New Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire has a bit to ponder after watching his team beaten comprehensively 26-16 by the New Zealand Warriors in the side’s one and only trial before Round 1 in Whangarei.
The home side looked slicker and more powerful across the park, racking up five tries to three in a confident display.
The Warriors scored three tries to one in the first half to build a 14-6 halftime lead, before going on with the job after the break.
Wests Tigers added some respectability to the score with two late tries, however looked a bit clunky across the park, and were left wanting defensively a number of the times on the edges, as the Warriors scored some fairly simple tries through good backline movement.
With Elijah Taylor a late withdrawal (pectoral injury), Matt Eisenhuth slotted into lock, with new signings Robert Jennings and Ryan Matterson making their first appearances in Wests Tigers’ colours.
In front of a small crowd in the far north of New Zealand, the Warriors scored two tries inside the opening twenty minutes, courtesy of slick backline play and a couple of penalties giving them a mountain of ball.
The Warriors’ left edge has been a strength of their side in the past, with Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a both crossing for tries.
Wests Tigers struggled for rhythm early in the game, and were regularly on the back foot defensively, as the Warriors made some easy metres out of dummy half.
However, an excellent no-look short ball from Benji Marshall put Ryan Matterson half through the line, finding Luke Brooks backing up to cross untouched on what looked a well worked set move.
The Warriors quickly reasserted their superiority, scoring a lovely set piece, with Maumalo diving over again to give the hosts a 14-6 half-time lead.
The Tigers struggled in the early stages of the second half, as both sides started to make a number of changes.
Josh Reynolds got some much needed playing time coming on at the start of the 2nd half, but looked rusty, as he looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2018.
The Warriors’ backline continued to have their way, with Fusitu’a crashing over out wide to extend the score to 20-6.
Adam Pompey made it 26-6 before Wests Tigers finished the game strongly, with both Luke Garner and Masters scoring tries to give the side a strong final quarter.
Whilst the result was disappointing, Wests Tigers also put in a fairly ordinary performance in their final trial game against Cronulla in 2018, before coming out and winning five of their first six matches to start the regular season.
Positives for Maguire included the fact there were no major injuries, and both Elijah Taylor and Paul Momirovski are expected to be available for Round 1.
However, the side will have to be a lot more compact defensively and provide a better platform up front if they want to compete with the physically stronger and quality sides in 2019.
Wests Tigers now have two weeks to mull over their performance and concentrate on a bumper Round 1 game against Manly at Leichhardt Oval.
Kick off is at 5.30pm on Saturday 16 March.
We’ll discuss the game and the issues that we believe need attention in the next edition of the Wests Tigers Podcast.