Wests Tigers have gone down to the New Zealand Warriors 26-16 in their final hit-out before the 2019 NRL season, with the home side proving too good at Northland Events Centre in Whangarei.
Coach Michael Maguire will have been pleased with patches of the game — Luke Brooks and Ryan Matterson standing out throughout the first hour of the contest — but will still see plenty of room for improvement in his side ahead of their season opener against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Leichhardt Oval on March 16.
Playing in front of a small but vocal crowd in the far north of New Zealand, it was the home side who got the scoring underway with some sharp hands on the left edge putting Ken Maumalo over despite the best efforts of David Nofoaluma in cover.
The Warriors left edge — which had been so dynamic throughout the 2018 season — picked up where it left off the year before shortly after with a good cut-out from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck sending David Fusitu'a over untouched out wide.
Adam Keighran was unable to land either conversion from the two sidelines.
Struggling to get in to the game with little possession and field position, Wests Tigers would eventually find their way down the Warriors end of the field and soon posted their first points of the day through Luke Brooks. After some sharp work from Benji Marshall, Ryan Matterson broke his way through the line and found the reigning Dally M Halfback of the Year in support, who crossed for the simple try.
Esan Marsters converted from in front to cut the hosts' lead to just two points, but it wouldn't be long before the lead skipped back out to eight points — Maumalo diving over once more to give Stephen Kearney's side a 14-6 half-time lead.
Guilty of not executing their last tackle plays throughout the first half, Wests Tigers continued to struggle with their final options in the second and failed to mount any real pressure on the hosts' goal-line as a result. As changes began to ring in for both sides, it was Fusitu'a who extended the lead for New Zealand with an acrobatic effort out wide, before Keighran's conversion took the scoreline to 20-6.
Match Highlights: Trial, Warriors vs. Wests Tigers
A late effort from Adam Pompey off a kick from Peta Hiku would see the home side put the icing on the cake with just over five minutes to go in the contest, before Luke Garner and Marsters crashed over late to give Wests Tigers some added confidence.
With no major injuries to come from the contest and Elijah Taylor (pectoral) and Paul Momirovski (quad) both set to return from injury next week, Wests Tigers will now turn their focus to starting the season proper strong on March 16 against Manly.
New Zealand Warriors 26 (Maumalo 2, Fusitu'a, Pompey tries; Keighran 1/3, Harris-Tevita 2/2 goals) def. Wests Tigers 16 (Brooks, Garner, Marsters tries; Marsters 2/3 goals) at Northland Events Centre, Whangarei
Match: Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
Round 1 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Mbye: "Still plenty for us to work on"