Wests Tigers have delivered a strong performance ahead of the 2020 NRL season with a 20-6 win over the New Zealand Warriors in their final trial match today in Rotorua.
Michael Maguire's side fell behind early against a mountain of possession, but showed tremendous resilience in defence and class in attack to create several opportunities and eventually run away with the contest in the second half.
Halves Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks got through the better part of 65 minutes together in a promising sign for the 2020 season while the right edge combination of the Leilua brothers and David Nofoaluma also leaves fans with plenty to be excited about ahead of the club's season opener on March 15.
With 12 players rested from last week's trial against the Penrith Panthers, Wests Tigers were forced to dig in to their reserves early in the contest with captain Moses Mbye forced off with an HIA and knee injury that will require further assessment when back in Australia.
2020 Match Highlights: Trial, Warriors vs. Wests Tigers
His omission saw a reshuffled left edge throughout the first half, with Robert Jennings and Luke Garner also requiring minor attention.
Off the back of a string of penalties and favourable calls, it was the home side who opened the scoring after 20 minutes when Ken Maumalo touched down on the right — Kodi Nikorima adding the extras from in front to extend the lead to 6-0.
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Desperate goal-line defence from Marshall and Alex Twal stopped the hosts from making it two in quick succession, while the Leilua both created chances for Corey Thompson which were just snuffed out by the Warriors.
Coming off the bench for Billy Walters half an hour in to the contest, it was Josh Reynolds who broke the duck for Wests Tigers just before half-time with a cheeky effort from dummy half. With Mbye off the field, co-captain Marshall turned back the clock to convert his first goal since 2013 to level the scores at the break.
With both sides fielding reshuffled sides after half-time, it was the dangerous right edge of Wests Tigers that produced the first points — Samoan teammates in Leilua and Nofoaluma combining to send the winger away down the sideline.
Marshall was unable to convert from the sideline, leaving the score at 10-6.
With Marshall off the field after 65 minutes, Brooks put the icing on the cake with a wonderful solo effort in the final stages of the match — kicking four times for himself before grounding the ball just inside the dead-ball line — before Leilua and Nofoaluma combined once more to blow the scoreline out late.
The result will no doubt give Maguire plenty of confidence ahead of Round 1, where his side will take on the St. George-Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium on March 15, as well as plenty of big decision in terms of team selection with Matt Eisenhuth, Chris McQueen and Paul Momirovski all also available for selection.
Wests Tigers 20 (Nofoaluma 2, Reynolds, Brooks tries; Marshall 1/2, Doueihi 1/2 goals) def. NZ Warriors 6 (Maumalo tries; Nikorima 1/1 goals) at Rotorua International Stadium