 18-10 NRL win in front of 8392 fans at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.

Marshall’s side have been under the pump after a barren run of results, but Koroisau’s shift to the halves – amid a shortage of playmakers at the club – paid dividends.

Api Koroisau (second left).
The selfless Api Koroisau (second left) received plenty of praise from Tigers coach Benji Marshall. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

The move out of his usual hooker berth may cost Koroisau the chance of a NSW State of Origin recall, but Marshall said that dedication reflected the make-up of the Tigers’ skipper. 

“He’s just the most selfless captain you could ever ask for,” Marshall said.

“As a rookie head coach, I lean on him a lot – it’s unfair sometimes how much I lean on him. 

“In a crisis where we have no halves to choose from, he put his hand up to play there. 

“That took him away from his position and pushing for NSW selection … the team-first mentality is why we love him so much.” 

Koroisau was everywhere for a Tigers side boasting two debutants and three players with fewer than 10 NRL games.

His deft grubber-kick found Pole, who crashed in for the side’s winner, which lifted the Tigers off bottom spot and ahead of the Titans. 

Fonua Pole swamped after his try.
Fonua Pole was swamped by Wests Tigers teammates after his match-sealing try against the Titans. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“We needed it,” Marshall said.

“To come to Leichhardt after nine straight losses and to come in and get a standing ovation from the fans … to have that support meant a lot to us.”

There could be brighter times on the horizon too, with Adam Doueihi eyeing off a return to NRL level next week after an hour-long hit-out in reserve grade.

Doueihi hasn’t played for 14 months because of a third knee reconstruction, but he showed encouraging signs for the Tigers’ NSW Cup side. 

“Hopefully next week I’m back in grade,” Doueihi said. 

Adam Doueihi.
Adam Doueihi has his eyes on an NRL return for Wests Tigers after playing in the NSW Cup. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“Benji has supported me. There was a chance I could have missed the whole season, but Benji said, ‘don’t rush, get back, and however long it takes, it will take’. He’s been great for me.”

Doeuihi was lapping it up as he watched on from the stands after the Tigers fought back after Des Hasler’s Titans had taken a 10-6 lead at halftime.

Jojo Fifita and Jayden Campbell had put the Titans ahead, with Olam keeping the Tigers within touching distance.

Jojo Fifita of the Titans scores a try.
Jojo Fifita scored a first-half try for the Titans, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Tigers. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

Olam, who has been battling a knee injury all season, whacked Keano Kini, pulled off a last-ditch tackle on the Titans fullback, then crashed in with a close-range finish in the 60th minute.

Koroisau kicked the conversion to give the Tigers a two-point lead with 20 minutes left, before his grubber-kick found Pole, who sealed a victory that left Hasler ropeable. 

“We won field position and went out in the second half and completed just nine sets, it’s crazy we couldn’t complete,” Hasler said. 

“It’s really disappointing.”