NEW Head Coach Jason Taylor has praised the composure of both his side’s young guns and experienced veterans as they helped guide Wests Tigers home to a thrilling 19-18 victory over the Gold Coast Titans in Round 1 of season 2015.
Taylor, who had previously never won on the Gold Coast heading into the match, said he was pleased with the effort that his side delivered for the full 80 minutes and the maturity shown in producing the match winning play — a stunning 35m field goal from Pat Richards as the full-time siren sounded in the background at Cbus Super Stadium.
“I’m very happy obviously,” he said after the match.
“I thought the guys worked hard for 80 minutes. The opposition did as well, to their credit, and I thought it was a very tough game for all on the field.
“I thought we probably made it really hard on ourselves in that first half — too many errors and too many mistakes — but after half time the boys played with a lot of control and really put the Titans under pressure, which helped us.
“[That winning field goal] was really smart the way we did it,” Taylor reflected, admitting that the team hadn't practiced field goals in the lead-up to the match.
We’ve had some much to work on to be right for Round 1," he said.
"I thought about having some practice this week but we’ve just had to so much to keep working on over summer and the pre-season.
“When you get in that position to try and win the game, it’s really nice to have done a bit of practice, but the guys showed that they didn’t need it anyway.
“Those two guys just came together and set it up.
"Luke was lined up to take the field goal but was under pressure and he gave it back on the inside for Pat — it was really clever and mature and impressive for me to see.”
Richards, who kicked his first field goal in the NRL just last year to help steer Wests Tigers to a 23-20 win over the Newcastle Knights in Round 13, said he was just relieved more than anything to see the ball sail through the uprights.
“It was just one of those things,” he admitted afterwards.
“I think Luke [Brooks] helped me a fair bit there. He hit a few last year so obviously he took a lot of the heat out of it for me in terms of kick pressure.
“I was just lucky enough that I connected all right with it and it went over.
“I was ready for [the pass] and we just both reacted well when we did.”
Captain Robbie Farah — who played with Richards in the Club’s 2005 premiership-winning season and again last year upon the winger’s return to the NRL from Super League — said he wasn’t surprised with the composure of both the youngster, Brooks, and the experienced head in Richards at the death and said he had full confidence in them.
“It’s not the first time he’s done it,” Farah said, “so it’s definitely nice when you’ve got someone with his ability with the boot in your team.
“The field goal was obviously the biggest moment, but also a couple of conversions form the sideline too that really gave us a bit of breathing space.”
Taylor’s side went behind on the scoreboard after just four minutes of play when James Roberts latched on to a Daniel Mortimer kick in behind the defence.
They would soon hit back, though, with Ryan James’ sin-binning creating an extra man on the left edge for Richards to score his 50th NRL try after 25 minutes.
Richards would grab another try after the break — his fourth in two visits to the Gold Coast following a double in Round 2 last year — before James Tedesco rounded off a sweeping back-line play to give the visitors an 18-12 lead heading into the last 60 minutes.
Roberts’ second try and a sideline conversion from Aidan Sezer locked the scores up 18-all after 70 minutes, before an error from Nate Myles in the final minute gave Wests Tigers one final chance to steal victory, which they did with aplomb.
Both teams do have question marks hanging over several players though, with Ryan James placed on report for a headbutt on Aaron Woods, with Mitchell Moses was also placed on report for a high tackle on William Zillman. Martin Taupau’s high tackle late in the match will also be looked at during the week by the NRL Judiciary Commitee.
While not entirely happy with the performance on the night — particularly on the attacking end — Taylor again enthused that he was extremely pleased with the effort and energy to defend their line well late in the match and come away with the win.
Taylor also spoke highly of debutant Kyle Lovett who replaced the injured Chris Lawrence on the night — becoming the 181st player to NRL for Wests Tigers.
“In the end, [Chris Lawrence] probably could have played in regards to his groin injury, but we just didn’t want to push him or risk it tonight,” he said.
“So it’s a nice little headache we have there now with Kyle getting through it well.
“He was very solid and played with a lot of passion and determination.
“ He had a lot of different cramps and things out there but he refused to come off or let the trainer tell me I was hurting. I was very impressed with his effort.”
Wests Tigers will look to consolidate on that performance when they take on the St. George-Illawarra Dragons next Monday night at Campbelltown Sports Stadium for their first home game of the season. Tickets for the match are $22 and can be bought here.