Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor has challenged his players to toughen up after slumping to an 18-16 loss to wooden-spoon favourites Newcastle at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Nathan Brown’s first win as Newcastle coach was well received by a noisy crowd of 21,653, and meant the Knights leap-frogged the Roosters to climb off the bottom of the ladder.
Taylor was furious with his team’s insipid effort in a game that was up for grabs in the final 20 minutes.
“I just want us to be tougher. We need to be tougher. That’s the simplest way of putting it,” Taylor said.
The Tigers were the talk of the NRL after their up-tempo style of play produced high-scoring victories over the Warriors and Sea Eagles in the first two rounds but they have lost four straight since then.
“We’re trying to play a style of footy that can’t be sustained in the NRL,” he said.
“We’re trying to finesse our way to victory in a game like that one today, and we’ve been doing that over the last few weeks, and that’s not going to get us where we want to get to.”
“At the moment we don’t make strong decisions. We make soft decisions that put our whole team under pressure, and it’s not just one or two players.”
Knights coach Nathan Brown shared Taylor’s opinion, saying the Tigers were known more for their flair than their ferocity.
“They’ve obviously got some players that are very, very talented but you don’t ever hear anyone say the Tigers are grinding out wins.”
The Knights were the beneficiaries of a bizarre incident in the 47th minute, when Tigers winger Jordan Rankin spilled a bomb after Newcastle prop Korbin Sims kicked a second ball in his direction while chasing a Trent Hodkinson bomb.
Sims told Channel Nine that he did not see the ball, which NRL ground manager Bob Lanigan said belonged to a supporter.
Referee Gavin Badger ruled a line drop-out for the Tigers and from the restart, the Knights extended their lead to 18-10 when winger Nathan Ross scored from Jarrod Mullens grubber.
Neither Brown nor Taylor believed the incident had a significant bearing on the outcome.
“It’s horrendous that in a game of NRL that can happen, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. We gave up a try after that, and we had to catch that kick,” Taylor said.
The Tigers cut the deficit to 18-16 in the 56th minute when Luke Brooks and James Tedesco combined to create a try for Rankin in the corner, setting up a tense final quarter.
Newcastle were convinced they had wrapped up the match when Aku Uate crossed from a Jaelen Feeney pass in the 76th minute but the try was disallowed because of a Sims knock-on in the lead-up.
Tigers skipper Aaron Woods will have scans on Monday for an ankle injury that prevented him from finishing the game but neither he nor Taylor believed it was serious.