Wests Tigers scored a narrow 18-16 victory in their trial match against Melbourne Storm tonight at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
New recruits Joshua Addo-Carr and Michael Chee Kam scored three out of the team’s four tries, with winger David Nofoaluma crossing for the final match-winning four-pointer.
Mitchell Moses impressed with his strong kicking-game, particularly early on in the match, while Luke Brooks made an immediate impact when he came on to the field in the second stanza.
Other notable performances included former Parramatta Eel, Josh Aloiai, who was strong in defence and made a number of strong carries.
Wests Tigers enjoyed the perfect start to the game as Moses put up a towering bomb which was spilled by a Storm defender. The mistake put Wests Tigers deep on the attack and they took full advantage, shifting the ball left to Addo-Carr who snuck over in the corner.
Jordan Rankin took the goal-kicking duties, however was unable to convert from the sideline as the Wests Tigers held a 4-0 lead after just three minutes.
Moses’ kicking game was causing problems for Melbourne in windy conditions, with the crafty playmaker forcing a repeat soon after.
However, the next points didn’t come until the 19th minute as Wests Tigers new recruit Chee Kam barged his way through defenders again on the left edge to score.
Another tough conversion from Rankin was waved away as Wests Tigers went into the quarter time break with a commanding 8-0 lead.
A scrappy opening to the second quarter by Wests Tigers resulted in Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona driving his way over the line from close-range. Joe Stimson added the two-points and shortened the Wests Tigers’ lead to 8-6 after 28 minutes.
Wests Tigers showed gritty defence soon after, holding out the Storm who looked dangerous with the ball. Winger David Nofoaluma put on a bone-rattling tackle and was involved again soon after the hit with Moses and Lamar Liolevave as they carried an attacker over the sideline.
However Melbourne eventually hit the lead after enjoying a wealth of possession, with their right winger Jeremy Hawkins finding his way past Justin Hunt to score in the corner. Stimson couldn’t add the extras, as the Storm crept out to a 10-8 lead after 35 minutes.
The Storm made it quick back-to-back tries as centre Curtis Scott sliced through on the same edge, giving the hosts a commanding 16-8 lead at the half-time break.
Wests Tigers needed to be first to score in the second half and they did just that, with halfback Brooks coming on to the field and orchestrating a magical cut-out pass to Addo-Carr who strolled over in the corner. Hunt took on goal-kicking duties, however missed the sideline opportunity and the score remained 16-12 after 48 minutes of play.
Both sides made plenty of errors in following stages of play, with a number of chances going begging – most notably a pass from Hunt which was slightly behind Rankin who had the try-line open.
Despite an injury scare early in the second half, Aloiai returned to the field and made a huge turnover tackle with 12 minutes remaining on the clock – his second of the night.
The mistake from the Storm proved costly, as Nofoaluma raced down the right sideline off the following set, to score in the corner and send the Wests Tigers’ supporters amongst the 6000-strong crowd ‘bananas’.
With scores locked up at 16-all and eight minutes remaining, Rankin landed his first conversion of the night from the sideline to put his side ahead going into the final few minutes.
It was an intense finish to the match as Melbourne took an intercept from their goal-line and running 60-metres before Jack Littlejohn made an impressive cover tackle, from which the Storm made a costly error.
Wests Tigers subsequently held on for a 18-16 victory in their first trial match of the year and will now turn their focus to Saturday night’s trial match at Campbelltown Sports Stadium against Cronulla.
Wests Tigers 18 (Addo-Carr 2, Chee Kam, Nofoaluma tries; Rankin 1 goal) defeated Melbourne Storm 16 (Asofa-Solomona, Scott, Hawkins tries; Stimson 2 goals)