The team meeting behind the Tigers’ Dragons ambush
Author Brad Walter Senior Reporter Timestamp Sun 15 Jul 2018, 06:20 PM
A vow to return to the formula which had earned them early season success was behind Wests Tigers’ stunning ambush of St George Illawarra Dragons as they secured the 200th win in the history of the joint venture to keep their finals hopes alive.
After slipping out of the top eight with successive losses to Sydney Roosters, Cronulla, Canberra and Gold Coast, the Tigers agreed at a team meeting last week that they needed to go back to basics if they were to save their season.
With a massive turnover of players during the off-season, Tigers coach Ivan Cleary focused heavily on defence and the team won five of their first six matches.
The idea was that the Tigers would work on other areas of their game as the season went on but as the team’s attack improved their defence dropped off.
“That is one of things we spoke about, just going away from some of the fundamental things we were doing good at the start of the year and which were helping us get those wins,” veteran second rower Chris Lawrence told NRL.com.
“We were trying to grow our game as the year went on but I think were probably losing sight of some of those key areas, like the defence and just the little effort areas.”
The Tigers players decided they needed to revert to what they were doing well in the opening rounds and their rediscovered defensive resolve frustrated the Dragons as they sought to join South Sydney at the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder.
“Going into this game we just had a team meeting and wanted to go back to the basics and figure out where we went from the first couple of rounds,” centre Esan Marsters said.
The Tigers were fresh from a bye last weekend and had spent two weeks plotting their 20-16 upset win, which moves them to within six points of eighth-placed Brisbane following the Broncos’ loss to the Warriors on Sunday.
Cleary spent the entire match directing play from the sideline, while the experience of Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah ensured the Tigers remained their composure as the Dragons tried to snatch a late win.
Playing their first match together since round 26 of the 2013 season, Marshall and Farah were the only Tigers players to have previously experienced victory at Jubilee Oval for the club.
Farah had a hand in all three of his team’s tries, while a bone-rattling tackle on Sims jarred the ball loose and saved an almost certain try, while his kicking game pinned the Dragons down their own end and eased pressure on the Tigers late in the match.