Round 8 of the Telstra NRL premiership saw the Wests Tigers return to the newly renovated Campbelltown Stadium for the first time this season to take on the Sydney Roosters for the second time this season. Round 1 saw the Wests Tigers cop a pummelling from the Roosters to the tune of 44-32 in stifling conditions. Both teams entered the match on 8 competition points and facing several injury concerns. The Roosters entered the match minus halfback Mitchell Pearce and backrower Daniel Conn while the Tigers were missing halves Tim Moltzen and Robert Lui.
With the Tigers lacking a genuine halfback, this saw regular hooker and captain Robbie Farah move to halfback for today’s game in an effort to get more quality ball to Benji Marshall, while backrower Liam Fulton moved to hooker and big Todd Payten was a late inclusion to the starting side with Mark Flanagan dropping back to the bench and Junior Moors dropping out of the side. Western Suburbs halfback and captain Nathan Waters was named on the interchange bench for his first grade debut. The last couple of matches had seen the Tigers drop off from their good early form with plenty of dropped ball and massive tackle counts. If they were going to win today, they needed to reverse this trend.
With a big home crowd on hand and warm, but otherwise perfect weather, how did today’s match unfold…
The Tigers kicked off and got away to a good start with Todd Carney knocking on from a straight forward pass. This gave the Tigers a scrum feed 30 out from the Roosters line. On the next set the Tigers were given a penalty 10 metres out in front as Keith Galloway was held down too long in the tackle. The Tigers opted to take the 2 points on offer and Marshall made no mistake with the kick to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead after 3 minutes. The Tigers were playing nice and direct early on through the middle and chanced their arm out wide through Blake Ayshford on the last tackle in the 5th minute but he was caught with the ball 25 out from the Roosters line. Another penalty to the Tigers in the 7th minute saw them go on the attack deep inside the Roosters half. The Tigers went close to scoring through Lote Tuqiri as he beat a tackle from Sam Perret however Minichello was able to bump Lote over the sideline.
Another dropped ball from the Roosters in the 9th minute again saw the Tigers go on the attack and they were promptly awarded another penalty as Keith Galloway was held down too long for the second time. Unusually they opted for the penalty goal once again and Marshall missed the conversion, hitting the upright and letting the Roosters off the hook, but again they coughed up the ball moments later. This time the Tigers came up with their first mistake for the match as Gareth Ellis dropped a high pass and the Roosters were awarded a relief penalty shortly after. Some good defence from the Tigers saw them hold the Roosters out. The Tigers again looked dangerous on the next set and nearly scored through a cross field kick. A lost ball from Lote Tuqiri on the first tackle saw the Tigers put under pressure and it was compounded by giving away a penalty in close range to the posts. They opted for the tap and Todd Carney again lost the football which was followed up by Chris Lawrence losing the ball and giving the Roosters another chance. Again the Tigers defence was equal to the task but the Tigers knocked the ball out forward which gave the Roosters yet another chance to crack the Tigers.
The Roosters had a chance on the last tackle through a grubber kick but it was knocked on in the Tigers in-goal letting them off the hook. Todd Carney landed a 40/20 in the 21st minute which put the Tigers under more pressure. Again the Roosters were unable to handle the ball though and thankfully the Tigers were able to take a quick breather. A great break by Tigers prop Andrew Fifita saw the Tigers tackled short of the Roosters line in the 26th minute however a poor cross field kick from Robbie Farah saw the good play go unrewarded. Some great play by the Tigers in the 27th minute as they counter-attacked a Roosters in-goal kick was brought undone by Daniel Fitzhenry knocking on from dummyhalf as they had the Roosters backpeddling. The Tigers defence again held firm and they came away from their own end.
A great kick by Liam Fulton in the 30th minute saw the Roosters having to work the ball off their own tryline. Todd Carney was then penalised for an obstruction giving the Tigers a penalty 30 metres out from the Roosters line. This time the Tigers took the tap and attacked the Roosters line. A grubber kick by Farah saw the Roosters spill the ball only for Tuqiri to knock it on unfortunately. The Tigers were given a penalty in the 33rd minute as Lote Tuqiri was lifted above the horizontal in a tackle. A great break by Chris Heighington in the 34th minute saw him cross for the Tigers first try of the afternoon as he ran onto a nice inside pass from Benji Marshall. Heighno had too much pace for Minichello. Marshall converted the try to give the Tigers a handy 8-0 lead 5 minutes out from halftime.
A chip and chase from Marshall 4 minutes out from halftime looked dangerous for the Roosters however Minichello was able to regather the ball. Some more good scrambling defence from the Tigers saw them force a mistake from the Roosters just before halftime and they were then given a penalty to help them get out of their danger zone. There was no further change to the score though as the Tigers went to halftime with an 8-0 lead with both sides guilty of poor ball handling in the warm conditions. The Tigers defence looked very solid for the most part though, however the second half was going to come down to who could control the ball and maintain discipline.
