Round 26 of the Telstra NRL premiership saw the Wests Tigers travel to Skilled Stadium for their final regular season match of 2010 to take on the Gold Coast Titans. The Tigers were playing for a top 2 finish while the Titans were playing for a top 4 finish and the chance to host a home final. The Tigers entered this match with an injury depleted side, missing fullback Wade McKinnon, strike centres Chris Lawrence and Geoff Daniela, backrower Liam Fulton and props Bryce Gibbs and John Skandalis. This caused a reshuffle with Mitch Brown named in the centres, Balmain-Ryde-Eastwood fullback Sean Meaney at fullback while Simon Dwyer was promoted to the backrow with Willie Mataka and Daniel Fitzhenry the new faces on the interchange bench. The Titans were missing Preston Campbell and prop Luke Bailey for tonight’s match and entered the match as favorites.
Just how would the patched up Tigers outfit handle the pressure of the Titans tonight?
The Tigers kicked off to the Titans and got away to a nervous start with Robbie Farah uncharacteristically knocking on from dummy half in the Tigers first set deep inside their own half. The Titans came up with a mistake while pressing the Tigers line though and Sean Meaney came away from the Tigers line before the Tigers were awarded the first penalty of the match. The Tigers then came up with their second mistake as Simon Dwyer was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty as he lost the ball in a 2 man tackle. The Titans kicked immediately from the scrum win for flyer Kevin Gordon but fortunately the Titans knocked on, letting the Tigers off the hook. The Tigers again invited the Tigers right back at them with Dwyer losing the ball a second time. The Titans made the Tigers pay this time as they scored a simple try through Ashley Harrison to stroll over as Rob Lui was caught out on the line. Scott Prince converted the try to give the Titans an early 6-0 lead.
The Tigers then gave away a penalty from the re-start as they bent the Tigers back up the middle. The Titans again made the Tigers pay with another simple try, this time to William Zillman as the Tigers defence looked uninterested and soft. Prince had no trouble converting to give the Titans a very handy 12-0 lead after 12 minutes. Again the Tigers gave a silly penalty to allow the Titans out of their own half. The Titans didn’t score off this set, but they did force a line drop out as the rain started to fall. The Tigers defence held on this time as Mitch Brown defused a cross field kick. Once again the Tigers failed to hold the ball as Keith Galloway lost it inside the Tigers half. The Tigers did well to hang on again as the Titans kicked the ball dead. The Tigers put in an attacking grubber kick which was batted back by Beau Ryan only for the Titans to pick the ball up and race 50 metres downfield before being collared. The Tigers were forced into their second line drop out as Lote Tuqiri spilled a short kick in the in-goal. The Titans did lose skipper Scott Prince to a shoulder injury though.
The Titans threw a forward pass in the next set letting the Tigers off the hook. The Tigers then got their first sniff in the 21st minute as the Titans made a mistake deep in their own half. The Tigers dropped the ball on the second tackle as Simon Dwyer came up with his third dropped ball of the night and the Titans kicked a field goal soon after to go to 13-0. The Tigers had a decent chance to attack the Titans line in the 31st minute as they forced a line drop out of their own. The Titans defence was solid though and they came away from their own line safely. The Tigers then came up with another shocking error on the last tackle as Benji Marshall threw a poor pass to no one and the Titans were given a penalty to make matters worse. The Tigers compounded things further giving away another penalty on their own line. The Tigers did well to force a mistake through Gareth Ellis putting on a good hit. The Tigers had one last crack at the Titans just before halftime but again failed to crack them despite looking a bit more dangerous.
The Tigers went to the sheds down 13-0 and were lucky not be down by more as they were very disappointing, dropping plenty of ball and having to make an awful lot of tackles. The Tigers had to make a mammoth 170 tackles to the Titans 90 with only 35% possession and a terrible completion rate. Best for the Tigers were Blake Ayshford, Lote Tuqiri, Gareth Ellis and Mitch Brown who were all trying hard.
