By STEVE MASCORD
WESTS Tigers coach Michael Potter feared fullback James Tedesco‘s potential-laden season was over almost before it began.
Fans of the joint venture – even those with sunburn at a sweltering CBUS Super Stadium – went pale when the 21-year-old play motionless after a first half collision during the 42-12 pizzling of Gold Coast.
“I thought ‘oh no’ – I shat myself,” Potter told Fairfax Media. “You think it’s his knee. My first message to the runners was ‘check onTeddy’.”
But a grinning Tedesco‘s said after terrorising Gold Coast with 140 metres gained, nine tackle breaks and a line break: “It was never the knee.
“I copped a knock in the personals. There was a fair bit of pain down there but I was OK before long.”
Some water to the affected area also helped … “I waited for the cameras to be off me first.”
Up 12-6 at halftime, Wests Tigers belted an inexplicably poor Gold Coast after the break to bury the memory of last week’s heavy loss to St George Illawarra.
Wests Tigers centre Chris Lawrence suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and will have scans today.
The oppressive conditions could not have been more different to those in Wigan where he set multiple records, but veteran winger Pat Richards yesterday helped Wests Tigers bury Gold Coast on what was accurately marketed as “White Hot Sunday”.
Temperatures in the middle of the newly renamed CBUS Super Stadium topped 40 degrees; drinks breaks and an extended halftime would have done little to assuage the distress of the 34 players .
Richards, returning to the NRL after a stellar eight years in Super League, scored his first try after four minutes and another in the 31st, and booted goals from all over, in a dominant performance from the joint venture.
The game was only four minutes old when Richards scored the first of his tries, from a simple overlap, in the north-western corner. He was unable to convert but had no trouble three minutes later when Tedesco crossed much closer to the posts after a kick from a sharp-looking Luke Brooks.
Wests Tigers looked to have taken an early stranglehold at 17 minutes, replacement Marty Taupau charging at the line and appearing to have grounded the ball one-handed. But after repeated viewings, video referees Bernard Sutton and Andrew Dunemann chalked off the try.
“They’ve had a look at it and they’ve found he was short of the line and then lost it,” referee Gerard Sutton told Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah.
Hooker Farah responded: “What? They had to look at it 15 times! It’s inconclusive.”
While travelling well on the scoreboard, the joint venture side lost centre Lawrence with less than quarter of the game played. Cory Paterson, who replaced him in the centres was among his side’s best.
After replacement Sauaso Suu was booked for diving at the legs of Titans kicker Aiden Sezer, the five-eighth showed no ill-effects when he crossed in the 23rd minute off a Greg Bird break and converted himself, leaving the home side closer than it probably deserved to be.
But after the outstanding Tedesco executed a try-saving ankle-tap on Albert Kelly, Wests Tigers extended their lead when Richards scored in similar circumstances to
his first with nine minutes remaining in the half, outdoing his previous effort by converting from the sidelines.
Former Titan Boden Thompson then hammered in another nail in the shadows of halftime by fielding Braith Anasta’s bomb for a try confirmed by the video referees.
Paterson was denied a try when the ball bounced off the posts two minutes into the second half; Bird fumbled but replays showed Wests Tigers’ James Gavet getting a hand to Steeden.
But less than another 60 seconds elapsed before late inclusion David Nofaluma scored after some smart lead-up by Brooks; shortly before the second drinks break, Tapau made up for his ealier near miss by steamrolling over for another.
The crowd was told a collarbone injury to Titans five-eighth Bird was not serious but coach John Cartwright was afterwards not completely sure of the prognosis.
“It’s an impact injury … he’s a quick healer,” Cartwright said.
WESTS TIGERS 42 (P Richards 2 L Brooks D Nofoaluma M Taupau J Tedesco B Thompson tries P Richards 7 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (A Kelly A Sezer tries A Sezer 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Referee: G Sutton/D Munro. Crowd: 12,038.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD