Round 20 of the NRL premiership saw the Wests Tigers travel to the concrete icicle known as Canberra Stadium, for yet another must-win clash against an out-of-form Raiders outfit who had a virus sweep through the side during the week. There would be no excuses for the Tigers if they lost this match however, with their season on the line and some decent form under their belt, a win would provide some sorely needed momentum with sides around them also winning over the weekend. Onto the match…
The game began under slippery conditions, and to me it almost looked like the players were in slow motion at times, as the field looked slow with players doing their best to preserve their footing. For the Tigers though, they opened the match with a compressed defensive line and numbered up well, defending strongly and giving the Raiders nothing to work with. In the early stages, both Payten and Gibbs got involved heavily in attack while the Tigers kicking game found open space and they made the Raiders work it out of their danger zone.
The Tigers were first to score in the 12th minute through Tim Moltzen, after the Tigers ran it on the last play about 15 metres out from the Raiders line. There was seemingly nothing doing until Moltzen buried his right foot in the turf and produced his trademark sidestep to the left. A massive gap opened up in the Raiders line and Moltzen went through untouched to score underneath the posts. Benji converted to give the Tigers a handy 6-0 lead.
As the Tigers are often renowned, they dropped the ball on the next set, giving the Raiders a good opportunity to hit back. Fortunately for the Tigers it appeared that all of the players turned up to tackle and they held the Raiders out. This next period in the match saw the Raiders enjoy the majority of possession, as some Tigers mistakes and penalties allowed the Raiders to press hard on the Tigers try line. The Raiders did cross the Tigers line, however the try was disallowed as the video ref ruled that Bronson Harrison held back Gareth Ellis from attempting to make a tackle. It looked a 50/50 call IMO, but it went the Tigers way and they got themselves out of trouble.
Once again though, the Raiders worked their way back into the Tigers red zone, however the Tigers defence numbered up very well with some important tackles made by Danny Galea and Tim Moltzen among others. A last tackle play by the Raiders in the 26th minute saw a short pass popped straight into the waiting arms of Tim Moltzen who proceeded to race 90 metres and score under the posts. It looked like Moltzen might get reeled in on the halfway line as a Raiders centre gave chase but he seemed to hit the wall while Moltzen just kept powering away. Benji again made no mistake with the kick and it was now 12-0 to the Tigers.
The Tigers extended their lead in the 33rd minute, this time scoring through a play which started on the halfway line. Farah got out of dummyhalf early and headed across field before picking up Todd Payten who did well to draw in a couple of players before offloading to Shannon Gallant who hit the ball at speed and set off down the sideline leaving a vapour trail behind him. Just as Gallant ran out of room and met the Raiders fullback, he placed a clever cross field grubber kick which bounced up smartly for John Morris who dove over the line close to the posts. Benji again converted and things were looking good for the Tigers at 18-0.
Just as the halftime siren was about to sound Robbie Farah stepped up to the mark and cooly slotted a 30 metre field goal to give the Tigers a handy 19-0 lead.
The Tigers had done a very good job in the first half, as the Raiders enjoyed majority possession and had gotten away a few offloads. To the Tigers credit, their defence was solid and they were clearly the more determined side.
The second half was a much more dour affair, as light rain began to fall and mistakes continued to occur from both sides. The Tigers were first to draw blood in the second half and it was none other than the master of disaster, the human wrecking, goldtooth, the fender bender, the TNT express, Taniela Tuiaki who crossed out wide after some good lead up work by Benji. Speaking of Benji, he kept his 100% kicking record in tact by landing the sideline conversion to give the Tigers a 25-0 lead.
For the next 20 minutes, nothing much happened. Canberra once again enjoyed majority of possession and were firmly camped in the Tigers half, but still could not find a way through the Tigers defence. On the odd occasion where the Raiders did look dangerous, they came up with a poor kick or a dropped pass and the Tigers were able to work it away. The Raiders eventually crossed in the 62 minute through Daniel Vidot. The try came from a cross field bomb and Joel Monaghan and Tuiaki were left to fight for the bomb. Tuiaki didn’t get close to the ball while Monaghan got fingertips to it. Vidot came through and dove over the line as the ball was ruled to have bounced backwards. Campese’s attempted conversion headed towards Quanbeyan rather than the posts and the score remained 25-4.
That would be the last time the scoreboard would move, as the Tigers held firm and occasionally counter punched their way out of their half, with Tim Moltzen again coming up with a good linebreak to get the Tigers out of trouble on one occasion.
In the end the Tigers ran out convincing winners and thouroughly deserved their win which was built on the back of solid defence and making the most of their chances when they got them. There were no poor players on the park for the Tigers as today’s win was clearly a team effort, with the standout player being Tim Moltzen IMO, as he was dangerous in attack and defended well all game.
Anyway, onto the players:
1. Gallant - Another good game from Shannon with only one mistake coming in the second half when he got into a wrestle with a Raiders player and was ruled to have dropped the ball. Otherwise Gallant was good, he supported well and came up with one try saver. 125 metres in attack, 1 error, 1 linebreak and 1 try assist.
2. Tuiaki - Another good game from the big fella. Conditions didn’t suit but he was still strong and scored another try on his quest to be leading try scorer for the year. Will always have trouble getting off the ground in defending bombs, but he’s always going to be a handful when he winds up in attack. 143 metres in attack, 4 tackle breaks, 1 line break.
3. Ayshford - Saw very little ball in attack, but defended strongly and was safe. Handling himself well in FG. 25 tackles with 5 missed and 4 1-on-1 tackles.
