Newton believes team is a real chance for IRL title
ANY talk of a premiership hangover was quickly extinguished as Norths started their Ipswich Rugby League title defence with a 26-16 victory over Brothers.
All the hallmarks of last year's team - aggression, discipline and high work-rate - were on show for the Tigers during the opening exchanges of the grand final replay at North Ipswich Reserve.
While Brothers started as flat as week-old lemonade, Mick Newton's men dazzled with some super-slick backline plays. Norths scored three tries in the first 15 minutes to set up Saturday's win.
Newton was fairly certain what to expect from his own team this year, suggesting they might even be better than the side that claimed last year's title.
"I had full confidence in the boys we had penciled in for today and I feel the squad we put on the park come September would be just as good as the side we had last year," he said.
"We've got a few boys out waiting to come back through injuries and that's a good headache to have.
"There are a lot of boys competing for roles.
"As long as they are, each of the boys will continue to compete as hard as they can."
Both sides fielded a stack of new faces, but the Tigers had enough players who weren't part of last year's grand final to keep the hunger alive.
The most notable inclusion was Steven West, whose 2014 season was cruelly ended after breaking his leg.
Playing his first competition match in almost a year, the veteran halfback showed his class and composure to direct the Tigers around the park. He had a hand in three tries.
West, who partnered new signing Brandon Marshall, set up centre Matthew Fairhurst's second try with a brilliant floating pass to give the Tigers a 20-6 lead early in the second half.
But Brothers were never going to go down without a fight.
They exploded back into the contest thanks to some quick-thinking by Troy Sharpe, who offloaded before being brought to the ground to put five-eighth Sam Krueger in to score.
The Brethren had no trouble carving up the Tigers defence in the second half, with their forwards making good metres up the middle.
But a lack of direction, attacking cohesion and consistency was concerning for Brothers as Norths centre Tonga Mounga, against the run of play, carried three defenders over the line to score the match-sealing try in the 70th minute.
Dean Daylight's side was led by skipper Jack Boettcher who was well supported by experienced backrowers Shaun Daylight and Sharpe.
They kept a reasonable level of energy and commitment throughout the match.
Losing hooker Nat Creedy, who was brought off the field with concussion early in the match, didn't help Brothers' cause.
Troy Duce (neck) and centre Dan Nolan, who was taken to hospital with a broken wrist, also sustained injuries.
Elijah Umu also made an early exit to join his partner who went into labour.
Despite finishing with no players on the bench, coach Daylight refused to let that be an excuse.
"Norths were too good for us," he said.
"We had the players to possibly win the match, but our poor start let us down.
"We will keep learning from what we did last night and take that into the next round."
Norths 26 (M Fairhurst 2, A Fesolai, B Marshall tries; S West 3 goals) def Brothers 16 (J Kumar, T Graff, S Krueger tries; C Picker 2 goals).
Goodna 28 (J Bennett 2, A Tupese, C Kirk, S Piutau tries; C Kirk 4 goals) def Fassifern 26 (J Radrodro 2, S Ireland, C Pennell, M Range tries; H Mosby 3 goals).
West End 50 (B Alofipo 3, S Hookey 2, E Palmer, S Gibson, F Salaivao tries; E Palmer 7 goals) def Swifts 12 (D O'Reilly, A Angareu, O Oti tries).