Illawarra Cutters coach Ian Millward has refused to hit the panic button after his side conceded 30 unanswered points in a disappointing first round NSW Cup loss on Saturday.
Laced with Dragons-contracted players deemed surplus to requirement for the NRL opener, the Cutters squandered an early 10-point lead before succumbing to the Wests Tigers 34-14 at WIN Stadium.
Instead it was the Tigers' full-time NRL squad member Blake Austin who did the damage for the black and golds, scoring a hat-trick of tries in a personal points haul of 22.
But Millward, coaching his first NSW Cup game after a decorated English Super League career, said there were plenty of areas for his side to work on after wilting somewhat on a warm afternoon.
"We started strongly and we looked pretty fluent, but we lacked a couple of key areas on a really warm day," he said. "Our kicking game wasn't great and we struggled for a bit of field position as a result.
"I think there were a lot of players that had some positives and there were some areas where we need to improve. The disappointing thing is we had a lead and couldn't hold onto it."
Young winger Yaw Kiti Glymin bagged a double within 22 first-half minutes to sandwich a try to another Dragons-contracted player in Peter Mata'utia as the Cutters raced to a 14-4 lead.
But from then on it was all the Tigers as Austin dummied his way over from close range and then engineered a try right before the break with a 40/20 before scoring on the subsequent set.
Austin, Corey Brown and Ben Murdoch-Masila all crossed after half-time as the Tigers coasted to a 20-point win.
Millward said his side would be better for their trip across the Tasman to take on the New Zealand Warriors at Eden Park next Saturday.
"The teams are big so I can understand why the Cutters have tried to recruit a few bigger bodies," he said. "It's only game one and I'll learn a lot out of the game.
"We contributed partially to [our own demise] rather than the opposition. We coughed the ball up a little bit too much and paid the price for it.
"Our go forward was strong, but we became susceptible in defence [as the game wore on]."
WESTS TIGERS 34 (Blake Austin 3, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Corey Brown, Ben Murdoch-Masila tries; Austin 5 goals) defeated ILLAWARRA CUTTERS 14 (Yaw Kiti Glymin 2, Peter Mata'utia tries; Sam Williams goal) at WIN Stadium.