The Tigers received from the kick off and got away to a safe start however the kick from Farah went dead giving the Roosters a 20 metre re-start. The Tigers gave away a penalty though which undid the good work. The Roosters crossed for their first try in the 42 minute as the Tigers goal line defence suddenly gave way. Carney landed the conversion and it was now 8-6 to the Tigers. A settling kick from the Tigers in the 46th minute saw them find touch 10 out from the Roosters line. A lost ball from Sam Perrett in the 48th minute gave the Tiges their best chance for the second half so far. The Tigers attacked the right side of the field however they ran out of space and a Blake Ayshford offload went over the sideline. Keith Galloway came up with a good shot on Kenny-Dowall in the 51st minute as the Roosters had a roll on.
A good break and offload from Benji Marshall to Chris Heighington looked good for the Tigers and a last tackle bomb from Farah was caught by Chris Lawrence however he was unable to offload the ball close to the Roosters line. Tod Payten was completely flipped in the 54th minute which gave the Tigers a penalty. The game blew up on the next tackle as Chris Heighington was hit in a solid tackle from Anasta who looked to go on with it. Blake Ayshford took offence and several players then rushed in. Anasta was placed on report and the Tigers were given another penalty. The Tigers were unable to crack the Roosters line though. The Tigers were next to give away a penalty for inside the 10 in the 56th minute.
The Roosters attacked the Tigers line and the Tigers forced a mistake through Gareth Ellis but he was ruled to have knocked the ball forward giving the Roosters another crack. It looked a hard call on the replay. The Roosters hoisted the ball high on the last and Beau Ryan was unable to get a good grab on the ball knocking it forward. The Tigers were then penalised for offside however they came up with some great scramble defence to deny the Roosters. A grubber kick from Farah found touch just short of the Roosters line in the 61st minute. The Roosters lost the ball on the next set which gave the Tigers a great chance to attack the Roosters line. It was to no avail as debutant Nathan Waters knocked the ball on first tackle as Tim Sheens looked to the heavens for help.
The Tigers looked to up the tempo in the 64th minute as they punched holes up the Roosters ruck however a kick from Marshall was taken safely by Phil Graham. An attempted 40/20 from Todd Carney found touch just short of the Tigers 20 in the 65th minute. Finally a nice grubber from Marshall saw the Tigers force their first line drop-out of the match in the 67th minute. A great run from Ellis saw him almost score. A poor kick from Marshall let the Roosters off the hook though. The Roosters repaid the favour moments later through Todd Carney as Gareth Ellis put pressure on him and he lost the ball. A grubber kick from Waters looked too strong but it sat up and gave the Tigers another line drop-out with 9 minutes remaining. The Tigers were again unable to score though as Benji Marshall and Liam Fulton came together to lose the ball in a mistimed pass.
Robbie Farah found touch 15 out from the Roosters line in the 73rd minute as the heat was taking its toll on both sides. The Roosters launched a massive bomb in the 74th minute as Beau Ryan was again unable to handle the bomb. Ryan was tackled by Minichello without the ball as Todd Carney touched down to score under the posts. The video ref ruled a try which broke the hearts of Tigers fans as the Roosters hit the lead with 5 minutes remaining. Carney made no mistake with the conversion and the Roosters now led 12-8. The Tigers started to throw the ball around but the Roosters defence held firm. The Tigers had one last crack at the Roosters in the final minute as Andrew Fifita broke through the line to offload to Marshall who was caught just short of the game. Fifita went from dummyhalf and was caught inches short as the Roosters ran out 12-8 winners in a match which the Tigers never really looked like losing, but somehow did.
Onto the players (stats subject to change once updated):
1. Beau Ryan - Today Ryan’s biggest weakness was the bomb. Twice in the second half Anasts hoisted the ball high into the sun, and twice Ryan failed to get a clean take on the ball. The first resulted in a Roosters penalty for offside and the second, well they scored, even though it shouldn’t have been a try. Take that out of Beau’s game and he was good, but defusing the high kicks really let him down today. Some good dummyhalf running and decent kick returns were the highlights for him. 181 metres in attack, 4 tackle breaks, 5 tackles, 1 offload and 2 errors.
2. Lote Tuqiri - Had to go looking for the ball a bit today which was frustrating because most times when he did get the ball, he broke tackles and looked dangerous. The Tigers left side attack failed to click into geat today which was a shame for Lote. He had several strong runs during the game and defensively was fine although not really tested other than one grubber kick placed behind him in the first half. Good game with limited opportunities I thought. 106 metres in attack, 9 tackle breaks, 3 errors.
