By Nathan Beuman at Henson Park
The Wests Tigers have opened their 2015 NSW Cup season in style, knocking off the Newtown Jets 24-14 in front of a sizeable crowd at Henson Park.
In what should have been a celebration of the new partnership between the Cronulla Sharks and Newtown Jets this season quickly turned sour, with Wests Tigers winger John Sila terrorising the opposition, making a number of breaks on his way to scoring a hat-trick.
Despite dominating the penalty count and having numerous cracks at the Tigers’ line, the Jets only managed to cross for three tries, with ball handling sure to be a point of emphasis of head coach Greg Matterson at training this week.
To further compound the loss, Cronulla Sharks’ new recruit and Newtown Jets five-eighth Kyle Stanley continued his horror run with injury, with the 23-year-old being assisted from the field with 15 minutes.
It wasn’t all turbulent flying for the Jets though, with the home side able to turn early possession into points, when Junior Roqica ran onto a short ball to put Newtown up 6-0 after eight minutes, following Todd Murphy’s successful conversion.
The visitors hit back moments later however, when a grubber kick by Wests Tigers captain Josh Drinkwater rebounded off a Jets defender before falling into the waiting hands of winger Kurtis Rowe, who scored in the left hand corner. Drinkwater’s conversion from the left touchline was successful, putting the score at 6-4 halfway through the first stanza.
Back-to-back tries to John Sila within five minutes had the Tigers up 12-6, with a couple of poor strikes with the boot from Drinkwater keeping Newtown in the game.
The Tigers extended their lead soon after, with Salesi Funaki able to charge his was over off the tap restart, to make it 18-6 with 10 minutes remaining in the half following Drinkwater’s conversion.
A relieving penalty just before the break saw the home side narrow the gap, with former Canberra Raider and 2014 NSW Cup team of the year member Sami Sauiluma finding his way over the stripe from close range, sending Newtown into the break only four points down.
The Jets continued to dominate the penalty count early in the second half, finally making good on the field position, with a sweeping run by Todd Murphy opening up space on the outside, allowing Blake Judd to score in the left corner.
Once again, a missed conversion by Murphy kept the score at 18-14 with 23 minutes remaining. It seemed like neither team wanted to win the match in the final quarter, with both sides being guilty of coughing up the ball easily.
It took a pinpoint Drinkwater kick out to the right to a wide open John Sila to secure a 24-14 opening round win for the Tigers.
Despite a poor goal kicking afternoon by Drinkwater, he was close to best on ground, playing a hand in a number of Tigers tries, with former Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Holden Cup player Sila’s three-try outing sure to catch the eye of Jason Taylor.
The Wests Tigers head home to Leichardt next Saturday to take on the Wentworthville Magpies at 3pm, while the Newtown Jets travel to Cessnock Showground to battle with last years runners-up, the Newcastle Knights at 3pm Saturday.
Wests Tigers 24 (J Sila 3, K Rowe, S Funaki tries; J Drinkwater 2 goals) def. Newtown Jets 14 (B Judd, S Sauiluma, J Roqica tries; T Murphy goal)