James Tedesco sent another strong message to NSW selectors ahead of Origin III with two try assists, two line breaks and six tackle breaks in the Wests Tigers' defense-inspired 34-26 over the Penrith Panthers on Saturday night.
Tedesco fires as Tigers down Panthers: Match report
Tedesco outpoints Moylan in battle of the fullbacks
He's the name on everyone's lips ahead of the squad announcement for Game Three of the Holden State of Origin series, and James Tedesco justified the hype with another virtuoso performance on Saturday night.
The Tigers fullback was at his brilliant best with two try assists and two line breaks to outpoint incumbent Blues fullback – and Panthers custodian – Matt Moylan.
His form in 2016 has been so impressive that it might be impossible for NSW Blues coach Laurie Daley to ignore the calls to hand him a debut this time around.
Tigers coach Jason Taylor rubbished suggestions Tedesco should be picked on the wing, while teammate Ava Seumanufagai told NRL.com that the Blues needed Tedesco's attacking flair at fullback.
"He's just got the X-factor that other guys don't have," Seumanufagai said.
"He's got the ability to break through the lines when you need something and he creates opportunities when nothing's doing so I think he'd be a great addition to the Blues."
Tigers skipper Aaron Woods believes Tedesco would have joined him in the Blues squad for the series opener had he not been injured.
"The way he started the season, probably the only reason he wasn't there was because he was injured at the start," Woods said.
"He's come back with a really good attitude and he's been making a massive difference to our squad since he's been back."
The man Tedesco is aiming to unseat, Matt Moylan, had a sound night with a line break and one try assist, but refused to buy into speculation that he might lose his spot to Tedesco.
"I wasn't worried about the battle; I was worried about playing the game," he said.
When asked if he thought he'd be picked on Monday, Moylan added: "I'm just waiting to see what happens."
Defence gets the Tigers the points
His side might have conceded 26 points, but Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor believes it was defence that won them the game.
The Tigers conceded the first two tries of the game but responded in style to run in 32-unanswered points before the Panthers strolled over for a couple of late consolation tries.
There was an overarching sense of desperation and desire from the Tigers against a Penrith side that wasn't afraid to throw the football around.
While obviously pleased with the attack, Taylor said it was the work done at the other end of the field that got them home.
"I think it's a game we probably would have lost not that long ago," Taylor said.
"We just defended and defended and defended, and it was really impressive.
"We've been working really hard on it; we're making great improvements.
"There's some real positivity around the way the guys are defending and it's great progress for us as a club."
Another week, another freakish put down
What was once considered impossible is now the norm amongst wingers in the NRL.
Last week it was Newcastle's Nathan Ross; this time was Josh Mansour getting on the highlights reel with a freakish put down that seemingly defied gravity.
The Panthers winger was suspended in mid-air with the bulk of his body outside the field of play, but despite the best efforts of Tigers fullback James Tedesco, still managed to somehow ground the ball in goal.
The 17th-minute effort was the start of Mansour's best game of the year, featuring 245 running metres, nine tackle breaks, four offloads and three line breaks.
McKendry's season appears over
Penrith's tough night was made worse with reports prop Sam McKendry's season could be over after he was taken from the field with a knee injury after just 11 minutes.
In what was his first game for the Panthers since returning from suspension, the former Kiwis forward was caught in a solid tackle from Sauaso Sue, his right leg buckling under the force of the hit.
The news didn't look good with the Panthers tweeting that McKendry might have done his ACL or MCL, and their coach, Anthony Griffin, all but confirmed the worst in the post-match media conference.
"It doesn't look good," he said.
"It looks like an ACL. We're hoping for the best but first prognosis doesn't look good."
Ava Seumanufagai kicked out of the front-row forum
Prop forwards aren't known for supporting big breaks down the middle, but that's just what Ava Seumanufagai did when Chris Lawrence sliced straight through Penrith's defence late in the first half.
Backing up his teammate as if he were a fullback, Seumanufagai supported on the inside, received the ball and sprinted 15 metres to crash over for just his third try in the NRL.
Importantly, it was his first four-pointer of 2016, and Seumanufagai told NRL.com that some of his fellow big men – namely Aaron Woods and Sauaso Sue – were disappointed to see him score.
"They were telling me that they were cheering me when I scored, but then they were filthy that I got off the nudie run. The pressure's on them now," he joked.
"I needed to get off the nudie run so I decided to push up hard.
"I had to reach out a bit so luckily I held onto the ball and got it down in the end."