4. Lawrence - Again saw very little ball and looked uncomfortable at times, sounds like he played injured with a dodgy ankle. Came up with 1 bad dropped ball but defended well. 39 metres in attack, 17 tackles, 1 error 1 try assist and 1 linebreak assist.
5. Ryan - Looked a bit angry out there today when making a couple of tackles. Also came up with 3 errors which may have got him a bit annoyed in the first place. 119 metres in attack, 9 tackles and 3 tackle breaks in an ok performance.
6. Benji - Came up with one or two plays where no one knew what he was doing, and some of his short kicks had too much weight on them again but it was one of Benji’s more controlled efforts. Kicked ok at times for 318 metres, made 13 tackles, 1 error, and didn’t miss a kick at goal. Could have run the ball more but today showed that Benji didn’t need to try too much.
7. Moltzen - Pick of the Tigers today IMO. Attacked well as his 2 tries indicate. Defended very soundly also. Looking the good at 7 and he was more dominant than Benji and Robbie today I would have to say. 2 tries, 3 linebreaks, 19 tackles, kicked for 201 metres and ran for 171 metres.
8. Gibbs - Coughed the ball up once in the first half, but otherwise solid in the slippery conditions. Got through good work in attack and defence and forced a mistake from the Raiders with a good solid tackle also. Came up with 125 metres in attack, 26 tackles with 3 missed and 2 errors.
9. Farah - Good game from Robbie although not dominant. The ruck was kept pretty tight today although Robbie still managed to offer his usual good service and was very involved in defence. Ran for 45 metres, kicked for 249 metres, landed a field goal, and came up with a whopping 49 tackles and 59 metres in attack.
10. Payten - Big Toddy stepped up in his return to the village today. Got over the 100 metre mark in attack for the first time this season to my memory. Got through a heavy workload all match and did well today. 145 metres in attack, 25 tackles, 1 intercept, 3 offloads and 1 linebreak assist.
11. Ellis - I thought he may score his first try of the season today as he almost trampled his way free close to the line in the second half. Kept Bronson under wraps in defence whenever he tackled him. Ran hard and went well again. 116 metres in attack, 23 tackles.
12. Galea - Gave away 2 penalties but proceeded to come up with some solid hits in defence to try and counter this. Still desperately lacks any penetration in attack though, with only 27 metres to his name. Came up with 34 solid tackles though.
13. Payne - Didn’t notice Payne much today, he was again quiet in attack with only 31 metres to his name and came up with 22 tackles. Made 2 errors and conceded 1 penalty.
14. Morris - Went ok again today off the bench and was in the right place to score a try from Gallants in-field grubber kick. 65 metres in attack and made 29 tackles although he conceded 2 penalties for his troubles.
15. Schirnack - Did ok again although he’s not very damaging in running the ball. Built in a similar mould to Heighno but I’d like to see more of him before I make a firm call on Schirnack. 43 metres in attack and 14 tackles.
16. Skandalis - Way down on yardage today with only 52 metres in attack. Also down in defence with 15 tackles and 3 missed, so it was one of Skandos more quiet performance since returning to the top grade. Got put on report for a late high shot on Campese and could miss a week if found guilty.
17. Dwyer - Held his own again when he came on in the second half, although again the Tigers were doing a lot of tackling when Dwyer came on. An offseason in the gym will really help him as he’s a tall fellow who will could prove to be a damaging ball runner out wide next season. Only 36 metres in attack and 13 tackles.
Attack - Not the freeflowing attack we saw last week against the Cowboys, but the conditions in Canberra were never going to allow for this. It was a tough grind up the middle through the ruck, but the Tigers held their own here with Gibbs, Ellis and Payten all making over 100 metres in attack and Moltzen, Tuiaki and Gallant all making over 100 metres for the backs. Benji and Robbie were fairly subdued in attack though with Moltzen causing most of the damage today.
Defence - This is what won the Tigers the game today as they muscled up well and kept the Raiders pack well in check for the most part. There were one or two occasions where the Raiders got a roll on and looked dangerous, but the Tigers scrambled well. Galea was solid in D, as was Gibbs, Ellis, Payten, Moltzen and Ayshford. Farah topped the tackle count with ease to lead the way for the Tigers.
Kicking game - Far superior to the Raiders today. The Tigers found open space on a few occasions and found touch on others. A couple of kicks went dead but the Tigers also forced a couple of line dropouts through Benji and Robbie. A few kicks went down the throat of Dugan in the second half but the Tigers handled him well.
Overall the Tigers were by far and away the more dangerous team today. The Raiders had plenty of ball inside the Tigers half but could not get across the line. Yes the Raiders were ordinary and they made a few mistakes, but some were also forced by the Tigers with solid defence. And when it came to attack, the Tigers made the most of their opportunities when they arose.
Final stats for the match (Raiders in brackets):
Errors: 13 (14)
Completions: 33/43 (30/43)
Penalties: 5 (8)
Scrums: 4 (9)
Tackles: 314 (290)
1 on 1 tackles: 41 (24)
Missed tackles: 22 (16)
Line breaks: 4 (1)
Offloads: 4 (13)
Try assists: 2 (1)
Line dropouts: 2 (3)
All run metres: 1229 (1251)
The Tigers face a very difficult match next Monday night against a Manly side which is in very good form and playing off the back of a large and mobile forward pack. The Tigers may see Keith Galloway return which would be a timely boost, but they enter the match with some momentum after now scoring 3 wins in a row for the first time this season.
Hope you found the report informative. All comments welcome as usual, and if I’ve missed anything, feel free to add.