The Wests Tigers stunned the North Queensland Cowboys, giving new coach Ivan Cleary the perfect start at the beleaguered club. Here are five key points.
Cowboys struggle with altered line-up
Two losses in four weeks is definitely a pessimistic view of the Cowboys' four from six record this year, but they've been inconsistent since round three after losing a handful of their regular players. The Cowboys lacked impact defensively and offensively for long stretches throughout the game, rarely putting strong tackles on the Wests Tigers to halt their advances down the field, with coach Paul Green disappointed in the Cowboys effort.
"Little bit on the back foot from us defensively in particular. They carried the ball well, we knew what was coming at us but we just weren't prepared for it at the start," he said.
Gavin Cooper also spoke about the difficulties inexperienced teams face, but didn't put the loss down that aspect of the team.
"They defended well, they got off their line, they shut us down… they forced a few errors on their try-line. We had plenty of chances to not only get in front but maybe get away with the game," Cooper said.
Wests Tigers shake it off
Off-field woes have stayed off-field for the Wests Tigers, and may have even fuelled the fire that gave them such a strong start against the Cowboys. The Tigers shot out of the gates, scoring off their first set and going on with it throughout the first half. Their intensity dropped in the second stanza, but not enough for the Cowboys to run them down. New coach Ivan Cleary was happy that his team prepared well away from home.
"To get a win, especially up here, it's a great feeling. The boys are very relieved I think," he said.
Wests Tigers captain Aaron Woods was similarly impressed at how his side performed despite the rumour mill turning throughout the week.
"The talk the side had… just the way the boys responded after a pretty tough couple of weeks… we just stuck solid."
Cleary off to a good start
The Wests Tigers may have been inspired by their poor start to the season, their new coach or Chris Lawrence's 200th NRL game, but Ivan Cleary will only care that they got the win. He'll also be looking closely at what needs changing after the Tigers dropped off in the second half. Woods spoke about the positive effect Cleary had on the team over the course of the last week.
"When Ivan came in he said he wasn't going to change much, but just wanted to fine tune a few little things and work really hard on our one-percenters," the Wests Tigers captain said.
"I thought we did that really well for the first half especially, but we just let ourselves down a little bit with our completion rate in the second half."
Hess and Taumalolo still unstoppable
Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo has continued his unbelievable form, making 250 metres in 80 minutes of football. Meanwhile the Coen Hess express can be slowed slightly, but not stopped. Hess scored two tries, including another of his trademark close range four-pointers, reaching past several defenders to plant the ball down one-handed. Despite this he also made two errors, which let the Tigers off the hook when they were under pressure in the second half. Green was pleased with his back-rowers' performances, despite the loss.
"Some great efforts in there, 'Hessy' was once again really good, Jase Taumalolo played 80 minutes tonight, that's a huge effort in the middle for a big guy like Jase," Green said.
Cowboys injury woes intensify
The Cowboys' run of injuries have been below average in the past few years, but they're more than making up for it now. Interchange forward Shaun Fensom left the field almost immediately after going on, leaving the Cowboys struggling defensively, while Johnathan Thurston left the field with a leg injury late in the game. The Cowboys have shown impressive depth to be at four wins from six games, but they'll be hoping to find some truly hidden gems to replace Thurston and Fensom if they're out injured for any length of time. Paul Green didn't want to speculate on the injuries in the post-match press conference, but stated that Thurston has a suspected calf injury while Fensom has injured his ankle. Regular fullback Lachlan Coote was a late withdrawal due to a calf injury, with Kalyn Ponga deputising at the back.