Wests Tigers have opened their 2015 season in fine fashion — defeating the Parramatta Eels 20-4 in a trial match on Friday night at ANZAC Oval in Alice Springs.
It was an impressive performance from Jason Taylor’s side that saw the Eels kept scoreless for more than 70 minutes of the match, with new recruits Josh Drinkwater and Kevin Naiaqma dominating on the attacking end to give the visitors a 16-point win.
Parramatta threatened to post the first points of the match on several opportunities, but couldn’t do so in the first quarter. Their best chance in that time came through a linebreak by Luke Kelly, who tried to chip Shannon McDonnell but ran into the fullback, and Naiqama cleaned up for the visitors to ensure that the score remained 0-0 at the first quarter break.
After starting the second quarter with three repeat sets on the Eels line, it was Jason Taylor’s side who posted first points of the night, with Drinkwater throwing a lovely cut-out ball for Naiqama to score in the corner after 27 minutes.
It was forward Ava Seumanufagai who had done the damage in the build-up though, shrugging aside Isaac De Gois for a linebreak that put the team in great field position.
Richards couldn’t convert from out wide and the score remained 4-0.
The hosts would continue to attack Wests Tigers’ line as the half expired, but Taylor’s side’s defensive resolve would win out and keep the Eels at bay.
That would see Wests Tigers take somewhat of a surprise 4-0 lead in to the half-time sheds, with Parramatta having had the majority of the territorial advantage.
Both sides would make a number of changes at the break with some of their more experienced players taking a break, but Taylor’s side would pick up where they left off before the break — crossing for more points shortly after the break.
It was again Drinkwater heavily involved in the build-up — this time putting the ball through the line, with Delouise Hoeter adjusting quickest to dive on the loose ball in the in-goal and extend the hosts’ lead to 10-0 following Richards’ conversion.
Further stiff defence from Wests Tigers would continue to frustrate the Eels as they forced errors, with Brad Arthur’s side made to pay once more in the 55th minute as some sharp work from Manaia Cherrington allowed Richards to score in the corner.
The veteran couldn’t convert through, and the lead remained 14-0.
Drinkwater continued to have a strong impact on the match, and added his third try-assist of the night when he grubbered through perfectly for Naiqama to score in the corner for his second try of the night. The former London Broncos playmaker then slotted the sideline conversion for a 20-0 lead after 64 minutes and all but seal the resuot.
After Naiqama narrowly missed out on grabbing his third try of the match from a Sitaleki Akauola grubber, Parramatta finally crossed for points in the 74th minute when Fabian Goodall stripped Pat Richards one-on-one in the in-goal to score in the right corner.
Kelly couldn’t convert, though, and the score remained 20-4 with five minutes to play.
Both teams would have small chances in the remaining few minutes, but wouldn’t trouble the scorers, as Wests Tigers walked away from ANZAC Oval with a 20-4 win.
Jason Taylor’s men will look to build on their impressive pre-season form when they take on the Cronulla Sharks on February 21 at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Tickets for that match are $12, with Wests Tigers Members gaining free entry on the day.
NRL FULL TIME — Wests Tigers 20 (Naiqama 2, Hoeter, Richards tries; Drinkwater, Richards goals) def. Parramatta Eels 4 (Goodall tries).