Round 19 saw the Wests Tigers return to Leichardt Oval for their final home match of the season at the old girl. Today’s game was a must-win for the Tigers, as they were outside the 8 on 16 points and desperate to try and claw back their season against the Cowboys who were placed on 22 points. The Cowboys were dealt a blow losing QLD SOO prop Matt Scott to a knee injury while the Tigers had Robbie Farah playing after being knocked around with tonsilitis during the week. Just who would prove victorious today…
It began in the worst possible fashion for the Tigers as the Cowboys split them up the middle through Anthony Watts who eventually put Matt Bowen in under the posts after 45 seconds. Thurston made no mistake with the kick and it was 6-0 to the Cowboys. The Cowboys continued to bend the Tigers back early who really did look off their game as the Cowboys went up-tempo. The Cowboys extended their lead in the 8th minute through a Thurston penalty goal after Bryce Gibbs held Southern down for too long.
Fortunately for the Tigers they managed to switch on and slowly started to work their way into the game as their defence started to number up. In attack Farah was involved heavily early, trying to catch the Cowboys out around the ruck. Tuiaki was also heavily involved with plenty of his traditional strong running. The Tigers had half a chance to score in the 19th minute as Benji Marshall stepped 4 Cowboys players and then threw a bullet pass towards Beau Ryan, but Ryan was too far back and the pass went over the sideline.
The Cowboys started to give the Tigers a sniff in the 22nd minute as they started to make mistakes in the danger zone. The Tigers made them pay through some Benji Marshall brilliance as he drifted across field from a scrum win, showed the ball and sliced through the Cowboys defence to score in the corner. Benji converted his try from the sideline and at 8-6, they were back in the game. Things turned ugly however as Farah was taken out in backplay during the Benji try and things blew up from the re-start as he and Watts came to blows. Both players were given 10 in the sin bin however the Tigers won the penalty.
The Tigers hit the front for the first time in the match in the 33rd minute through Chris Lawrence. It was a great Tigers try which was started deep inside their own half as John Morris made a break before offloading to Ayshford who was rounded up on the halfway way line. From there Tuiaki set sail across field, getting on the outside of the Cowboys defence before offloading to a flying Marshall who drew in the cover before offloading to Lawrence who had too much speed and crossed out wide. Benji converted and it was 12-8 to the Tigers.
The Tigers now started to look very dangerous as Tim Moltzen split them with a good left foot step and was tackled deep in the Cowboys half. Shortly afterwards the Cowboys split the ball in their danger zone again just as Farah returned to the field. The Tigers made the Cowboys pay as they scored through Tuiaki in the 38th minute. Marshall threw a great ball to Lawrence who found Tuiaki unmarked. Benji’s kick missed and the Tigers went to the sheds leading 16-8.
Possession favoured the Tigers 53% and they had 5 linebreaks to 2.
Fortunately for the Tigers they started the second half better than the first, as the ran hard and defended well. John Morris came up with a great shot on Thurston early on and Ayshford also came up with some strong defence. The Tigers had the first real try scoring opportunity through Blake Ayshford as Tim Moltzen split the Cowboys defence before offloading to Ayshford who couldn’t handle the pass. The Tigers made amends in the 49th minute through Shannon Gallant as he showed great pace to stand up Matt Bowen after Marshall put him through a gap off a nice inside ball. Benji’s kick was unsuccessful and it was 20-8 to the Tigers.
From this point the game degenerated some what as the Tigers lost their way in attack but continued to defend quite well, while the Cowboys could not find the elusive try they needed to get themselves back in the match. Several Tigers mistakes gave the Cowboys good field position but they just could not find a way across the Tigers line. They did build pressure though, and eventually found a way across the Tigers line in the 67th minute through the butter-ball shape of Carl Webb. Thurston converted to bring the Cowboys back to within 6 points with time to spare.
That time was shortlived however, as the Tigers extended their lead back to 12 points as Corey Payne dove over from dummyhalf in the 70th minute after Marshall made a great break from deep inside his own half. Benji converted to give the Tigers a 26-12 lead. 3 minutes later the Tigers went further in front through a Benji Marshall penalty goal and they put the game beyond doubt in the 78th minute as Robbie Farah scored off his own grubber kick. The fulltime score wound up at 34-14 and the Tigers thoroughly deserved their win today after overcoming a sluggish start.
Onto the players:
1. Gallant - Very good game from Gallant today as he was safe at the back, sharp in attack and supported well around the field. Scored a very good try showing excellent pace and did his chances of being re-signed no harm at all. 125 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 3 tackle breaks.
2. Tuiaki - The wrecking ball was very damaging today and the pick of the Tigers outside backs as he caused destruction most times he ran the ball. 193 metres in attack, 1 try, 3 linebreaks, 5 tackle breaks, 2 errors.
3. Ayshford - Looked pretty quiet in attack but was pretty solid all the same. 73 metres in attack, 8 tackles with 4 missed which was not good. 2 errors also. I still like him in FG though.
4. Lawrence - Had a better game today and got across the tryline which I always like to see. Defensively he was in the same boat as Ayshford, with 4 missed tackles. 96 metres in attack, 1 try, 1try assist, 17 tackles, 1 linebreak and 1 linebreak assist.
