Wests Tigers Holden Cup side have chalked up a 26-12 win over the New Zealand Warriors to start 2016 in fine fashion at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
After a tight first half that saw Wilie Peters' side hold a 10-6 lead at the half-time break, it was Wests Tigers' defence that saw them pull clear of the Warriors in the second half, keeping the visitors at bay on several occasions to eventually emerge with a 10-point win.
First points were scored eight minutes into the match when Veiru Mapesone linked up with Samuel Defiddes through a series of passes to go over out wide.
Mapesone failed to convert and Wests Tigers had a 4-0 lead early.
The Warriors struck back in the 20th minute when Junior Pauga pounced on an intercept and sprinted 80 metres to score under the posts. Zion Ioka converted and the Warriors lead 6-4.
With halftime looming, the home side had one last chance to regain the lead and did so through Ryland Jacobs, who showed some fancy footwork to crash over next to the posts.
Mapesone converted to give his side a 10-6 lead as both teams went to the sheds.
Having controlled the start of the second half, Wests Tigers were rewarded in the 51st minute when captain Junior Tatola burst onto a short ball from Daniel Peck to crash over.
Warriors centre Junior Pauga was sent to the sin bin shortly after in the 54th minute for a professional foul and Esan Marsters took advantage for Wests Tigers, carrying three defenders over with him to the line to score. Mapesone converted for a 22-6 lead.
The visitors hit back in the 63rd minute when Isaiah Papalii took advantage of some broken play to bridge the gap back to 22-12, but Wests Tigers quickly extended the gap just minutes later when Marsters went over for his second of the day off a great pass from Mapesone.
The five-eighth couldn’t convert but the home side’s 26-12 lead put the team in a comfortable position with 10 minutes remaining, and turned out to be the final points of the match.
FULL TIME — Wests Tigers 26 (Marsters 2, Mapesone, Jacobs, Tatola tries; Mapesone 3/5 goals) def. New Zealand Warriors 12 (Papalii, Pauga tries; Ioka 2/2 goals)