The Wests Tigers in their first trial of 2020 have gone down to the Penrith Panthers 32-4 and while it’s never good to lose in a blowout, fans shouldn’t get too worried by the result.
The first half acted as an intense arm-wrestle between the two teams with both sides scoring a try while the second half saw Penrith successfully target the inexperience of the Tigers backline running away with the win. With 28 players seeing game time for the Tigers, it seems that a few important questions for the up and coming season have been answered. So here is my immediate reaction to the trial loss.
Penrith killed the Tigers on the edges
Probably the most disappointing aspect of the Tiger’s performance was that the young outside backs couldn’t defend a Penrith backline that including the likes of Matt Burton, Brent Naden, Tyronne May and Brian To’o. Penrith absolutely schooled the Tigers in this regard and is absolutely the reason why the Tigers lost the game.
Burton looked dangerous every time he touched the ball and Naden benefitted the most. Although not surprising since the most experienced back was Tommy Talau with one first grade cap, it was still disappointing that both edges leaked so many points.
Hopefully the injection of Joey Leilua and Paul Momirovski into the Warrior’s trial next week will fix this problem.
Billy Walters overtook Josh Reynolds in the Hooker race
Both Billy Walters and Josh Reynolds spent time at Dummy Half during the trial and it was clear as day that Walters outperformed his Tigers teammate. Walters just seemed more composed and knew when to run, when to pass and when to kick while Reynolds was his usual big ball of energy.
When momentum is going a team’s way, it can be argued that Josh Reynolds is the man you want with the football in his hand as he’s just the ultimate competitor but when a team is under the pump, it just seems like Walters decision making is better which is why I think Walters will play as a utility behind Moses Mbye come round 1.
I am however hopeful that the Tigers can still land Harry Grant for the season as the young player’s talent would make the Wests Tigers so much more of a threat in the middle of the field.
Adam Doueihi impressed at Fullback
In his first appearance for the club, Adam Doueihi looked impressive against Penrith with his positional play from fullback as well as his balling playing ability looking very impressive.
While on the field, Doueihi looked like the Tigers most dangerous back and set winger Reece Hoffman up for a try with a great cut out pass. Hopefully, the ex-South Sydney player gets more touches in the Tigers next trial against the New Zealand Warriors.
Penrith took advantage of some soft defense
After watching the Nines tournament last week and the Penrith trial on Saturday, Michael Maguire wouldn’t be too impressed with the consistency shown on the defensive end of the game.
The first half besides the first try Penrith scored was an impressive arm wrestle between both teams while the second half was full penalties, missed tackles and poor defensive reads out wide by the Tigers.
Defense wins games and the Tigers need to find more consistency as a team in this area next week.
Zane Musgrove is the enforcer the Tigers need
Zane Musgrove made his return to the Footy field against Penrith and although a little rusty with a lot of strapping tape on one leg, the big Samoan prop really impressed me with the overall aggression he injected into the game.
Musgrove ran the ball really strongly in attack while taking it upon himself to be the team’s enforcer with strong bruising defense. In the first half, the Penrith forwards really tried to bully the Tigers but Musgrove was having none of it lifting the intensity of the game with every run and tackle he made.
Musgrove along with Thomas Mikaele and Josh Aloiai should be a great combination of big powerful aggressive forwards and it’s shame that Tigers fans have to wait a year for Stefano Utoikamanu because Michael Maguire is building a very impressive young forward rotation.
Luciano Leilua played big minutes in the Trial
Like his brother, Luciano Leilua has shown in his short first-grade career that he has the potential to become a real game-breaker with his unique skill set.
Having replaced Ryan Matterson, The Tigers really need Leilua to become an 80-minute player on the right edge and if the Penrith trial is any indication, Leilua is making big progress in this regard. The young forward played close to the majority of the game with stints on the edge as well as the middle and didn’t disappoint.
Luciano looked strong with his carries and worked hard in defense which should excite Tigers fans going into the season. I would love to see Leilua go looking for the ball more as the Tigers find their feet in attack because his size and ball-playing ability will be a big factor in the success of the team this year.
Jock Madden impressed as a game manager
I thought that Jock Madden had a really strong performance in terms of his game management. Madden’s kicking game was really strong and he never looked out of place or out of his depth against first-grade opposition.
What Madden needs to do now is go back to NSW Cup and really work on his running game because his game management is already first grade ready and I thought that Madden’s defense looked really strong compared to last year as well.
I think that Madden can really learn a lot from Billy Walters about when to take on the defensive line and when to create for others as Walters has dominated the Queensland Cup from Five-Eighth for a few seasons now.
Alex Seyfarth deserves a bench spot for round 1
If the round one Wests Tigers team is picked purely on form, then Alex Seyfarth deserves a spot in the 17 ahead of Elijah Taylor.
The Balmain junior has impressed me two weeks in a row now with his size and aggression but you could really see the defensive effort that Seyfarth was putting in against Penrith. Taylor on the other hand really put the team under pressure with his ill-discipline in defense.
I think that Maguire will start Matt Eisenhuth at lock for round one as he’s a first-grade player that is going to give you consistent performances week to week but Alex Seyfarth provides a lot of value from the bench as he has the aggression a team needs from an impact forward but he can also play big minutes at lock and on the edge if required.
Matheson Johns showed a lot of potential
New recruit Matheson Johns really impressed with his performance at Centre. Although getting sin-binned for a punch up with ex-teammates, I thought that Johns’ carries were really strong and it was really encouraging to see how much the young player cared about playing well as you could see how much the game meant to him.
The Tigers have one spot left to fill this season so there’s a definite path to first grade for Johns if he continues to play well.
Talau showed his age but that’s OK
Young gun Tommy Talau had a rough night at the office last night with some defensive decisions along with Reynolds that directly lead to tries for Penrith.
It seems that Talau isn’t quite ready for consistent first-grade minutes yet but that’s OK because he’s still young and the signing of Joey Leilua really gives the young player more time to develop his game in reserve grade and earn a first-grade call up rather than being thrown in the deep end too early.
The team seemed ill-disciplined
Although the Referring was quite bad on both sides, the Tigers really imploded in the second half in terms of penalties conceded which will be disappointing for Michael Maguire.
The Tigers as a young team really need to make sure their discipline improves as a more experienced team will make them pay during the season
Penrith need a new team song
The day out at Penrith Stadium was really nice as the field was in good shape, the facilities were really good, parking was easy and the Penrith fans were very nice, all creating a great footy environment but my god, the song that Penrith played at the end of the game might be the worst thing I’ve ever heard!