The attacking abilities of the individual Wests Tigers players proved to be the difference between the two teams in their comfortable 25-12 victory over the St George-Illawarra Dragons.
The young Tigers trio of Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses and James Tedesco just had too much flair and skill for their opponents. They created the tries that made the difference in the contest. These kids are so confident in their own ability and now look so comfortable in NRL football that I suspect they will produce many wins for this club in years to come.
Tigers breeze past Dragons
The Wests Tigers have put aside a week of off-field drama to easily beat the Dragons, 25-12.
The Dragons, by comparison, played without confidence and look very uncomfortable when trying to put together attacking sequences.
Possession statistics will show that both teams had equal opportunity to win the game. Both teams completed 29 sets of six, from the 35 opportunities they had with the ball. The tackle counts ended up almost identical with the Dragons completing 285 tackles to the West Tigers 288.
If anything, the Dragons had more opportunities to play attacking football of the two teams. Sixty per cent of the game was played in the Tigers’ half of the field. The Dragons had 40 tackles with the ball inside the Tigers’ 20m zone. The Tigers only had 14 play-the-balls inside the Dragons’ 20 zone.
By full-time, though, the Tigers had crafted four tries. That was a pretty fair effort given their limited opportunities at the Dragons’ end of the football field. The Dragons only managed to cross the line twice despite being gifted plenty of possession within striking distance of the Tigers’ goal line.
One should praise the Tigers’ defensive effort, particularly at their own end of the field, to keep the Dragons to such a meagre total. They worked hard for each other and kept turning up in numbers on the big plays to repel their opposition. The truth of the matter is that the Tigers were aided by the fact the Dragons were throwing very little at them by the way of attack.
The inability of the Dragons to manufacture tries has been a talking point for sometime now. It was there for all to see again yesterday. In my old-fashioned way, I have always believed there are five basic elements that must come together to produce constructive and consistent attacking football.
There is a lot more to building great attacking play than the simplicity of what I’m about to describe right here; but without these basics in place, I don’t believe any team can be consistently effective in attack. Firstly, you need to be able to go forward. The Dragons at times actually do this pretty well. They have no trouble advancing the ball upfield.
Secondly, you need to have direction. You need to have an idea of where the set of six is headed and where you want to aim your attacking plays. Again, there is not a great deal of difference between the Dragons and other teams in the premiership in this regard. Whether or not it is the right style of football for the players they have available is open to discussion. But they work to similar positions on the field as any of the other teams in this competition.
Thirdly, you need delivery. How are you going to deliver the ball to your playmakers so they are in good position to run their plays? This is where things start to break down a little bit for the Dragons.
They have a limited number of players with creative skills in their team. This makes it difficult to disguise the plays they are about to execute. The ball also seems to get to them very slowly and far too deep to put any real pressure on the opposition defensive line.
There is also very limited variety now the ball is delivered to their creative players. Every time Benji Marshall or Gareth Widdop caught the ball yesterday, the Tigers rushed them with quick moving defence, or defenders had quickly shuffled into position to close down the available opportunities. It was all very predictable and tends to repeat itself over and over during the 80 minutes of a match.
Next, you need to know how to execute some plays. This involves how and where the ball-player runs with the ball in hand, teasing the defensive line, combining with the running patterns of the potential ball receivers. This is all about, sleight of hand, looking for a reaction from the defensive players and punishing any mistakes or indecision by putting the ball in front of men running hard into holes.
This is pretty much where it all falls apart for the Dragons. It takes too long to describe in words exactly what I’m talking about. Suffice to say, the Dragons need a lot of work on this part of their game.
Finally, you need players with great football instincts. More often than not, tries in rugby league are not scored by great plays; they are scored by great players. Great players can make the most basic of attacking structures look great. Hell, great players can make coaches look great.
The Dragons play very little football on instinct.
The Tigers, on the other hand, have instinct to burn. They run similar patterns and similar plays to the Dragons. By comparison, they deliver the ball to their playmakers faster, they execute their running patterns better and they know what reactions they want from the opposition defensive line.
The big difference is that they have players who also play on instinct. They react quickly to what’s presented before them. They feed off each other’s skills and they trust each other’s abilities without hesitation. That’s where the Tigers excelled in this match. It was the difference between the two teams.
If the Tigers had as much possession at the Dragons’ end of the field as the Dragons enjoyed at theirs, I suspect they would have scored another three or four tries, so potent is their attacking game.
Quite simply, the Tigers kids just do it better