The second week of the semi-finals saw a battered, bruised and possibly mentally scarred Wests Tigers outfit travel to the cold capital of Australia, Canberra, to take on the giant killing Canberra Raiders outfit who were very much on a roll, winning 9 out of their last 10 matches including their last 6 in a row, being the only NRL team to achieve that feat this season. The Raiders entered the match with a full strength side, boosted by the return of Captain Alan Tongue, not to mention having a sold-out crowd behind their back for this sudden death match. The Raiders had plenty of positive press leading up to this match, with experts now starting to claim the Raiders could win the competition. The build-up for the Tigers was anything but smooth in contrast…
After playing arguably the greatest semi-final ever seen the week before, the Tigers endured a heart-breaking loss to the Sydney Roosters in extra time. 100 minutes of football was played, making it the longest game played in years. The Tigers gave it everything they had, and after seemingly looking assured of victory, they fumbled their way to defeat. They also suffered numerous injuries, with the most serious seemingly occurring to Benji Marshall. Marshall suffered what looked to be a serious injury late in the match, however scans later revealed it was a strained medial ligament. Centre Blake Ayshford was also suffering badly from a viral infection which worsened after the game and left him in grave doubt for this week along with Marshall while centre Geoff Daniela tore his hamstring. Forwards Gareth Ellis and Bryce Gibbs who were both excellent against the Roosters, also suffered injuries.
In the build-up during the week there was talk that Tim Moltzen may make a shock return from a knee reconstruction to replace Marshall should he be ruled out of the game. The Tigers travelled to Canberra with a 21 man squad while Blake Ayshford travelled separately while he battled to get over his viral infection. On match day the Tigers were given a timely boost, with star playmaker Marshall being declared fit after training strongly on Thursday, while Gareth Ellis, Bryce Gibbs and Blake Ayshford were all passed fit to play. In another boost for the Tigers, boom centre Chris Lawrence who was recuperating from a broken jaw was also a surprise late inclusion, giving the Tigers backline an ominous look to it. With the Raiders heavy favorites and at home before a sold-out crowd, could the Tigers bounce back from the disappointment of last week and keep their premiership hopes alive?
The Raiders kicked off to the Tigers and got an early penalty as Bryce Gibbs was hit high in a tackle by Shillington. The Tigers went terribly close scoring through Chris Heighington but some desperate defence pushed him back after he looked to cross the line. The last tackle play saw a grubber kick bounce off Canberra into touch but it wasn’t played at. Benji Marshall threw a massive pass across field to Beau Ryan in the 4th minute but it went forward as Ryan struggled to catch it. The Tigers opened the scoring in the 7th minute through Chris Heighington but it was great lead up work by Keith Galloway who trampled several Raiders in a strong 25 metre run. The ball found its way to Benji Marshall who stepped and weaved out of several tackles and offloaded smartly to Heighington as a gap opened up on the inside for Heighno to streak through and score under the posts. Marshall converted to give the Tigers a handy 6-0 lead early.
From the re-start the Tigers were given another penalty to help get them out of their danger zone. The Tigers were almost in again in the 10th minute as Marshall put in a smart grubber kick close to the Raiders line. Beau Ryan had a grab at it but fumbled the ball, letting the Raiders off the hook. Canberra soon got a penalty of their own and looked to up the tempo with their forward pack as they pressed inside the Tigers half. They were given another set of 6 as Lote Tuqiri knocked a cross field bomb forward. The Raiders were then awarded a second penalty moments later right on the Tigers line. The Raiders then hit back in the 13th minute as Bronson Harrison proved too strong for the Tigers to stop out wide as he brushed off Rob Lui and Mitch Brown. Croker converted to level the scores at 6-6.
