Wests Tigers Under 20s have recorded a 16-14 trial match victory over the Penrith Panthers today in a see-sawing encounter at Windsor Park.
It was a scrappy affair in slippery conditions with a high error count from both sides; however the inexperienced Wests Tigers side put on a strong defensive display and ran in a four tries to three.
With a number of squad members still absent due to NSW Cup duties, players such as Jacob Liddle, JJ Felise, Pio Sokobolava and Blake Rickard stood up in what was a gritty win from the Brett Kimmorley coached outfit.
The Panthers were on the attack in the early stages of the match following back-to-back penalties; however the Wests Tigers’ defensive line held strong. They were rewarded soon after with a mistake from their opposition just 10 metres out from the try-line. Spreading it wide almost immediately, a hard-running Esan Masters, who started at right centre this week, burrowed his way through defenders to make it 4-0 after seven minutes.
Following on from the opening try of the game, Penrith held a strong advantage in terms of ball and field possession, something they eventually capitalised on in the 17th minute when halfback Soni Luke found a gap in the goal-line defence and strolled over next to the posts. Fullback Dylan Edwards converted the try and the Panthers hit the front with a 6-4 lead.
The rain started to fall at Windsor close to the first quarter break, making conditions quite slippery. This in turn resulted in plenty of dropped ball from both sides; however the Panthers continued to enjoy the majority of field position and launched numerous attacking raids on the Wests Tigers line. The defence eventually cracked in the 37th minute when Penrith’s interchange prop Thompson Tugamala crashed over from close range, with the home side going in to the half time break with a 10-4 lead.
Wests Tigers were first to trouble the scoreboard attendant in the second stanza with Junior Tatola running a great line on the left edge and linking up with Jacob Follent through a handy offload, with the playmaker bagging the four-pointer. No conversions were being attempted from Wests Tigers, so Penrith held a 10-8 lead after 47 minutes.
Just before the three-quarter interval, hooker Jacob Liddle - who looked dangerous all night - made another line-break up the middle through some tired defence and put Wests Tigers on the attack 10 metres out. A shift to the left found centre Ryland Jacobs, who stepped his way through and put his side in front 12-10 in the 60th minute of play.
Penrith kicked long from their own half in the 69th minute and with a good chase put plenty of pressure on Wests Tigers winger Makaere Bush who was unable to handle the ball. As a result, opposing flanker Fuimanau Enese scooped up the loose ball and strolled over to put his side back in front 14-12.
With just three minutes remaining on the clock, Wests Tigers had a great opportunity to snatch a late victory, and found a flying Obeid Kharwin who did well to ground the ball just inside the left corner post. Despite a late charge from the Panthers on the buzzer, Wests Tigers NYC held on for a solid 16-14 victory in their second trial match of 2015.
Wests Tigers Under 20s will have their next hit-out 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.
Wests Tigers 16 (Masters, Follent, Jacobs, Kharwin tries) defeated Penrith 14 (Luke, Tugamala, Enese tries; Edwards goal)