Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs: Five key points
Sat 11 Jun, 2016, 7:00am
By Martin Gabor, National Correspondent , NRL.com
Not one, but two contenders for try of the year
Who said kick-offs were solely meant for big men to cart the ball 10 metres forward?
Not the Wests Tigers.
The black and golds had everyone in awe when they audaciously let the ball sing from a kick-off in the 20th minute to go coast-to-coast for one of the tries of the season.
Luke Brooks, Tim Simona, James Tedesco, Kevin Naiqama and Mitch Moses all combined to make the initial break before the Tigers five-eighth linked up with Simona to race away and complete the incredible team effort.
If that wasn’t enough, the Tigers went through eight sets of hands to score a crucial try two minutes before half-time to give them breathing space going into the break.
Elijah Taylor got the move going with a couple of classy touches in the middle of the field before Moses instinctively batted the ball to Naiqama; the centre doing enough to draw and pass to send David Nofoaluma on his way for the four-pointer.
On any other night, Alex Johnston’s effort to bat back an Adam Reynolds kick for Kirisome Auva’a’s 73rd minute try would have been the biggest talking point. On this occasion, it barely got a mention.
South Sydney’s injury crisis deepens
The Rabbitohs went into Friday night’s game already missing Luke Keary, George Burgess, John Sutton and Hymel Hunt, and things got even worse for the 2014 premiers with two more stars joining their already bulging casualty ward.
The hero of their grand final success, Sam Burgess, was forced from the field in the 26th minute and didn’t return.
Souths coach Michael Maguire said it was too early to diagnose the Englishman but revealed there was an outside chance he could have come back on if necessary.
“They’re not quite sure at the moment,” Maguire said when asked about Burgess’s condition.
"He’s got a lot of pain in his shoulder so they’re still having a look at that one. He actually said at the backend of the game that he thought he was an opportunity to come back out, so that’s a positive for next week.
The news wasn’t so good for teammate Bryson Goodwin who left the field in the 30th minute.
“Bryson’s got a suspected broken arm so we’ll have to wait and see on that one,” his coach said.
Humble Taylor deflects the praise
Tim Simona’s try was so good that it deserves a second mention.
Ordinarily a head coach would be glad to draw praise for a tactical masterstroke, but on this occasion Wests Tigers mentor Jason Taylor refused to take the credit for the set play.
“Craig Sandercock, our assistant coach, that was his,” Taylor admitted.
"He came up with that for us this week.
“I will say that he had a scrum play that we tried to use last week which was rubbish. We got nothing out of that one but I was very complimentary to him in the box when we scored that try.”
Alex Johnston celebrates his half century in style
While he would have traded his individual accolades for a win, Alex Johnston will most likely look back at his 50th NRL game fondly.
The Souths winger crossed for his side’s first two tries before turning provider with a spectacular bat-back late in the game to set up a Kirisome Auva’a try.
Having already represented the Kangaroos last year, Souths coach Michael Maguire said his star winger was on the verge of future rep honours if he keeps us his current form.
“Someone like ‘AJ’, I think he’s growing as a young chap,” Maguire said.
"To play 50 games at his age…we’ve got something special there if he keeps working at his game and puts himself into those positions. I think we’ve definitely got a big star.
“He’s played a bit of rep footy already and if he keeps working at it then he’ll have those opportunities again.”
Farah earns his stripes off the bench
The biggest talking point leading into the game was Jason Taylor’s decision to start Robbie Farah from the bench.
It might have been a move that surprised most pundits, but the Tigers coach appeared justified as the NSW No.9 put in his most complete club performance of 2016.
Farah ran for 72 metres and made 25 tackles in his 54-minute stint; his night capped off by a long-range try courtesy of an offload from Sauaso Sue before dummying past Cody Walker.
Tigers five-eighth Mitchell Moses said Farah had been unfazed by his benching and was pleased to see him play a starring role on the night.
“He took it like any other player should take it and he grabbed it with both hands,” Moses said after the game.
“Just having his presence out there when he came on was massive. You could see in his footy that he was sweet.”