Tigers relish new attacking licence
Wests Tigers' free-flowing and dominant first half against the Warriors last Saturday came as the result of both new-found belief within the club as well as a directive from the coach to back themselves to play what they see.
The season is just one round old and sterner tests await but given how readily Jason Taylor's men were written off in the pre-season – as well as the calibre of troops unavailable to them in that game – the performance was impressive, despite the second half fade-out that saw the Warriors get back within two points.
Back-rower Curtis Sironen – a try-scorer in the 34-26 win – said it was more in the attacking zones where the coach was permitting them more licence.
"Especially in the good-ball areas, attacking their line, the structure isn't as strict," Sironen said.
"Our forwards know where to get to and these boys play what they see. Between Mitch [Moses] and 'Teddy' [James Tedesco] on the weekend they were going both sides of the field and playing a bit of footy.
"We scored nearly 30 points in the first half because they were doing that. We're pretty confident scoring tries, we'll never be worried about that... it's just our defence we need to work on week to week."
Playmaker Mitch Moses – a star in the absence of regular halves partner Luke Brooks – said the enterprising play had distracted pundits from the fact their success had come from actually sticking to what they had trained for in the pre-season, despite regular halfback Luke Brooks (suspension) and hooker Robbie Farah (knee) sitting the game out.
"It wasn't so much play what we see; we played to a structure on the weekend which a lot of people wouldn't know," Moses told NRL.com.
"There were times there that we could go away from that structure and there were times there that we played footy and pulled it off but sometimes that won't go our way, the bounce of the ball won't go our way but we got it a few times on the weekend so we're happy with that.
"We're going to take a lot of confidence out of that but hopefully we can finish off the game this week."
The Tigers racked up a 28-4 lead by half-time, then watched that lead evaporate to a 28-26 cliffhanger following four tries in 20 minutes to the Warriors – before a late Tedesco four-pointer sealed the deal.
Moses said last year the team would have panicked and lost that game but had a new found belief this year.
"I think there's just a bit more belief in the club; we've all realised that the young boys have all played two or three years now, everyone's really confident with how we're playing and there's just a belief in the club that we think we can give the competition a shake this year," he said.
It almost wasn't enough though, and the Tigers players know they need to be better at closing out games in the future. Moses credited the calm head of new skipper Aaron Woods for keeping things together when it looked like the club would lose an unlosable game.
"Woodsy came behind the line, they'd scored a couple of tries and got within one or two tries and Woodsy just really kept us calm behind that try-line," Moses said.
"I think in past times we've really panicked in those situations where last year we would have lost that game I think but this year Woodsy kept that really calm head around everyone and no-one was really stressing, we knew if we held the ball we just needed to grind the game out and get some repeat sets which we did and we ground the game out."