Wests Tigers v Dragons: Five key points
The talking points from the Wests Tigers' 22-4 routing of the St George Illawarra Dragons on Monday night.
Tigers cloning Tedesco
Before James Tedesco proved to be the star of the show against the Dragons on Monday night, at first we thought the Tigers had lost their marbles and were playing their star fullback in the under-20s – but alas, they're simply cloning him instead. Holden Cup No.1 Mason Cerruto ticks all the boxes: like his first-grade mentor, he owns the same shady beard, comes out of the Camden Rams nursery, and possesses blistering speed. We swear that one of his two tries in his side's 50-26 win in the under-20s on Monday night – an 80-metre individual effort – clocked in at an unofficial two seconds.
"Some of the boys say that we're pretty similar with the beard and that happening," Tedesco said. "Some of the boys, when he runs the ball, says 'That's Teddy going again'. I haven't seen much of him play but last week I saw him score a good try. He looks pretty good. He's Camden junior so he must be."
Taupau a lock to start
Wests assistant coach Matt Cameron's idea to start Martin Taupau at lock this year has proven a masterstroke thus far, and his ground-shaking hit that dislodged the ball from Rory O'Brien on a play one helped turn the tide when the game was in the balance early on in the match.
Defensive coach David Kidwell said it was a "pretty good" hit, but also pointed out that the coaching staff had focused on Taupau being more consistent in sticking to ball-carriers this season.
"Marty's improved out of sight. It's good to see Marty starting. He's an international player now," Kidwell said. "That hit was pretty good, but I think he's more working on his sticking consistency in the tackle. They're nice to have – but as coaches, we'd like to be consistently good in the tackles.
"We sat down early on in the season and identified tackling as one of the areas as we needed to improve on and we've had a big focus on that throughout the pre-season. I think all the guys are seeing the benefits of that."
Taylor gets carried away praising Campbelltown locals
The good Campbelltown folk never forget a pretty face, and were ever so welcoming of every Benji Marshall error in what was the Dragons playmaker's first game back in town since leaving Tigerland for rugby.
Coach Jason Taylor was always going to praise the contributions of the locals in his first home game as a Tiger, but might've gotten a little too carried away with his approval of the vocal 11,387 crowd.
"Absolutely I thought it was great," he said of the atmosphere. "I thought we got at least one crowd penalty. It was a clear forward pass and if we were somewhere else, the referees might not have ruled on it. Wait – I'm not allowed to talk about it, am I?"
The Dragons signature left-side shift
Where did it go? It wasn't that long ago when the Dragons' left-side shift was the most unstoppable move in the playbook and forced every team in the competition to add it to theirs.
Coach Paul McGregor allowed playmakers Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop to take ownership of his new system and tweak it during the week. But after last night's effort, hooker Mitch Rein said that mightn't happen again this week.
"We trained well all week, we had to freshen it up a bit. The boys changed it up ourselves. I don't know if it'll happen again next week, because we just didn't perform," Rein said.
JT planning on being Robbie-less
For the second week in a row, Taylor gave skipper Robbie Farah a rest just after the half-time break – a plan he had settled on early in the pre-season.
"It's still early in the season and there are going to be games where Robbie's going to play 80 minutes and he can," he said.
"I think the break is really doing him good. He's not going to say anything positive about it at all, [but] we feel it's the right move.
"One of the big things, and I need to say it – Robbie's going to play Origin, and we're going to need someone to play hooker for us for three games and you can play as much NSW Cup as you like, but we need someone getting ready for that.
"There are two reasons: keeping him fresh and have him playing his footy at the back end of the year and getting his replacement ready for when he's not there."