The Titans kicked off and the Tigers and again they started terribly with Sean Meaney knocking on from dummyhalf late in the tackle count. The Titans came up with a mistake of their own though and the Tigers pounced on the ball. A well placed grubber kick from Rob Lui held up in the in-goal and the Tigers forced a line drop-out. The Tigers then did well to hit back through Chris Heighington as the Tigers kept the ball alive with some nice passing. Mitch Brown came up with a good run on the previous play to almost score which set things up nicely for Marshall to drift across field to Farah who found Heighington who showed some good footwork to cross. Marshall converted to narrow the gap to 13-6 after 46 minutes which would no doubt lift the Tigers confidence. The Tigers then cut loose from the re-start with several strong runs from Galloway and Ellis before Robbie Farah broke the Titans out of dummyhalf and raced downfield before offloading to Lote Tuqiri who scored under the posts. Marshall converted to put the Tigers right back in the game at 13-12 after 48 minutes.
The Tigers had a spring in their step all of a sudden and started to look threatening but Benji Marshall kicked out on the full in the 49th minute, relieving the pressure. A forward pass from the Titans shortly after gave the Tigers field position on the halfway line. The Tigers were then given a welcome penalty as Gareth Ellis was held too long in a tackle. Mitch Brown then looked to claim a try as he lunged from dummyhalf in the corner but his foot touched the sideline while grounding the ball. Sean Meaney then dropped a bomb on the Tigers line in the 55th minute putting the Tigers under all sorts of pressure with another line drop out. The Titans knocked on several tackles later though, letting the Tigers off the hook. The Titans then extended their lead in the 56th minute as Kevin Gordon split the Tigers down the blindside close to their line. Prince converted from the sideline to give the Titans an all important 7 point lead with 20 minutes to go.
The Tigers were given a much needed penalty in the 61st minute helping them out of their own half. The Tigers then hit back through Gareth Ellis as Robbie Farah put in a grubber kick close to the line which was split by Nathan Friend. Ellis crossed under the posts and Marshall converted to put the Tigers right back in the game at 19-18. Sean Meaney went some way to making amends in the 66th with a good bomb take but the Tigers gave away a penalty moments later as Lote Tuqiri pushed the marker over. The Tigers did well to hold on, as did Tuqiri who took the ball on the full in the in-goal. The Tigers again invited the Titans right back at them as Wiile Mataka lost the ball early in the tackle count. Again the Tigers defence was solid and they held the Titans out.
The Tigers attempted a chip kick in the 72nd minute but the bounced favoured the Titans as they dove on the ball. Rob Lui came up with a poor last kick option in the 74th minute giving the Titans a 20 metre re-start. A tough call then went against the Tigers in the 75th minute as the Tigers had a knock on against them as Robbie Farah caught a bomb which was ruled to come off Beau Ryan first. Rob Lui then gave away a penalty and the Titans took the shot at goal to wind down the clock and extend their lead by 3 points. The Tigers had one last crack at the Titans with 80 metres to travel in the last 40 seconds but they fell short as Benji Marshall was trapped on the sideline.
It was a brave second half from the Tigers and a much improved effort from the first half, but the poor defence and handling in the first half really did hurt them badly tonight.
Onto the players (stats to be updated):
18. Sean Meaney – Tough night for Meaney. He had some nice touches in the first half, proving safe in defence but he came up with a dropped bomb in the second half which put the Tigers under all sorts of pressure. He took a good bomb a few minutes later but was replaced with about 15 minutes to go. 82 metres in attack, 4 tackles, 2 errors. 5/10.
2. Lote Tuqiri – One of the Tigers better players tonight, got heavily involved all night but made two crucial errors, one a dropped ball in the first half resulting in a line drop out and he gave away a penalty late in the second half for pushing the marker. Scored a nice try set up by Farah and had some strong runs and tackles in an otherwise strong game. 125 metres in attack, 1 try, 5 tackles, 2 errors. 7/10.
3. Blake Ayshford – Didn’t get enough ball tonight which was a shame as Blake was dangerous on several occasions, making a good line break and good metres. Defensively he was also good. 96 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 1 offload, 20 tackles, 3 missed tackles. 7.5/10.
1. Mitch Brown – Pretty good game from Brown once again, he looked solid all night, doing plenty of work coming out of the Tigers half and he was pretty good in defence too. Whether he stays in the centres or moves to fullback next week is the big question, but he will definitely be in the side somewhere. 110 metres in attack, 2 offloads, 6 tackle breaks, 8 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 1 error. 7.5/10.
5. Beau Ryan –Pretty quiet tonight and didn’t do anything flash, with one or two decent runs from dummyhalf, but that was about it really as he also made a couple of errors which let him down. 70 metres in attack, 3 tackles, 4 errors. 4/10.
6. Benji Marshall – Pretty quiet in the first half as the Tigers struggled to go forward and struggled to complete their sets. He took the line on a bit more in the second half and looked sharp at times but he was unable to produce the same heroics as last week. Not a bad game but he’ll need to lift for the finals next week. 43 metres in attack, kicked for 371 metres, 12 tackles, 1 error. 6.5/10.
7. Rob Lui – Defensively he was exposed several times in the first half, and gave away a crucial penalty in the second half to give the Titans a penalty goal. Poor game overall and he’ll need to work hard to bounce back next week. 39 metres in attack, kicked for 66 metres, 1 offload, 14 tackles, 4 missed tackles, 1 error. 4/10.
8. Todd Payten – Solid game from Payten, proving strong in defence once again but not having too much of an impact with the ball. Would certainly benefit from having Fulton and Gibbs alongside him, but he’s going alright at the moment and one of the Tigers more consistent players. 69 metres in attack, 29 tackles, 4 missed tackles. 7/10.
9. Robbie Farah – Pretty good game from Farah playing behind a beaten forward pack tonight, busy in defence all night and made a great break to set up Tuqiri in the second half. I think he might lead the NRL in try assists now too, he has 25 for the season, the main blemish was a knock on from dummy half in the first half. 106 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 3 try assists, kicked for 173 metres, 1 offload, 41 tackles, 2 errors. 8.5/10.
10. Keith Galloway – Not a bad game from Keith tonight, one of the Tigers better forwards that’s for sure. Not much of an impact in his first stint as the Tigers couldn’t hold the ball, but as the game developed into an arm wrestle, he came good. Defended well tonight too. 99 metres in attack, 28 tackles, 1 error. 7/10.
11. Simon Dwyer – His first stint was terrible, producing 3 dropped balls. He came back on in the second half and was much better, proving busy in defence, but he had an off night tonight and will hopefully revert back to the bench for impact next week. 23 metres in attack, 28 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 3 errors. 4/10.
12. Gareth Ellis – Along with Farah, but in a different respect, he was the Tigers best tonight. His defence was excellent, he ran hard and was rewarded with a try. Very strong game from Gareth and without him the Tigers would have lost by a lot more. 140 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 offload, 38 tackles. 8.5/10.
13. Chris Heighington – A bit down in attack tonight but defensively he was very busy and scored a nice try to help get the Tigers back in the game. 60 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 39 tackles, 8 missed tackles. 7/10.
14. Andrew Fifita – This game proved how much of a difference ball control makes, as Fifita had no real impact of any kind tonight with the Tigers in all sorts when he came on, and again in the second half when the game was in the balance. The Titans certainly stopped him with no dramas and it would have been a good learning curve for him. 30 metres in attack, 16 tackles, 4 missed tackles. 5/10.
15. Willie Mataka – Came on in the last 20 minutes and looked sharp, I’d probably prefer him over Flanagan as he has better leg speed and hits the line harder and can also play in the centres. Lost the ball late in the game but tried hard. 35 metres in attack, 11 tackles, 1 error. 5/10
16. Mark Flanagan – Played decent minutes tonight and went alright but just lacks that bit of size and class in the backrow. Certainly no lack of ticker though, but I’d probably lean towards keeping Mataka ahead of him for his extra leg speed and utility value. 38 metres in attack, 31 tackles. 6/10.
17. Daniel Fitzhenry – Played the last 15 minutes and had a couple of runs from dummyhalf, that was about it. 29 metres in attack.
Overall team analysis:
In the first half there basically was none. Ayshford looked dangerous a couple of times but the Tigers ball control and lack of possession really made it hard for them to do anything with the ball. Some poor last play options also hurt them. There were some good moments in the second half but the Titans defence was also pretty decent and they scrambled well when Marshall started showing the ball and running a bit more. Marshall and Farah were the most likely to do something for the Tigers while Ayshford, Tuqiri and Ellis were all strong with the ball.
