Round 11: Willow's match report

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Round 11: Willow's match report

Post by Discussion Bot » Sat 22 May, 2010 2:51 pm

Round 11 of the Telstra NRL premiership saw the Wests Tigers travel to Newcastle on the back of a short turnaround to take on the Newcastle Knights in a must-win clash with both sides currently out of the top 8. Newcastle entered the match coming off a strong win against the Sydney Roosters while the Tigers preparation was anything but smooth, coming off the back of what can only be described as a “heartless” 50-10 flogging at the hands of arch-rivals South Sydney last Sunday. Neither side was at full strength for this match, with the Tigers losing Blake Ayshford and Liam Fulton against Souths to join Keith Galloway, Tim Moltzen and Taniela Tuiaki on the sidelines.

The Tigers had copped a lot of criticism from fans and the media during the week with reports of player unrest and they travelled to Newcastle early in the week to focus on tonight’s match. Many people were questioning the Tigers mental toughness and attitude and this match would prove to be a real acid test for the Tigers and whether they had the ability to bounce back and silence their critics. With rain affecting the field, conditions would not suit an open game of rugby league, so could the Tigers adapt to the conditions and give their fans something to cheer about?

1st half:
The Tigers kicked off in wet and windy conditions and started off enthusiastically in defence. In a positional change, Daniel Fitzhenry moved to fullback with Beau Ryan shifting to the wing. The Tigers were awarded a penalty in the 3rd minute as Mark Flanagan was hindered in a tackle and it was followed up with another penalty from a high shot on Farah. This gave the Tigers good attacking position early however they bombed a try as Geoff Daniela threw an awkward pass to Beau Ryan who was unmarked on the wing. Newcastle hit back with a break of their own and were given a penalty on the back of it giving them good attacking position. They almost scored through Uate who showed great pace to almost regather a chip kick however he lost the ball.

Newcastle were first to score through Ben Rogers which was an individual effort as he stepped through some poor Tigers defence, beating Farah and Fitzhenry with ease. The try was converted to give Newcastle a handy 6-0 lead after 10 minutes. The Knights coughed up the ball off a Farah kick in the 11th minute to put the Tigers in good attacking range of the Knights line. The Tigers were given a penalty late in the tackle count which was fortunate as they were going nowhere. They hit back through Gareth Ellis who ran a great line off Robert Lui to score under the posts and get the Tigers back in the game. Marshall converted the try to level the scores at 6-6 after 15 minutes.

A poor kick on the last tackle from the re-start put the Tigers under pressure as Newcastle counter-attacked. The Tigers defence just managed to hang on though. Geoff Daniela brought the good work undone by dropping the ball cold late in the tackle count for the Tigers. A well placed kick on the last tackle made the Tigers force the ball dead resulting in a line drop out. The Tigers showed some scrambling defence to force the Knights into touch close to the Tigers try line. A penalty went against the Tigers in the 22nd minute with them in good attacking position as Gareth Ellis misheard the refs call of held. Another well placed grubber kick from Newcastle forced Daniel Fitzhenry to take the ball over the sideline, giving Newcastle great attacking position only for them to drop the ball on the first tackle letting the Tigers off the hook.

The Tigers came up with a good set in the 26th minute to force the Knights to work it out of their own end which resulted in Ben Rogers dropping the ball a second time in the match. This gave the Tigers great attacking position. Simon Dwyer entered the match in the 28th minute. Robbie Farah tried to score from dummyhalf and was awarded a penalty for a Tigers player being tackled without the ball. A Benji Marshall grubber kick was forced dead by Newcastle as Rob Lui was streaking through. The Tigers went close to scoring out wide however a cut out pass was desperately caught by the Knights. A Tigers inside ball from Marshall to Fitzhenry went to ground in the 32nd minute giving the Knights a scrum feed just on their own side of halfway. The Tigers defence held solid though with Fitzy taking a good bomb at the end of the set.

The Knights almost scored their second try as the Tigers spilt a grubber kick only for the Knights to knock on in regathering. The Knights had the scrum feed 10 out from the Tigers line though. Some desperate defence from the Tigers saw the Knights lose the ball this time around. A Benji Marshall bomb in the 39th minute saw Newcastle let the ball bounce and it was regathered by Lote Tuqiri who was ankle tapped by Uate 10 metres short of the line. Both teams went to the sheds at halftime locked up at 6-6. The Tigers had made less handling errors than the Knights in the first half however their defence had looked fragile on occasions despite Newcastle missing more tackles. Benji Marshall had clearly taken on a halfback role in tonights match too as Robert Lui remained on the Tigers right side attack.