3. Blake Ayshford - Received a couple of nice passes in the first half and looked sharp however that changed in the second half when he received very little ball. Takes 3 players with him each time he runs the ball which is good and defensively he was fine today. Just didn’t get the ball he needed really. 86 metres in attack, 26 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 1 offload and 2 errors.
4. Chris Lawrence - Quiet in attack again today, didn’t receive great ball but came up with a couple of half breaks which went no further than that. Defensively he came up with some very good one on one tackles although he did miss a couple. Defensively he was better than last week though. 58 metres in attack, 22 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 1 error.
5. Daniel Fitzhenry - Apart from one knock-on in the first half, Fitzy went alright today I thought. He had a few good runs out of dummyhalf and made over 100 metres in attack for the first time in a long time. 109 metres in attack, 5 tackles, 1 error.
6. Benji Marshall - A better game than last week although he still wasn’t able to get the Tigers across the line today. Tried to spark the team in the second half but just lacked options it seemed. When he ran the ball he looked good on his feet and today you could see him signalling to players as to where he wanted them to run. Kicking game was poor for the most part which let him down although he did put players into a couple of holes such as Heighno for the Tigers only try of the game. 76 metres in attack, 7 tackle breaks, 11 tackles, 1 error.
7. Robbie Farah - Tried hard at 7 but it didn’t work and it looked like he stifled Marshall on occasion throughout the game. Kicking game was poor with a couple of decent touch finders his only highlight there. Not surprisingly the Tigers looked a lot sharper in attack when Farah got into dummyhalf on several occasions. After today, playing him at 7 is not the way to go IMO. 74 metres in attack, 15 tackles.
8. Bryce Gibbs - Much better game today and came up with several good runs and some good defence once again. Didn’t come up with any errors or penalties which was also pleasing to see. Fair chance for the City rep team IMO. 123 metres in attack and 26 tackles.
9. Liam Fulton - Provided reasonable service to the Tigers forward pack however the running game out of dummyhalf let him down. It’s hard to be too critical when comparing him to Farah in this regard, but you could see the difference in attack when Farah did get into dummyhalf. Topped the tackle count once again in a tireless effort. 52 metres in attack, 48 tackles.
10. Keith Galloway - Much stronger today compared to last week and probably earnt himself a rep jumper for City. Ran hard and had several strong charges and came up with some good hits in defence. Still room for improvement, but KG played well today along with Gibbs. 114 metres in attack, 17 tackles, 4 missed tackles, 1 offload.
20. Todd Payten - A late inclusion to the side at the expense of Junior Moors and went alright I thought. Ran the ball well and tackled well and looked to pull up ok which was the main thing. 95 metres in attack, 24 tackles.
12. Gareth Ellis - Strong game from Ellis today and was a real handful in the second half and did everything he could to help get the Tigers over the line. Had some powerful runs and defended well as always. 119 metres in attack, 1 linebreak 30 tackles, 3 offloads, 2 errors.
13. Chris Heighington - Again one of the Tigers best today and went well against the big Roosters forward pack. Scored the Tigers lone try through a great linebreak setup by Marshall and hard hard and defended well all match. Deserves a Country Origin jersey but up against plenty of other good backrowers. 125 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 4 tackle breaks, 38 tackles and 1 error.
11. Mark Flanagan - Came off the bench and went ok, defended well but no real impact in attack today. 41 metres in attack, 33 tackles, 3 missed tackles.
15. Andrew Fifita - Played a very good game today but learnt an important lesson at the end of the game when he tried to score from dummyhalf on the last tackle at the game. Looked a real handful in attack for the Roosters as he made a couple of damaging runs and they were unlucky to go unrewarded with support play just slightly off. 133 metres in attack, 2 linebreaks, 4 tackle breaks, 21 tackles, 1 error.
16. Mitch Brown - Worked on his tan throughout the game sitting on the bench and engaged in several conversations with his manager I think.
17. Nathan Waters - One bad dropped ball, one grubber kick resulting in a line drop out. Still not sure why he was selected but I don’t think he’ll be there for the next match. Got very little game time.
Terrible :brick: There is trouble in Tiger Town I have to say going off the last 3 weeks and watching the Tigers with the ball. Ok, today the forward pack aimed up I have to say and got the better of the Roosters pack. Ellis, Fifita, Galloway, Gibbs, Heighno, they all made over 100 metres in attack and Payten almost did too. It should have been a platform solid enough for the backline to work their magic, and therein lies the Tigers problems…
The half combination between Robbie and Benji didn’t work. Farah didn’t go to the line enough for my liking and didn’t have enough runners off him. Benji looked dangerous at times but struggled to find any real way through the Roosters line. There were a couple of times the Tigers looked like they might cut loose, but it didn’t happen and once again Chris Lawrence and Blake Ayshford didn’t receive any real quality ball for the most part. Lote Tuqiri had to go looking for the ball which was a shame because he was a handful everytime he touched the ball. Ryan and even Fitzy went well making over 100 metres in attack, but it was largely due to good dummyhalf running rather than capitalising on any linebreaks made.
