Wests Tigers' NYC squad have bounced back from their opening round defeat with a commanding 34-4 victory over the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium.
The visitors were simply too strong for their opponents in both attack and defense, with the improved performance no doubt leaving Head Coach Andrew Webster much more impressed than he was with last weekend's R1 loss to the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
An early error trying to spread the ball wide gave the Titans excellent field position to start the match, and the home side appeared destined to score first after registering numerous sets on their opponents’ line. However, the Wests Tigers’ defense held firm, and drew a forward pass to keep their line clean.
Minutes later, it would be the visitors who crossed first through winger John Ogden, who cleaned up a well-weighted grubber from fullback Sione Alofi. Matt Woods couldn’t convert from the sideline, giving the Wests Tigers a 4-0 lead after eight minutes.
Wests Tigers had received a huge boost before kickoff with the news that both Mitchell Moses and Marion Seve would make their return from injury this weekend. And the pair would show their importance early in the first half — combining beautifully on the left edge to open up the Titans’ defense.
A well-timed ball from Moses found a storming Seve, who sliced through the visitors’ defensive line and raced away to score — giving the Wests Tigers an 8-0 lead after 15 minutes. Woods duly added the extras to extend the lead to 10-0.
After some impressive attacking play from both Moses and Te’Maire Martin, the Wests Tigers extended their lead to 14-0 through winger Delouise Hoeter, who did well to beat his man and get the ball down just inside the corner post.
Woods’ tough sideline conversion was again waved away.
Gold Coast hit back in the 30th minute when winger Connor Broadhurst crossed off a strong scrum-move. Sam Harold’s conversion was wide, though, leaving the score at 14-4 with the shadow of half-time approaching.
A length-of-the-field intercept threatened to see the home side draw even closer heading into the break, but a brilliant chase and tackle from Keni Gavet saw the Titans spill the ball right on the goal-line. That gave the Wests Tigers the ball with just a few minutes to go until the break, and it proved very important indeed as Martin collected an offload and stepped through several players to score in the 38th minute.
Woods’ missed conversion gave the visitors an 18-4 lead at half-time.
A sloppy start to the second half from both teams was nearly broken in the 46th minute by the Gold Coast Titans, but another forward pass close to the line saw the opportunity to hit back on the scoreboard go begging.
Play was stopped in the 52nd minute when winger Delouise Hoeter was forced from the field with an ankle injury. News quickly trickled through that the youngster would have scans on his ankle tomorrow and would not return.
However, the bad news didn’t stop the Wests Tigers from extending their lead, with Salesi Funaki planting the ball down in the 55th minute off the back of a powering run where he carried three defenders over the line. Woods converted from right next to the posts to blow the lead out to 20 points.
Ogden grabbed his second try of the day not long after that following a sweeping back-line move. Woods missed his third sideline conversion of the afternoon, leaving the score at 28-4 with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Funaki was denied a second try in the 66th minute when he spilled the ball over the line, but got his reward in the 69th minute after a lovely cut-out ball from Alofi found Funaki on the right wing (covering for Hoeter).
Woods was faced with another tough sideline conversion, but this time he nailed it — leaving the score at 34-4 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
The match would end that way after some more strong defense from the Wests Tigers, which will no doubt please Head Coach Andrew Webster following their heavy defeat in Round 1 against the St. George Illawarra Dragons.