2nd half:
The Tigers received the ball to start the second half and kicked early in the tackle count however Newcastle started their first set in decent field position. The Knights ran it on the last tackle only to be stopped by a good tackle from Chris Lawrence forcing the ball loose. The Tigers came up with a great break set up by Robbie Farah who found Marshall who offloaded to Fitzy, back to Farah and then to Heighington who was caught 10 metres short of the line. Newcastle fumbled a Tigers kick giving the Tigers a scrum feed and they scored off it through Chris Lawrence who did well to force his way over through Uate. Marshall’s conversion was waved away into the breeze to give the Tigers a 10-6 lead after 46 minutes.

The rain started to pelt down again in the 48th minute as the Tigers brought the ball out from a 20 metre re-start. The Tigers were awarded a penalty in the 49th minute as Beau Ryan did well to catch the Knights markers offside. This gave the Tigers some more good attacking field position. A short chip kick from Marshall was easily caught by Uate out wide and the Knights were given a penalty a couple of tackles later to let the pressure off. The Tigers defence was solid though and they came away with a 20 metre re-start. Beau Ryan came up with a costly error in the 52nd minute though which gave the Knights great attacking position. Newcastle were then awarded a penalty compounding the Tigers problems but they dropped the ball and it was dived upon by Andrew Fifita.

The Tigers were then given a penalty in the 54th minute putting them in good field position. A grubber kick from Rob Lui made the Knights force the ball dead resulting a line drop out. A grubber kick by Marshall was knocked on by Newcastle just short of their try line giving the Tigers another set of 6 in good field position. Benji Marshall forced a pass on the first tackle though which was intercepted by the Knights. Daniel Fitzhenry did very well to catch a difficult bomb in the 60th minute and was smashed by Knights prop Ben Cross but did well to hang onto the ball. The Tigers were then given a much need penalty several tackles later. The Tigers went close to scoring in the 62nd minute however they managed to force yet another line drop out, putting the Knights under more pressure. The Tigers were given another penalty as Chris Heighington was lifted in a dangerous tackle. The Tigers opted to take the shot at goal and it was successful to give the Tigers a 12-6 lead with 16 minutes remaining.

The Tigers were given a penalty late in the tackle count as Benji Marshall had unnecessary pressure placed on the back of his neck in the tackle. Marshall appeared to be in obvious discomfort from the tackle. A poor pass from Marshall saw the Tigers lose ground and then they lost the ball through Mark Flanagan letting the Knights off the hook. The Tigers defence held solid and they came away with a 20 metre re-start with 12 to go. Benji Marshall landed a very important field goal in the 69th minute to give the Tigers a 7 point lead. The Knights were awarded a penalty in the 70th minute as Bryce Gibbs was ruled to have tackled a player high. This gave the Knights great attacking position on the Tigers line and their defence held as the Knights lost the ball forward in trying to regather a cross field kick for Uate. Tuqiri did well to position himself awkwardly for Uate.

Robbie Farah came up with a brilliant 40/20 in the 73rd minute to put the Tigers right on the attack. The Tigers scored through Marshall off the scrum win as he ran into a massive hole off a Rob Lui pass. Marshall converted his own try to give the Tigers a 19-6 lead with 5 minutes remaining. Mitch Brown came onto the field at this point. Farah put in a well placed grubber kick on the last tackle from the re-start to force the Knights to work the ball out from their own end of the field. The Tigers came up with a very good try just before halftime through Geoff Daniela as Rob Lui ran a blindside play and threw a sharp cut-out pass to Mitch Brown who took off down the sideline before throwing the ball in-field which was kicked forward by Daniela who regathered to score a fine try. Marshall missed the conversion as the Tigers ran out deserved 23-6 winners.

Onto the players (stats likely to change and will be updated):

1. Beau Ryan - Under difficult conditions Ryan did well tonight, shifted to the right wing tonight and defensively he had a tough battle against Cooper Vuna. Plenty of good dummyhalf running tonight though which was effective in the conditions and hopefully he shifts back to fullback next week. 112 metres in attack, 5 tackle breaks, 7 tackles, 2 errors, 1 penalty conceded.

2. Lote Tuqiri - Did not get a lot of ball once again and had a tough battle against a much younger quicker Fijian in Akuila Uate. Tuqiri didn't let the young fella get over the top of him though. 75 metres in attack, 4 tackle breaks, 3 tackles.

3. Geoff Daniela - Pretty quiet throughout the game and dropped the ball cold in the first half although I noticed his involvement lift in the second half. Scored a nice try at the end off a break made by Brown. Defensively he struggled in the first half but seemed to pick his defence up a bit in the second half. Not sold on him being a consistent first grader, but he was ok tonight in trying conditions. 58 metres in attack, 1 try, 12 tackles, 1 error.

4. Chris Lawrence - He wasn't prominent in attack tonight althought Lawry scored a very good solo try early in the second half to get the Tigers in front and came up with some excellent one-on-one tackles in the second half to shut down the Knights play. Much improved effort from last week. 57 metres in attack, 3 tackle breaks, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 18 tackles.

5. Daniel Fitzhenry - Shifted to fullback and I thought he was in for a shocker after missing a tackle on Ben Rogers for the Knights first try. Came up with a couple of errors but got better as the match went I thought, he and Ryan came up with excellent dummyhalf running all night and he took a couple of good bombs as well, including a very good one in the second half when he was smashed by Ben Cross. Lacks a couple of yards of pace to be really dangerous but he was solid tonight. 131 metres in attack, 2 offloads, 1 linebreak assist, 2 errors.

6. Benji Marshall - After one of his worst performances last week, he came up with a vastly improved performance tonight and was one of the Tigers best. Played mostly first receiver in the first half and had a good involvement rate early. Forced a line drop out in the first half and scored a nice try to put the game beyond doubt in the second half as well as kicking a nice field goal. Kicking game was better than it has been although still needs work as always, the passing was much better tonight with one terrible pass late in the game the only real blemish. Benji's running game was much improved though and defensively he was ok. 68 metres in attack, 1 try, 3 goals, 1 field goal, 8 tackle breaks, 1 linebreak, 1 offload, 13 tackles, 2 errors.

7. Rob Lui - Pretty quiet in the first half and had me nervous in defence as Corey Patterson gave him plenty of troubles. Lui held on though and his passing game was very good, his kicking game was similar to Benji's, there were a couple of nice grubbers but the long kicks were nothing special. Gave Farah and Marshal good support and set up the Ellis try and put Lawrence and Brown into gaps too. 3 linebreak assists, 2 try assists, 15 tackles.

8. Bryce Gibbs - Didn't make much of an impression in his first stint although he was busy in defence. His second stint looked better and overall Gibbs was solid against a big Knights pack. 85 metres in attack, 18 tackles.

9. Robbie Farah - Took to the field without any strapping on his right arm for the first time in weeks and seemed to get better as the match wore on. Defensively he was busy as usual but came up with a terrible miss on Rogers for the Knights only try. I thought his attack was misdirected at times in the first half, but he seemed to get his act together in the second half. Came up with an excellent 40/20 and some good grubber kicks in the second half too. Hopefully his form is starting to turn around. 76 metres in attack, 1 40/20, 37 tackles.

10. Todd Payten - Not a bad game from Payten tonight. Had a couple of decent runs and defended well. Along with Gibbs, he had the better of the Knights props tonight which was good to see. 77 metres in attack, 17 tackles.

11. Mark Flanagan - Didn't notice him much in his first stint but he looked sharper in his second. I'm not entirely sold on him in the second row as he's not a big guy but he certainly has a go and defends well for the most part. 53 metres in attack, 21 tackles, 1 error.

12. Gareth Ellis - Picked up the channel 9 MOM although I thought it should have gone to Heighno. Ellis was still excellent though and easily of the Tigers best tonight. Ran hard, scored a nice try and defended strongly. The wet conditions suited him too. 145 metres in attack, 1 try, 4 tackle breaks, 1 linebreak, 36 tackles, 1 error.

13. Chris Heighington - Excellent tonight and personally I thought he deserved MOM. Non-stop effort in attack and defence and looked sharp all night in everything he did. Really back to his best form for sure and he really would not look out of place in the NSW SOO side IMO. 147 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 3 tackle breaks, 3 offloads, 24 tackles, 2 missed tackles.

14. Andrew Fifita - Came on a bit later than usual tonight but played an important role before and after halftime. Easily held his own against the big Knights forwards and slowly but surely coming along nicely, strong game overall. 70 metres in attack, 2 tackle breaks, 14 tackles.

15. Junior Moors - Good game tonight, ran hard and defended well and I was impressed with his effort. 112 metres in attack, 11 tackles.

16. Simon Dwyer - Got his first game of the year in first grade and didn't disappoint. I thought he was very solid and had some strong hitups when the game was in arm wrestle mode. Definitely earnt his spot for next week. 47 metres in attack, 13 tackles.

17. Mitch Brown - Came on with 5 minutes left but still did well to motor down the sideline off a Lui cutout pass before throwing a ball back in-field for Daniela to score. 26 metres in attack, 1 linebreak.

Overall Analysis:

Attack:

Given the conditions I thought the Tigers attacked smartly. They were smaller than the Knights and not as quick out wide, however they were quick around the ruck and won the battle here which was most important. Plenty of dummyhalf running from Ryan and Fitzy and Marshall and Farah were both more patient in attack, with Marshall starting to re-discover his running game. Heighington and Ellis were both strong in attack just wide of the ruck. I'm hoping for a dry track next week at Campbelltown as the Tigers started to show some real improvement in the second half.

Defence:

It looked a bit shaky early with Newcastle having the better of things early on, and Farah and Fitzy both came up with poor misses on Ben Rogers. The Knights made 3 linebreaks in the first half however the Tigers scrambled well which was good to see. The defence was tighter again in the second half as the Tigers controlled play better and there were not many missed tackle tonight which was great to see given what the team dished up last week.

Kicking game:

It wasn't great, but it was solid. The Tigers forced a few line dropouts for a change and Farah came up with an excellent 40/20. Farah, Marshall and Lui all came up with a couple of ordinary kicks, but they all came up with some good kicks. It's always going to be a battle for the Tigers to kick well, but tonight it was ok.

Overall team stats (Knights in brackets and stats subject to change):

Try Assists: 3 (0)
Offloads: 8 (2)
Line breaks: 5 (2)
Line break assists: 4 (1)
Tackles made: 265 (336)
1 on 1 tackles: 23 (29)
Missed tackles: 16 (36)
Tackle breaks: 36 (16)
Total metres gained: 1353 (1043)
Possession: 57% (43%)
Completion rate: 38/46 - 83% (24/31 - 77%)
Errors: 10 (11)
Penalties conceded: 5 (9)

I will state right here that I had my doubts as to whether the Tigers could turn it around on the back of some horrendous form, and for the first few minutes I thought they were going to struggle once again, but they held the larger Knights at bay and got into the grind of the game and eventually won the ruck, and the match comfortably. The Tigers second half was particularly pleasing as they did not concede any points and defended strongly, plus the attack got better as the match wore on and the Knights tired. The Tigers completion rate was remarkable given the circumstances and they controlled the match well in the end. They were able to build pressure in the second half through several line drop outs and their energy levels remained high through the entire game.

Where to from here? Well the Tigers can rest up over the weekend and look towards the Warriors at Campbeltown next week. It won't be an easy game but the Tigers will take some much needed confidence into the game and Marshall and Farah are starting to find some form again, with Lui providing able support.

It's great to be talking about a much needed Tigers win again, and a solid one at that. Hope you found the report informative.


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Post by Year of the Tiger » Sat 22 May, 2010 5:37 pm

I thought we looked soft all game against a team (with their injuries) would be lucky to beat the sharks. It wasnt until well into the second half that the knights didnt look like winning. Coming off some of our worst performances I can remember, I think it was a D grade effort that got the result, just. No confidence at all. This team is out of sorts in a big way and IMO the season is close to a shambles. Warriors by 20 but pls prove me wrong.
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Post by NZTiger » Sun 23 May, 2010 6:40 am

Yeah, agree. It was a hard fought slog against a very ordinary side. Wouldve been interesting to see what the score wouldve been on a dry night. We have plenty to work on for the warriors game but the improved handling was a big step and a repeat of that and the same attitude will get us home. I am no where near convinced that this season is 'back on track' but it's a good start, I hope...
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Post by rowdy » Sun 23 May, 2010 7:01 am

Some good things to come out of this game. The three forwards came off the bench and did an excellent job. it was particularly good to see Dwyer run the ball so strongly. Also I thought Lui showed how well he can find weaknesses in the opposition defence. Hopefully he gets a long run without injuries and becomes our dominant first receiver leaving Benji to dowhat he does best.

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Post by tigeress » Mon 24 May, 2010 4:08 pm

Willow, again thanks for your great report, glad it was a win this time. Terrific match in difficult circumstances. I am still worried about Benji's goal kicking, although he wasn't too bad on this ocassion. The main thing is - can they keep up the momentum to go into the next match, especially since their home ground record hasn't been that great. Good win in Newcastle anyway !

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