Trial takeaways: Tigers hail Sezer after veteran half gives spooners some bite in attack, RTS shines in Warriors return


Wests Tigers have a long way to go to avoid a third straight wooden spoon but they have solved one of their glaring issues with the acquisition of Aiden Sezer.

The veteran halfback gave the Tigers much-needed direction in an impressive first appearance for the club after new coach Benji Marshall brought him back from the Super League to replace Manly-bound playmaker Luke Brooks. 

With Sezer calling the shots in unison with hooker Api Koroisau and young guns Jayden Sullivan and Jahream Bula running off them, the Tigers have a spine which has potency as well as a calmness which has been missing for many seasons. 

Trial wins don’t mean much, unless you are one of the dozens of people on this planet who care about the Pre-Season Challenge standings, but for a club that has racked up just eight victories over the past two seasons, the 18-16 win over the Warriors in Christchurch is a shot in the arm for Marshall in the early stages of his major rebuild. 

Aidan Sezer dives over to score a try in Christchurch. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

For the Warriors, they were also boosted by an old new face with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck showing he’s lost none of his impact despite playing in a new position at centre.

The former Dally M Medal winner, who has returned after a two-year stint in rugby which included a brief foray with the All Blacks, looked at home despite being in an unfamiliar position. 

RTS made a couple of crunching tackles and although he only had a few half chances in attack, the class is still there and the 30-year-old could prove to be one of the best signings of 2024.

Young forward Zyon Maiu’u is set to break into the NRL team for the Warriors this year but the 20-year-old prospect is facing a hefty ban that will delay his debut.

Maiu’u was sent off for in the 20th minute soon after coming onto the field when he levelled Wests centre Declan Casey with a high shot.

His shoulder thudded into the head of the former Bulldog who was taken off and played no further part in proceedings.

“It’s a high level of force that’s hit him directly in the head,” explained referee Chris Sutton before sending him on his way. 

Tigers forward Samuela Fainu was later banished to the sin bin for high contact which seemed pretty minor after previously being placed on report for a hit which should have at least earned him a 10-minute stint on the sidelines.

The Tigers had been the better side before the send-off and despite being a player down, the Warriors managed to claw their way back into the contest as each team made a raft of changes to give inexperienced players a taste of NRL.

Zyon Maiu’u has been sent off for this collision with Declan Casey.

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Tigers forward Alex Seyfarth opened the scoring running off short ball from Koroisau before Warriors young gun Jacob Laban levelled the scores after he forced a turnover with a heavy tackle and then combined with Luke Metcalf to touch down.

The visitors led 12-6 when Sezer sent the ball wide to Sullivan who put centre Solomona Faataape through a gap for the halfback to back up for the try.

When rookie Sione Latoa-Vaihu made it 18-6 in the 57th minute it looked like the Tigers would run away with the match but the undermanned Warriors reduced the gap to just two points heading into the final 15 minutes after Paul Roache and Setu Tu crossed in quick succession.

A pitch invader halted their momentum a minute from full-time and despite a final flurry, they came up short as the Tigers hung on for a win that means nothing on the premiership ladder but could count for plenty in terms of preparation when their regular season campaign kicks off.

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