As it was, it was the forward pack led by Fifita, Ellis and Heighno making all the breaks and the support play was sadly lacking. Fifita had no one backing him up in the first half when he burst through and while he linked up with Marshall late in the game, the usual support we expect to see from the Tigers just wasn’t there. I feel sorry for Nathan Waters because he didn’t get much gametime and didn’t really offer anything when he came out.
One thing I will point out at this point is that Chris contacted Ray Hadley from the USA and asked the question, “Why does Sheens persist with only playing 16 players?” Bloody good question and Hadley and the rest of the continuous call team were at a loss to explain it. They thought Sheens bench selection and use of the bench was very poor and made no sense, and you know what? They were 110% correct. Junior Moors should have been on there at the expense of Brown who hasn’t played for the last 2 weeks now and must be scratching his head. Likewise for Moors who had looked good over the last couple of weeks, and he could have been handy today with the forwards shouldering a heavy load once again.
Again the dropped ball didn’t help. The Roosters were just as guilty but if the Tigers held the ball better, well I wouldn’t be sitting here typing about another Tigers loss.
Rob Lui has suffered a setback with his ankle injury apparently and may not be right to go against Souths in a fortnight. This opens the door for Arana Taumata and he must be used for his running game and speed IMO if the Tigers are going to dig themselves out of this hole they now find themselves in.
The Tigers tackled well today I thought, apart from the soft try to the Roosters early in the second half, the Tigers held the middle of the field well and scrambled well on their own line. The second try to the Roosters was a hard one to take as Ryan was taken without the ball. While Minichello could not pull out of it, Ray Hadley said it still should have been a Tigers penalty as Ryan had no opportunity to try and regather the ball. That’s Rugby League though, we’ve all seen calls go against the Tigers over the course of a season and today was another one IMO. Otherwise the entire team defended well despite having to make over 300 tackles for the 4th week in a row…
Poor. The Tigers kicking game really didn’t apply any pressure to the Roosters until the final 20 minutes of the game when they forced a couple of line dropouts. Even then the Tigers couldn’t get across the line. The Tigers have to fix this desperately if they are going to climb out of the rut they are now in.
Final team stats (subject to change and Roosters in brackets):
Try assists: 1 (2)
Offloads: 8 (14)
Line breaks: 3 (1)
Line break assists: 2 (1)
Total Tackles: 332 (315)
1 on 1 tackles: 32 (21)
Missed tackles: 29 (54)
Total metres: 1492 (1211)
Possession: 47% (53%)
Completion rate: 72% (68%)
Errors: 15 (14)
Penalties conceded: 5 (8)
Looking at those stats the Tigers should have won the match but dropped ball and poor options in attack cost the team badly. The forwards did their job however Farah and Marshall failed to do their job for the most part. It’s hard to believe that since Tim Moltzen was ruled out for the season that the Tigers attack would struggle so much given that all the main play revolves around Farah and Marshall, but the Tigers are struggling to score points.
The bench selection from Sheens needs an overhaul yesterday, or rather for quite some time now. Fifita and Flanagan are the only two constants on the bench who really bring anything to the team. The selection of an outside back who regularly isn’t used and a utility who gets around 15 minutes is killing the Tigers. They should be using 3 forwards and carrying a utility who can play in the forwards or backs. With the players in the Tigers starting side I’d argue the case for Junior Moors and Nu Akeripa to be added to the Tigers bench given Fulton, Flanagan and Fitzhenry can cover various positions in the backline.
Most of the Tigers can look forward to a weekend of rest next week with the bye, however I will extend my congratulations to Benji Marshall who will be selected for New Zealand while Robbie Farah, Keith Galloway, Bryce Gibbs and Chris Lawrence were all selected for the City Origin side. Chris Heighington can count himself very unlucky to miss out on selection for Country.
Today the Tigers let the game get away from them and these types of games usually come back to haunt them at the end of the season. Tim Sheens might want to keep that in the back of his mind if he continues to name players out of position and coming up with head scatching selections on the bench.
Tim Sheens might want to keep that in the back of his mind if he continues to name players out of position and coming up with head scatching selections on the bench.
I am sure Tim will learn from today and won’t make those mistakes again. It’s not like he completely butchered the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons by doing the same thing.
Wait a moment……