Wests Tigers have been defeated 20-10 in tonight’s NRL trial match at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
In what was a game of two halves, Wests Tigers fielded experienced players such as Chris Lawrence, Tim Grant and Elijah Taylor for the first 40 minutes - going into the break with a 10-0 lead.
Head Coach Jason Taylor blooded a number of rookies in the second half, including Holden Cup winger Toa Mata’afa, Bayley Sironen and Junior Tatola – with both Sironen and Tatola successfully returning from long-term injuries.
Fullback Watson Heleta was impressive all night – making a number of impressive kick returns and defensive reads.
Wests Tigers got off to a stellar start with Heleta getting away a nice pass to Michael Chee Kam, who got away a great offload to Moses Suli who crossed untouched in the left corner.
Justin Hunt nailed a tough conversion from the sideline to make it a 6-0 lead after just eight minutes.
Jack De Belin was sent to the sin bin early in the second quarter after striking Elijah Taylor whilst in possession of the ball.
Wests Tigers made a strong start to this quarter, with Jack Littlejohn orchestrating a quality cross-field kick over to David Nofoaluma who did extremely well to get it down in the corner.
Jordan Rankin was unable to convert the try from the sideline, with Wests Tigers racing out to 10-0 lead after 24 minutes.
Some great goal-line defence from Wests Tigers was eventually broken just before half-time, when Tim Lafai found his way over on the left edge with some impressive footwork.
Jai Field was unable to convert and the score remained 10-4 in favour of the visitors with just two minutes remaining until half time.
With just seconds remaining on the clock, Field sped away to close the gap even further with a nifty try just before the buzzer.
The young halfback missed a simple conversion next to the posts, with Wests Tigers going into the sheds with a 10-8 lead.
Head Coach Jason Taylor sent out a very different side for the second stanza, with players such as Jeremy Marshall-King, Jordan Grant and Wes Lolo all getting their chance to impress.
Jamal Idris also made his first appearance of the game, making a couple of impressive carries with his first few touches.
Continued pressure from the Dragons was taken advantage of well by hooker Siliva Havili, who sent a strong-running Tariq Sims over close to the line.
Shaun Nona was able to convert the try, with the Dragons hitting the lead for the time in the match – 14-10 after 47 minutes.
Despite a number of impressive defensive sets on the goal-line from Wests Tigers, the Dragons eventually closed out the match in the 69th minute through Nona who grubbered at the line for winger Kalifa Faifai Loa.
With Nona adding another conversion, the Dragons went out to a commanding 20-10 lead with just 10 minutes remaining in the match.
There were plenty of errors in the closing stages from both sides, with the heat taking its toll on the players.
Wests Tigers will now turn focus to the second and final trial match before the 2017 season – taking on the North Queensland Cowboys at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Friday night.
Dragons 20 (Sims, Field, Lafai, Faifai Loa tries; Nona 2 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 10 (Suli, Nofoaluma; Hunt goal)