Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup side have kicked off season 2015 in perfect fashion by defeating the Newtown Jets 24-14 at Henson Park on Saturday.
Three tries to John Sila and a masterful kicking performance from new recruit Josh Drinkwater, who was captain for the day, gave Fletcher’s side the two points, despite plenty of attacking pressure from the Jets throughout the match.
With just one late change to the team as Delouise Hoeter was replaced by Sila, Paul Fletcher’s side went into the match with plenty of confidence, but it was Newtown who posted first points of the match in the seventh minute.
After a good short ball from Kyle Stanley, Junior Rociqua burst through two defenders to score next to the posts to give the Jets a 4-0 lead.
Todd Murphy then added the easy extras to push the lead to 6-0.
Wests Tigers soon hit back, though, as Drinkwater’s grubber took a deflection into the arms of Kurtis Rowe, who sped down the sideline to score out wide.
Drinkwater was unable to convert and the score remained 6-4.
As Fletcher’s side began to build pressure with repeat sets, they took the lead in the 17th minute when Joel Luani’s short-side kick was acrobatically put down in the corner by Sila to give the visitors an 8-6 advantage in front of a strong crowd at Henson Park.
Drinkwater was unable to convert from the sideline in very windy conditions, but he would soon make up for that with a superb cut-out ball to create an overlap and allow Chance Peni to send Sila over for his second try soon after.
Again the halfback would push his conversion wide, leaving the score at 12-6.
With both Shannon McDonnell and Lamar Liolevave going close for Wests Tigers, the Jets defence came under more and more pressure and it would crack soon after for Salesi Funaki, who burst through to score in the 31st minute.
Drinkwater would convert and extend Wests Tigers’ lead to 18-6.
Newtown would claw a crucial try back just before the half-time break to reduce the margin to 18-10, as Stanley drifted across-field well before linking up with Sauiluma, who straightened and rounded McDonnell to score in the corner.
Murphy’s conversion was unsuccessful from the sideline, and the score remained 18-10 as both teams went to the half-time sheds at Henson Park.
After a controlled start to the second half from both teams, it was the hosts who crossed for first points in the 56th minute, with Blake Judd touching down out wide after some frantic offloading late in the tackle count from Newtown.
Murphy was unable to convert, leaving the scoreline at 18-14 to the visitors.
The Jets would continue to launch an attacking assault on Wests Tigers’ line as the second half wore on, but a combination of errors and gritty goal-line defence saw Fletcher’s men hold them at bay and preserve their four-point lead.
A great run from Funaki, who broke the line and raced up field for 50m, then allowed Drinkwater to chip across field for Sila to collect his third try of the day and seal the result for the hosts, scoring next to the posts in the 78th minute.
Drinkwater added the extras to push the score to 24-10, which is how it would read at full-time — giving Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup side an opening round victory that they’ll look to consolidate on heading into next weekend’s first home game.
NSW CUP FT — Wests Tigers 24 (Sila 3, Rowe, Funaki tries; Drinkwater 2/5 goals) def. Newtown Jets 14 (Rociqa, Sauiluma, Judd tries; Murphy 1/3 goals).