Taylor left fuming over injury to star fullback
RUGBY LEAGUE: Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor admits he is confused how Gold Coast forward Ryan James is playing this weekend while his star player James Tedesco's season is over.
James and the Titans managed to convince the NRL judiciary to downgrade the charge against the star forward after his hit on a stumbling Tedesco broke his jaw last weekend.
"I think it's hard for people to rationalise that you can break somebody's jaw with your forearm and not get suspended at all,” Taylor said.
"We're disappointed but we need to get on with what we're doing and that's preparing for our biggest game of the year.”
Taylor is aware of the importance of keeping his and his players' focus on their crucial clash with the Panthers tomorrow night, which could decide their season.
A loss and the Tigers can start planning for 2017.
Dwelling too much on losing their star fullback, who underwent surgery this week, was not going to change anything for Taylor, who at least has young half Luke Brooks returning from injury against a Panthers side fighting their own battle to stay in the top eight.
Brooks was close to playing last weekend in the 19-18 loss to the Titans but Taylor wanted to make sure he was 100% with the finals so close.
"It is really good timing, there's no doubt about that, that we get Brooksy back on the week that we lose James. It doesn't change a whole lot in regards to how we're going to play,” Taylor said.
The Tigers face a tough end to the regular season with matches against the Warriors and Raiders looming, and with Tedesco out for the rest of the season they need their young halves on the field.
However it could be all over for them if they don't bring their A-game against Penrith, which spanked Newcastle 42-6 last weekend and is a tough side to control when its get rolling.
Jordan Rankin, a boom youngster several years ago with the Titans, is starting to play consistently and with maturity, and Taylor will start him in Tedesco's No.1 jumper against classy Panthers fullback Matt Moylan.
"We got a dose of it the last couple of weeks and that is to play under the pressure of needing to perform and needing to get a result,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile the Warriors, who are also walking the finals tightrope and face the Cowboys on Saturday night in Townsville, are wary of Johnathan Thurston's kicking game after being badly exposed by Adam Reynolds last weekend.
The Warriors' back three struggled to defuse Reynolds' kicking bombardment and have spent the week working on some adjustments anticipating Thurston will adopt similar tactics and give them a thorough examination.
The Cowboys though will be on high alert for the clever kicking game of Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson, a master at forcing repeat sets.
"We've had a lot of movement from the outside backs, back-rowers, and we're a genuine option to run the ball on the last, which obviously brings the defence up and maybe spaces the defence out a little bit as well,” Johnson said.
"Having that deception around me allows me to put the kicks in easier.”
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said Johnson's hard work on his general kicking game was paying dividends.
"Our kicking game has been really good and Shaun has been a big part of that,” he said.
"It does allow us to put lots of pressure on the opposition and those opportunities come off the back of some real co-ordination on last plays.
"Every team wants to apply pressure. We're doing okay.”