Robbie Farah turned back the clock with a virtuoso performance to help the Wests Tigers open the season with back-to-back wins for the second consecutive year after a 34-6 victory against the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday night.
It was the Farah show once again, with the veteran hooker setting up three tries and scoring one of his own to follow up his two-try haul in the opening round of the season against Manly.
Farah continued to justify his decision to play his 17th NRL season after playing a leading hand in his side's victory in front of a crowd of 9881 at a wet and humid Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
The Tigers No.9 was the best player on the field for a second consecutive week, a stunning turnaround considering his career looked like it would come to an end under Michael Maguire at the Rabbitohs two seasons ago.
"I'm just enjoying my footy," Farah said.
"It's fun. I'm back at the Tigers. It's my home. After a couple of rough years there when there was a whole heap of distractions, it's pretty hard to enjoy your footy when there's stuff going on. Now everything is just footy first."
The win takes the Tigers to the top of the ladder for the first time in the history of the joint venture, albeit after two rounds, with another home game next week against the hapless Bulldogs at Campbelltown.
Match: Wests Tigers v Warriors
Round 2 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney
There's a strong possibility they could be heading into the mouth-watering showdown against Ivan Cleary's Panthers in round four with a 3-0 record, something the club hasn't previously achieved.
The Tigers find themselves in an identical position to what they were last year under Ivan Cleary, defending their way to wins against the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm in the opening rounds.
Farah puts on a masterclass
While they've displayed similar resolve in defence under Maguire to notch their two wins this season, they appear to possess more attacking weapons than they did 12 months earlier.
They also have the benefit of having undergone a Maguire pre-season – renowned as one of the toughest in the NRL – which will no doubt have them in condition to avoid a burnout in the back half of the season.
The coach will also be delighted with the return of Josh Reynolds to rugby league, with the five-eighth playing a starring role in reserve grade by scoring two tries and racking up four try assists in the curtain-raiser.
But in the main game the Tigers opened their account through an Esan Marsters penalty goal, but the lead was soon pushed out to 6-0 when Farah threw a majestic cut-out pass to put Corey Thompson over untouched.
"I've known Robbie a long time," Maguire said.
"Everyone knows the type of player Robbie is – he's a pro. To his credit he put a lot of work in the background and he understands this is his last year and he wanted to be at his best for this season. He put a lot of work into the pre-season, and he's showing that now off the back of that."
Then on the stroke of half time Farah's deft grubber saw his former South Sydney teammate Robert Jennings dive on the loose ball to send the Tigers into the sheds with a 12-0 advantage.
The Tigers started the second half with all the ball, however the Warriors did well to turn the ascendancy in their favour when Ken Maumalo dived over in the corner to reduce the deficit to one converted try.
Maumalo plants it down
However just when the Warriors managed to wrestle themselves back into the contest, a penalty against skipper Adam Blair for an infringement in the ruck gifted the Tigers a penalty goal and an eight point buffer. Sam Lisone was placed on report for an apparent crusher tackle on Thomas Mikaele.
Enter Farah, again. The former NSW and Australian hooker took advantage of an injured Warriors player to expose an overlap down a narrow blind side to put Thompson in for his second and give the Tigers and 18-6 lead with 27 minutes remaining.
It took the wind out of the sails of the Warriors, who looked on in disbelief as Maumalo's finger tips pushed a Benji Marshall kick into the arms of Mahe Fonue for the Tigers' fourth try of the night.
Farah then burrowed over from close range for his third try of the year, before Michael Chee Kham put the icing on the cake when he sliced through in the dying minutes to seal an emphatic victory.
"It's something I've always done well throughout my career," Farah said.
"I'd like to think that's a strength of mine – just counting numbers on the short side. When your forwards are running hard and getting quick play the balls and their defensive lines aren't set, it's my job to take advantage of that. Off the back of that they are making me look good."