Cronulla Sharks star Val Holmes has paid the deposit and then some on his preferred fullback position as both Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan finished a 24-12 defeat of Wests Tigers in the dressing sheds.
A scorching opening 40 minutes from the Australia and Queensland flyer in the heat of Sydney’s south west netted Holmes a first-half double, while Dugan’s first outing in Cronulla colours was ended by a knock to the jaw midway through the second half.
Moylan had impressed in his second run with the Sharks as he and Wade Graham threatened constantly down the left edge, which meant Dugan saw little action on the right.
But the former Panther did not return after the break, with fellow recruit Trent Hodkinson slotting in alongside Chad Townsend at the scrum base.
Holmes’s hold on the fullback role has been questioned given the arrival of two bona fide rep-calibre custodians, but with a hand in most everything as the Sharks took a 20-0 half-time lead, his response to the above speculation was emphatic.
The abundance of penalties and handling errors of last season did however remain for the competition heavyweights, while the Tigers can take heart from their second-half fight back after a lacklustre opening.
As the home side conceded two penalties for not getting their feet to the Steeden at the play-the-ball, Holmes first laid on Ricky Leutele’s third-minute try and then crossed himself off a ricocheted kick soon after.
Out the other side of a Sosaia Feki touchdown, Holmes’s scything charge onto a slick Townsend pop pass for his second proved the play of the day.
Upon the resumption co-captain Josh Reynolds was both the Tigers’ point of contact with the officials and their second-half spark as his running game to the fore.
The home side’s persistence paid off after 53 minutes when fullback Corey Thompson – given a run in the No.1 while big name recruit Tui Lolohea played reserve grade – pounced on a Luke Brooks grubber.
Lolohea’s liquorice all-sorts performance in reggies will fuel the fire around Thompson’s round one chances, particularly with the former Bulldog brave at the back before contributing a brilliant 40-metre kick return late in the piece.
As the Sharks took their foot off the pedal the Tigers made it a contest when utility Pita Godinet dummied his way over from acting half to cut Cronulla’s lead to eight, only for a Sione Katoa try in the dying stages to put the match beyond doubt.