The Raiders came up with an early mistake from the re-start to give the Tigers a good chance close to the Raiders line. They hit back in very slick fashion as Benji Marshall ran to the line and hit Gareth Ellis at pace who ran a brilliant line. Marshall converted the try to put the Tigers back in front at 12-6 after 17 minutes. The Tigers then scored a brilliant try in the 20th minute from a scrum win as they ran down the blindside 35 out from their own line, they drew the Raiders in and Rob Lui found Tuqiri who hugged the sideline in a 50 metre run outpacing Josh Dugan along the way to bring the ball around under the posts. Marshall again converted to extend the Tigers to 18-6 after 21 minutes. The Raiders then knocked on well inside their own half to give the Tigers another sniff in the 22nd minute. Robbie Farah almost split the Raiders to score but they just held on.
The Raiders were awarded a much needed penalty in the 26th minute inside the Tigers half to put them right on the attack and they scored immediately, catching the Tigers out down the blindside. It was poor defence from Chris Lawrence and Lote Tuqiri and they would have been very disappointed in their effort. The Raiders converted to close the gap to 18-12 after 28 minutes. The Tigers were then very unlucky not to get 6 again in the 30th minute as the Raiders charged down a kick which was ruled not played at. The Raiders then came up with a knock on in the 31st minute, giving the ball to the Tigers on the halfway line. The Tigers then looked to pin the Raiders in the in-goal but the Tigers were penalised for a 2 man strip. Robbie Farah then came up with a brilliant run in the 34th minute only to throw a rough pass to Tuqiri which was spilt over the sideline. The Raiders coughed the bal up moments later though and conceded a penalty for their troubles. The Tigers again looked very dangerous but were unable to come up with points as a cut-out pass from Marshall could not be handled by Ryan. The Raiders were then given another penalty just before halftime inside the Tigers half. The Tigers held on, but before being caught in goal but the halftime siren saved them.
Positives to come out of the first half was the Tigers attack which looked very dangerous, however their defence close to their line had proved weak with the Raiders 2 tries being quite soft.
The Tigers kicked off and got away to a safe but nervous start as the Raiders pinned them on their own line at the end of the first set. A bomb was put up by the Raiders in the 42nd minute which they regathered but the Tigers fortunately snuffed the play out to hold them out. Canberra managed to break the Tigers up the ruck in the 44th minute but the Tigers did well to scramble and keep them at bay. Chris Heighington went down injured in the 45th minute and the replay showed he copped a high shot and the Tigers were given a much needed penalty on the last tackle. Heighno looked worse for wear and was replaced by Simon Dwyer. The Tigers went close to scoring and the Raiders played at a grubber kick which went over the sideline giving the Tigers another set of 6 in good field position. The Tigers then extended their lead through Chris Lawrence as he crossed out wide as the Tigers ran some excellent decoys to drag the Raiders defenders in. Marshall converted from the sideline to extend the Tigers lead to 24-12.
Campese then broke the Tigers wide open in the 52nd minute and the Tigers scrambled frantically to shut the play down. Beau Ryan then did very well to defuse a bomb on the Tigers line. Andrew Fifita then came on the the 54th minute as the Raiders desperately tried to lift. The Raiders were then given 6 more tackles putting them right on the attack in the 55th minute. The Raiders then hit back with a try but it came at a cost with Campese going down with what looked to be a serious knee injury in the previous play. They converted the try to narrow the gap once again, but it would be interesting to see how they handled the loss of their chief playmaker Campese with 23 minutes remaining. In a boost for the Tigers Heighington returned to the field in the 59th minute. Marshall put up a mammoth bomb in the 60th minute but it was well taken by Dugan in the in-goal.
The Tigers then came up with a bad error deep inside their own half as they lost the ball in the 62nd minute, giving the Raiders an excellent chance to attack. The Raiders were then given another set of 6 on the Tigers line late in the tackle count. The Raiders then let the Tigers off the hook as Dugan threw the ball over the sideline. The Tigers then did very well to attack down the left side through Marshall, Lawrence and Tuqiri, Tuqiri kicked ahead and Dugan regathered but was then knocked over the sideline as the Tigers had a chance to possibly put the game out of the Raiders reach. The Tigers were then given a penalty right in front of the posts. The Tigers took the shot for goal and Marshall made no mistake, extending the Tigers lead to 8 points with 12 minutes remaining. A mistake from Ryan inside the Tigers half in the 70th minute spelt more danger for the Tigers as they were forced to defend, but the defence held solid as the Raiders kicked early.
