Second-half comeback delights Wests coach Ryles
Wests brought Helensburgh's flying start to the season to a screeching halt on Saturday with a gritty 26-12 away win at Rex Jackson Oval.
The Devils overcame a lopsided 9-0 penalty count and a rare eight-point try that had them trailing 12-6 at halftime, to run in three second-half tries to avoid a third straight loss and leapfrog the Tigers into second place on the ladder.
The gutsy win was a much-needed return to form for the Devils, who had suffered a 30-22 defeat to Dapto and 18-14 Challenge Cup loss to Thirroul in their previous two starts.
The win may come at a cost, with fullback Bronx Goodwin limping from the field late in the game.
The Tigers didn't emerge unscathed, with star fullback Jason Raper leaving the field early on, clutching at what looked like a possible fractured cheekbone.
Wayne Bremner was a strong performer after shifting from the wing in Raper's absence but the Tigers sorely missed the spark provided by their regular No1.
NRL veteran Daniel Holdsworth underlined his value with a measured performance at halfback to steer his side to the victory, while back-rower Peni Botiki produced a powerhouse performance on the right edge.
Wests coach Jason Ryles was full of praise for his side's character in the come-from-behind win.
"It would have been easy for us to roll over but we stayed in the fight and that's what I'm most proud of," Ryles said.
"After the first half we could have made plenty of excuses but it's something we always speak about, not blaming things that are out of our control.
"The Burgh's been the form team of the comp so far, so we knew it was going to be a tough game and they're even tougher to beat at home.
"We were staring down the barrel of three losses but the boys showed up with the right attitude and it paid off for us in the end."
The Devils led 6-0 after some tense opening exchanges when Aaron Hertsch charged on to a short ball from Daniel Holdsworth in the 26th minute.
Chris Lewis levelled the scores when he crossed following a deft pass from five-eighth Jarrod Boyle.
The score looked likely to remain at 6-all before Simon Maslanka scored off a clever offload from Lewis.
Maslanka was collected high by Goodwin in scoring the try, with referee Andrew Astill awarding a possible eight-point try. Grant Smith's attempted conversion was waved away but he slotted the additional shot from in front to take a 12-6 lead to the break.
A second-half double from Botiki and a penalty goal to Porter gave Wests a 20-12 lead before Keith Brennan sealed the result with a try in the right-hand corner with 10 minutes remaining. Tigers flyer Azan Turoa picked a late try to give his side a sniff at 24-16 with eight minutes remaining before another penalty goal to Porter put the match to bed at 26-16.
This article originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 17/5/2015