Incredibly, despite their shock loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night, the Wests Tigers remain a slender chance at featuring in finals footy come September.
They currently sit four competition points, and 25 differential points behind the eighth placed Warriors. They’re six points behind the Sharks and Broncos but truthfully their only chance looks to be a Warriors capitulation. Given the Warriors’ ‘effort’ in their shocking loss to the Titans on Sunday afternoon, coupled with recent history at the back end of the season for the New Zealand based side, the Tigers would still fancy their chances.
With five games remaining the Tigers need to win at least four games, while hoping the Warriors drop three. Then it would come down to points differential. That’s when the fun really begins.
With the Dragons and Bunnies in the Tigers’ future, the next fortnight is absolutely make or break for the club’s hopes of playing finals footy. A loss to either the Knights or Raiders confines them to a race to be best of the rest and extends their final’s drought.
There is no guarantee the Warriors will beat the Dragons or Knights in their next two fixtures, but with very winnable games against the Bulldogs and Raiders to come, their finals aspirations look good.
Making the road all that tougher is the fact that both of their next two games are away from home. McDonald Jones Stadium and GIO Stadium aren’t exactly AAMI Park or Suncorp Stadium in terms of intimidating records, but neither are easy places to visit. The Knights should have beaten the Cowboys last weekend. Kayln Ponga and Mitchell Pearce are now back and firing from injury and the club desperately wants to celebrate again in front of their long suffering fans.
Canberra can literally do anything. ANYTHING! Good or bad. Sometimes a mixture of both.
The Tigers have to find a way to win. If not, their incredible start to the season goes to waste. That may seem harsh but ultimately you can’t win the premiership if you don’t play finals footy.
For those who have forgotten, the Tigers won five of their first six games to open the season. Those wins included two wins over the 2017 Premiers, the Storm, as well as a win over the pre-season favourites the Roosters. After reigniting their finals chances with incredible wins over the Bunnies and Dragons, they dropped a game to the Bulldogs. With all due respect to the blue and whites, this was the fixture the Tigers would have wanted, yet they let the two points slip. Their finals chances could very well have gone with them.
Mid-season additions in Robbie Farah and Moses Mbye delivered a much needed influx of talent and hunger. Farah has produced some amazing footy since his return to the club while Moses has added a route to the try-line the Tigers had lacked for the better part of two months. Benji Marshall is back and fit while Luke Brooks has taken on a far more important role in 2018.
That said, they were out-enthused and outplayed by a Bulldogs outfit with nothing other than not finishing last to play for.
The NRL fan in me wants the Tigers to win this weekend. The NRL fan in me wants them to win their five remaining games, forcing the Warriors to win three games. That would be a delicious, attack-filled finale to the NRL regular season.
If the Tigers can’t lift and beat Newcastle on Friday evening they’ll be letting not only their fans down, by the neutral. Nothing against Newcastle but I want a live finals race up until the final day.
That is a comment made in jest but I think everyone, Knight fans aside, can agree that a Tigers win on Friday evening is the desired result in terms of ensuring a race for the finals.
So, it’s over to you Tigers. Kick start this final’s race into gear.
Only a seething, Ponga and Pearce-led Knights side driven on a potential huge home crowd stands between them and igniting the race for September.
Sounds tough but simply put the Tigers HAVE to find a way. After their incredible start to the season, they owe themselves that much.