It was diabolical in the first 15 minutes as they leaked 12 points and they were very soft tries scored by the Titans on the back of the Tigers failing to complete their sets. The defence improved as the match went on but the poor start really hurt the Tigers and they clearly missed the strong defence that Fulton, Gibbs and Lawrence bring. Lui was once again exposed in defence too so the Tigers need to work on this.
A couple of good kicks thrown in with quite a few ordinary kicks. The Tigers forced two line drop outs through kicks and Ellis scored through a Farah grubber kick, but Marshall kicked out on the full, and there were some poor last tackle kicks which didn’t really apply any pressure to the Titans. Better ball control and go forward will hopefully help the kicking game, giving Farah, Marshall and Lui a bit more time with the ball in hand.
Overall team stats (To be updated and Titans in brackets):
Try assists: 3 (3)
Offloads: 7 (13)
Linebreaks: 2 (4)
Linebreak assists: 1 (2)
Tackles made: 327 (248)
1 on 1 tackles: 22 (15)
Missed tackles: 41 (27)
Tackle breaks: 27 (41)
Total metres made: 1194 (1383)
Possession: 43% (57%)
Completion rate: 20/33 = 61% (30/41 = 73%)
Errors: 19 (12)
Penalties conceded: 6 (3)
Looking more closely at the overall stats, the Tigers have done pretty well to only go down by 3 points considering they had to make an extra 60 tackles, or 10 sets of 6 and only completed 67% of their sets with 43% of the ball. By all rights they should have lost by more to a team as good as the Titans, but the defence was pretty good for all but the first 12 minutes of the match where the Tigers opened up easy on their goal line, and that was the most disappointing aspect, along with terrible ball control in the first half.
So as it stands the Tigers still sit in second spot, subject to Penrith beating Cronulla. If the Panthers win, the Tigers finish 3rd, however if the Sharks upset the Panthers then they will remain in second position. Either way the Tigers have home final at the SFS next week and will hopefully welcome back forwards Liam Fulton and Bryce Gibbs. Wade McKinnon may be some chance of returning, but with a chronic hamstring injury, who knows…
So far it has been a good 2010 for the Tigers, but unlike the previous 4 seasons, it isn’t over yet and the Tigers are a real chance this year provided they hold the ball and the forwards aim up. Next week’s opponent is still unknown, but either way Tigers fans can feel optimistic about the teams chances next week. Can the Tigers repeat their 2005 fairytale? Time will tell… :sign:
Thanks Willow. Another great report and a good read. Will look forward to reading your semi final reports. Hopefully they all have a happy ending.
Geez I really hope so too. Still a few positives to come out of tonight given the players missing and the stats against the Tigers.
Thanks, as always, Willow. At 12-0, on first tackle, Robbie made a long break downfield and could have either passed to Benji or just taken the tackle with the Titans defence at 6s and 7s. Instead he tried a grubber that went dead. This was a crucial error, because instead of it being 12-6, the Titans came back upfield and kicked a field goal for 13-0. Just the same, in the second half at 13-12 and again at 19-18 we should have had the personnel to go on and win. From 19-18 the Tigers barely got into the game. The ruling of Robbie as having knocked on killed us.
Again we took a beating in the penalties. I think referees are being hard on us since we complained about them not having the guts to penalise Souths when the game was in the balance.
With so many team changes and such a poor share of possession, this was a good performance really.
Good report again willow,enjoy the read.Hopefully it can continue into the Finals and Grand Final.The first half beat us last night.However we came home hard and almost got the win.Maybe in hindsight we could have started harder and made them chase us,instead of it being the other way.Again we had new players in new positions,looking at that we went well.So all goes well I hope to the Finals……Go West Tigers
:sign: :supporter: :righton:
The ruling of Robbie as having knocked on killed us.
It was the right call. Maybe it should have been called offside but Ryan was there and it hit him and Robbie was in front of him.
You’d need a slo-mo replay to sort it out, but one thing that looked definite to me was that Robbie didn’t knock it on. It should either have been an off-side penalty or play on. Play on had Robbie banking left with the whole left backline at his disposal.