They may have walked away empty handed, but there were a lot of encouraging signs from Wests Tigers players in their Easter Monday loss to western Sydney rivals, the Parramatta Eels.
The forwards, led by Aaron Woods and Sauaso Sue – who came off the bench – more than held their own against an Eels pack boasting size (think Suaia Matagi), skill (Manu Ma’u) and aggression (Nathan Brown).
However, the valiant of efforts of Wests Tigers front men was in vain as the edge again crumbled when challenged in defence.
For the second week in a row Kevin Naiqama was shifted from right centre to the left wing in an effort to curb the number of points being leaked down the right side.
The switch allowed highly touted youngster Moses Suli to line up in his preferred position of left centre, while Jamal Idris lined up along side Nofolauma in the centres on the right hand side.
That Nofoaluma/Idris combination was found wanting after just two minutes when Michael Jennings crossed for the opening try of the match.
Thirteen minutes later, Eels-bound five-eighth Mitchell Moses crossed after some slick footwork from James Tedesco allowed the youngster to burst through a gap and wrong-foot fullback Clint Gutherson.
Just eight minutes later Wests Tigers’ left edge was exposed as Kirisome Auva’a crossed for the first of his two tries.
However, four-pointers to Sue and Naiqama saw the orange, white and black take a 16-10 lead into halftime.
When Wests Tigers hooker Matt McIlwrick crossed 12 minutes after the break, it looked like an upset was on the cards.
However, three more tries – two down the left edge and one down the right – saw Parramatta secure a 26-22 victory. While the edge defence will be a big worry for coach Ivan Cleary, there was a lot to like from Idris who put on several big hits and made a number of strong runs.
After the game Cleary and captain Aaron Woods were hounded by the media about the Moses saga and whether he would be granted a release to join the Eels this year. Woods said Moses’ situation was not his main concern.
“We’ve got a job to do and that’s play footy. That (release scenario) is for Mitch to worry about,” he said. “We have things to work on throughout the week. We weren’t good enough this week.”
Wests Tigers will play the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday, April 23 at ANZ Stadium.
Canterbury have been rumoured to be chasing after the signatures of both Woods and Tedesco – the only two of the remaining “big four” yet to decide where they will play in 2018.