5. Ryan - Safe is the best way to describe Ryan today. 83 metres in attack, 5 tackles and 6 tackle breaks.
6. Marshall - Channel 9 MOM and 2UE MOM. Benji was pretty dangerous today and looked to spark the Tigers regularly today. He came up with 2 errors, but the rest of his stats overshadow that by far. 1 try, 5 goals, 12 tackles with 2 missed, 151 metres in attack, 6 tackle breaks, 2 linebreaks, 2 try assists and 2 linebreak assists in a dominating performance.
7. Moltzen - Tim was also good today I thought. Showed very good pace on several occasions and has definitely helped relieve some of the pressure on Benji IMO. 88 metres in attack which included 2 linebreaks. 1 error, 13 tackles with 2 missed and 5 tackle breaks in a solid effort.
8. Gibbs - Went ok I thought, even if he did give away his customary penalty. Today all the forwards shared the workload well I thought. 102 metres in attack, 23 tackles with 3 missed.
9. Farah - Had a pretty good game I thought. Couldn’t seem to win a penalty in catching the Cowboys markers being offside, but he scored a nice try to finish the game after sustaining a nasty hit to the head in the first half. Also copped 10 in the bin after a get-square against Watts. 61 metres in attack, 1 try, 32 tackles, 3 tackle breaks, 1 offload, 1 error and kicked ok in general play.
10. Payten - Almost non-existant in the first 20 minutes in attack, but the Cowboys majority ball and Todd did defend well. Became a bit more involved as the game wore on. 82 metres in attack and 26 tackles. Not really having any impact this season though.
11. Ellis - Pick of the forwards along with Skando in attack. Gave away a couple of penalties though which let him down. Otherwise Gareth was good though IMO. Ran for 107 metres, 2 linebreak assists, 28 tackles with 3 missed.
12. Galea - What he lacked in attack, in this case 75 metres, he made up for in defence with 28 tackles to top the count. Definitely not a flashy player but he does the dirty stuff around the ruck. Still unsigned for next season. Will he stay?
13. Payne - 2 tries in 2 weeks, something must have Corey all fired up. Did bugger all in attack until he scored with 38 metres. 16 tackles, 4 tackle breaks and 1 linebreak. Still no idea where he will be next season but he was ok today, if a bit quiet.
14. Morris - Had a good impact when he came on, flattening Thurston twice and offering good service from dummyhalf when Farah was in the bin. Decent game from Morris I have to say. 50 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 24 tackles with 2 missed.
15. Schirnack - Not bad. Worked hard today with 49 metres in attack from 6 runs, came up with 12 tackles. Could offer value off the bench but I think Mataka may offer just a little bit more at this stage.
16. Skandalis - Went pretty well again, the only forward to make over 100 metres with 101. Only made 7 tackles as the Tigers were enjoying a lot of possession when he was on.
17. Dwyer - Came on in the 59th minute and handled himself well I thought. Limited involvement in attack but he defended well and showed good enthusiasm. Could be one to watch next season as he turns 21 next January and currently tips the scales at 102kg. Bound to be a bigger, stronger prospect next season. 24 metres in attack and 10 tackles.
Pretty good. The Tigers backline shared largely shared the spoils today with 4 of the 6 tries going their way. Benji and Moltzen directed play well and both came up with a couple of linebreaks of their own. Tuiaki was damaging once again and Gallant did well at the back. Ayshford and Lawrence were solid but didn’t receive a whole lot of ball I thought. The forwards held their own after initially being bent early. Ellis ran hard, as did Skando and Gibbs, but it was one of those matches where the forwards did not star.
Woeful for the first minute, but then it stiffened up, and the Tigers held the Cowboys to 14 points which was a good effort as they had Thurston and Bowen on the field. Ellis, Gibbs, Payten, Galea all defended strongly around the middle of the field. Morris and Farah were again busy in D too. The big letdown for mine was the 8 missed tackles between Ayshford and Lawrence, who missed 4 each. Thurston was well marked though and Morris flattened him twice which was great to see.
Not bad but not great either. Bowen was certainly limited and kept in check. Farah kicked reasonably well, Moltzen didn’t kick much and Benji put a couple of the deadball line again. Farah’s grubber kick for himself was the only attacking kick the Tigers put in that hurt the Cowboys today.
Final match stats (Cowboys in brackets):
Errors: 12 (9)
Completions: 26/38 (25/34)
Penalties: 7 (5)
Scrums: 6 (5)
Tackles: 249 (269)
1 on 1 tackles: 26 (30)
Missed tackles: 27 (39)
Line breaks: 11 (3)
Offloads: 6 (11)
Try Assists: 3 (1)
Line dropouts: 1 (0)
Overall it was a very good win for the Tigers. They started poorly and were off the pace early. The bye might have had something to do with it but the side worked its way into the match and Benji sparked the team into action from around the 20th minute where they took control of the game. Marshall came good with a big one while Robbie while Tuiaki was a handful all afternoon. Moltzen looks capable at 7 and Gallant did well at the back. For the forwards, no one really stood out IMO. Ellis was solid again, Skando went forward and Gibbs was ok. Dwyer did well off the bench and tackled well and looks likely for next season with some more size and strength bound to improve him.
While it was a much needed win, the Tigers have a tough away trip to Canberra next Sunday who will be smarting after turning in an ordinary effort against Penrith. They are a big side who will no doubt try and take the smaller Tigers through the middle, so the Tigers will have to watch for Canberra’s big men trying to get away offloads. It’s a winnable game of course and the key will once again be the forwards aiming up and Farah and Marshall cutting loose around the ruck and out wide.
Hope you found the report informative.