A tendency to drift in and out of games after strong starts has been costing the Wests Tigers wins and the players are ready to put a stop to it after losing three winnable games in three weeks.
Two high-scoring wins in the opening two games against the Warriors and Sea Eagles were marred by late or mid-game fade-outs that almost proved costly, while the Tigers looked like running away with a dominant win last weekend against Cronulla early on before collapsing to a 34-26 loss.
They also led 10-0 early against the Titans in Round 3 before appearing to switch off, and competed strongly with the Eels in an 8-0 loss in Round 4 but weren’t quite able to take their chances.
“The last three weeks are games that we should have won, we had two home games in there, it’s disappointing we’ve had that run of three losses,” back-rower Dene Halatau told NRL.com.
“After starting the season with two good wins, even though we conceded a lot of tries we were still able to grind out wins which is what you want to be doing this time of year. It doesn’t get any easier travelling up to Newcastle but it’s definitely a game we want to win and we want to start putting some good games together.”
The teams that have been doing well in the competition so far are predominantly the teams that are defending well and holding sides to at most two or three tries per week – teams like Brisbane, North Queensland and Melbourne.
“That focus on defence is important for us but I think the reason we’ve had high scoring games is because we’re turning over too much ball. We can score tries in the right positions but we’ve been turning the ball over a lot and it’s resulting in the opposition getting those opportunities,” he added.
“If we can limit our mistakes we don’t put as much pressure on our defence and we can limit sides to less.”
Of the club’s positive starts to games, Halatau said it was a downturn in completions as games progressed that were the reason for them getting run down.
"We completed better on the weekend but if you’re going to be competitive in this competition you’ve got to be completing at 80 per cent and above and I don’t think we’ve done that yet. If we do make mistakes we’ve got to be able to defend that and not let teams run us down.
"That happened on the weekend with Cronulla; we went in at half time with a fairly good lead and playing some good football off the back of a tough start.
“We’ve got to be able to come out after half time and win the game off the back of strong defence.”
With the red-hot form of fullback James Tedesco, the return of senior dummy-half Robbie Farah to combine with young-gun halves Mitch Moses and Luke Brooks, scoring points isn’t the side’s problem.
“We’re creating plenty of opportunities to score tries. We’ve just got to consistently put ourselves up there and build pressure and not turn the ball over like we’ve been doing,” he said.
Back-rower Kyle Lovett admitted the Sharks game was tough to take.
“Those ones hurt a bit. We put a lot of effort in then let it slip and didn’t stay in it for the 80,” he said.
“We got back into the game after losing Teddy for a bit [for a concussion check at the start of the game] but we couldn’t hold on to it and that’s where we need to be better.”
Added Curtis Sironen: “It’s just putting teams away. When we do get that sort of lead, that’s the difference between a top four side, premiership contender team than sort of where we’re at at the moment but that’s what we’re working towards and I think we’ve got the players to keep improving.”