After going down to the Bulldogs in heartbreaking fashion last week, expect Wests Tigers to learn from their mistakes when they take the field this Easter Monday.
Leading 24-6 when James Tedesco crossed for his second try off a Luke Brooks kick in the 56th minute, Jason Taylor’s side were unable to close out the match — allowing the Bulldogs back into the match with two quick tries, and then a third consecutive try to Josh Morris in the final minutes of the match to lock the scores up at 24-all.
Brooks had missed an opportunity to close out the match moments earlier with his field goal attempt — which would have put his side up by seven points with four minutes to play — but he was unable to add the one-point, and the Bulldogs made Wests Tigers pay in full as young playmaker Moses Mbye’s Golden Point field goal sealed a 25-24 win.
After the match, there were two noticeable storylines emerging.
On one hand, there was a distinct sense of pride and effort, having backed up against the 2014 Grand Finalists in just four days, having played last year’s premiers before that, all of which without their top forward in Aaron Woods and points-scorer in Pat Richards.
“I’m disappointed in the scoreboard, but not in how we backed up last week’s effort with the short turnaround,” said Head Coach Jason Taylor in his post-match press conference.
“In the end, they were able to execute and we couldn’t.
“But there’s so much more for us to take out of the match than that.”
And the other hand, as winger Kevin Naiqama alluded to earlier in the week during his press conference, those “positives” from defeat have to be turned into a productive and well-executed performance on Easter Monday against the Parramatta Eels.
“In Round 1,” he said, “we were on the other side of that feeling and it was awrsome, and being on the other side last week… you obviously take a lot out of it.”
“That loss burns inside you and it makes you want to train harder for the week ahead. You don’t want to feel that feeling anymore so you do everything you can to avoid it.”
Brad Arthur’s side comes into the match with plenty of confidence, dispatching South Sydney (who it must be noted were also coming off a short four-day turnaround) 29-16 at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night — Souths’ first defeat in over six months. They’ll no doubt be boosted even further by the news that winger Reece Robinson is free to play despite being charged with a Grade 2 Dangerous Throw, but will still come into the match without several key outside backs including Semi Radradra,and Beau Champion.
As far as team news goes, the news is all good for Wests Tigers, who will welcome back Aaron Woods and Dene Halatau from injury as well as Pat Richards from suspension, with the veteran winger se to play his 100th NRL game on Easter Monday.
Last Easter Monday, Brooks stole the show with a field goal in the final minutes that paved the way for a 21-18 win over the Parramatta Eels in front of more than 50,000 fans at ANZ Stadium. Interestingly, that win was the only time that Wests Tigers have defeated the Eels at ANZ Stadium in their six appearances, while the joint-venture have managed just one win at the former Olympic venue since that Round 7 game.
A former Parramatta player in 2001 and Coach in 2006, Jason Taylor will come up against his former Club for the first time since taking the reigns at Wests Tigers, although his side did defeat the Eels 20-4 in a trial match earlier this year.
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Full NRL Round 5 Fixtures
Friday — Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday — Gold Coast Titans vs. Brisbane Broncos
Saturday — Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles vs. Canberra Raiders
Saturday — Newcastle Knights vs. St. George-Illawarra Dragons
Sunday — Sydney Roosters vs. Cronulla Sharks
Monday — Parramatta Eels vs. Wests Tigers
Monday — Melbourne Storm vs. New Zealand Warriors
Monday — Penrith Panthers vs. North Queensland Cowboys