While the Lisa Fiaola Sharks suffered a tight loss to Wests Tigers, their Tarsha Gale counterparts powered home to secure a resilient win as the junior rep season kicked off at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday.
Despite matching the Tigers with four tries, goal kicking was the deciding factor for the under-17 Lisa Fiaola Cup team in a 20-18 loss. The youngsters were left to rue a series of handling errors but showed glimpses of their exciting potential.
In the following match - one of four fixtures at PointsBet Stadium, with the men's Harold Matthews and SG Ball sides both beating Balmain - the under-19 Tarsha Gale girls had their mettle tested by the Tigers in a see-sawing affair.
After shooting to an early lead with tries to Arianna Ruwoldt and Koolee Harbour, they found themselves trailing 18-14 and under the pump in the second half.
However, Tia-Jordyn Vasilovski crossed for her second try before NRLW squad member Manilita Takapautolo went over in the 49th minute to seal a 22-18 win.
Westpac Tarsha Gale Cup | Round One Highlights
Although his charges fell short, Lisa Fiaola coach Robbie Taylor was proud. Four-pointers to Felila Fakalelu, Tameika Dorahy, Milla Caine and Chloe Shephard put the Sharks ahead 18-16, but a conceded try with five minutes left broke their hearts.
"We stuck to our game plan. We wanted to move the ball around, test their big forwards, but unfortunately we couldn't get over the line," Taylor said.
"We made a lot of mistakes we need to own. We just gave away too much ball. They were still in the game right up till the last minute, but we just couldn't hold on.
"At half time I just asked them to give everything out there, just fight for each other, which they did. I was really happy with how we went.
"There's no denying the fact that they did go out and play really well together … Clean up our mistakes and I think we'll go a long way."
Tarsha Gale coach Isaac Michael loved the spirit shown by his team as they withstood the Tigers' fightback and regained their composure.
"The start of the second half we missed the jump and they came out hard," he said.
"But the talk all week was (about) belief and believing that we have what it takes to stick it out the whole game, no matter what the opposition is throwing at us.
"It was really good to see that the girls dug deep, got back a couple of tries and then finished up on top. You want that level of competition where you have to push all the way through and you can't switch off at any stage.
"It's a really good mental challenge for players at this age."
Both junior women's teams play at home again this Saturday (February 10) against the Parramatta Eels. Match information will be published during the week.
Photos and quotes courtesy of Steve Montgomery from ourfootyteam.com.au.