Thrilling edge battle looms in Tigers v Eels
Arguably the most in-form attacking edge in the NRL will face off against arguably the most feared when the Wests Tigers host the Eels at ANZ Stadium on Easter Monday.
No flank has been more destructive over the opening three rounds than the unheralded Kevin Naiqama-David Nofoaluma right side for Wests Tigers, the pair combining for an astounding seven tries and 32 tackle breaks between them in the opening three games.
After a slow start the new-look Parramatta left edge pair now have three tries and 26 tackle breaks – but 15 of those (and all three tries) came just last week in a dominant 80 minutes against Canterbury after a slow opening fortnight.
A mouth-watering battle awaits fans on that side of the field, with Tigers players in particular wary of what the 'Semi Trailer' can do in open space.
However Tigers forward Dene Halatau backed his clubmates to continue to do a job in defence against an impressive-looking Parramatta outfit.
"They've been good all across the park, [their forwards] have been very strong... getting them rolling forward, making some big runs on the edges there, providing their halves with plenty of freedom to do what they do and obviously on the end of that the Semi Trailer just tearing teams apart so there's a lot to look out for with Parra," Halatau said.
"I think our two boys have been really good there in defence. Dave Nofoaluma's been outstanding, his defence has been a noticeable thing. He carries the ball strong every time he plays but his defence has been really good too."
Teams have been showing a noticeable preference to kick the ball away from Radradra so far this year, meaning plenty of work for rookie winger Clint Gutherson, but the former Sea Eagle has warmed to his task well over the first three games and his teammates had confidence that if teams continued to try and keep the ball away from Radradra their right edge would come to the fore.
"Kick it to whatever side you want," was the blunt challenge laid down by Eels forward Danny Wicks.
"Gutho's a very fit boy so he's running circles around it. If they're going to kick it to him I'm sure he'll be ready for it, he's a very exciting player. We've got a bit of punch both sides."
Halatau said Nofoaluma would be ready for the task of marking up on Radradra but pointed out the rest of the team would need to be as well with the flying Fijian's willingness to go looking for extra work through the middle.
"It doesn't get any easier [for Nofoaluma this week] with Semi coming at him but we'll work hard in the video and out on the field to try and do our best to try and stop him. But we've got to be tackling well all across the field – he turns up everywhere," Halatau said.
He also praised former journeyman Naiqama's form and consistency over last season and early this season.
"Kevvie's been great. I think last year was a really good year for him. He cemented a spot there in the team at centre and he's really built on that through the pre-season and his opening three games have been outstanding," Halatau said.
"Kevvie's a really good guy, the boys love being around him, he's one of the nicest guys you'll meet in the game and he works really hard on himself, his preparation and how he approaches the game. I'm happy to see him do well and I'm really happy for him."