The Tigers were forced to defend desperately in the 73rd minute as the Raiders pressed on their line and they broke unfortunately as a grubber kick bounced back into the Raiders Alan Tongue who scored a try to put the Raiders right back in it. They converted the try to leave them trailing by 2 points with 6 minutes to go. The Raiders ran the ball on the last tackle only to grubber ahead and regather and be given 6 more tackles unbelievably, and then losing the ball, but Simon Dwyer hit a Raiders player high, giving the Raiders a chance to equal the scores but fortunately for the Tigers the kick missed. The Raiders then lost the ball in the 77th minute giving the Tigers some much needed possession. The Raiders then threw caution to the wind as they tried to offload at will but McCrone knocked on late in the tackle count with 40 seconds left. The Tigers played it safe and wound down the clock to record a memorable win in the nation’s capital.
Onto the players (stats to be updated):
4. Mitch Brown – Solid game from Brown tonight as he proved safe at the back and brought the ball back strongly all night. Tried hard to hold Harrison up in the first half but just didn’t quite have the strength or positioning to do so. The leading metre maker for the Tigers tonight too. 133 metres in attack, 4 tackles. 8/10.
2. Lote Tuqiri – Strong game from Lote with one error in the first half and a poor defensive read with Lawrence his only blights. Ran the ball hard as usual and scored a very slick try in the first half down the blindside. 115 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 5 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 1 error. 8/10.
3. Blake Ayshford – Another good game from Blake tonight, not as dominant in attack as last week but very sound in attack but missed a few tackles and will now relish a good rest to get over the virus he has. 87 metres in attack, 13 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 2 errors. 7.5/10.
19 – Chris Lawrence – Battled on bravely to take to the field a with broken jaw which I suspect has not yet healed properly. Scored a try in the second half but defensively it was clear that Lawrence favoured self-preservation tonight, as his usual strong defence was absent and he arm grabbed a lot, which cost the Tigers in the first half and he had several misses in the second half. He will need to be a lot stronger next week. 55 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 15 tackles, 6 missed tackles. 6/10.
5. Beau Ryan – Did a couple good things tonight, defusing a couple of dangerous kicks, but also came up with a couple of errors and did not threaten in attack. Capable of better and will need to produce better next week. 98 metres in attack, 2 errors. 6/10.
6. Benji Marshall – Looked very dangerous and I thought he was the Tigers best tonight. Had a lightning start to the game, setting up the Ellis try and Heighington try and almost creating a couple of other tries. Perfect night with the boot kicking 5/5 and his general kicking was also good. 53 metres in attack, kicked for 344 metres, 2 try assists, 2 linebreak assists, 4 tackle breaks, 7 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 error. 9/10.
7. Rob Lui – Had to contend with Bronson Harrison running at him tonight and came off second best as Harrison’s power running proved too much for young Lui most of the time. Looked steady in attack and set up a couple of tries in playing a good distribution role tonight while doing very little kicking. 42 metres in attack, 2 try assists, 2 linebreak assists, 19 tackles. 7.5/10.
8. Todd Payten – Another good game from Payten tonight and he was very strong early in helping the Tigers get on top. His involvement in the second half was not as prominent, but it was a good game overall. 89 metres in attack, 23 tackles, 5 missed tackles. 7.5/10.
9. Robbie Farah – Good game tonight but fairly well contained around the ruck, although he did get out a couple of times and looked dangerous. Defended well and his general kicking was good. 87 metres in attack, kicked for 263 metres, 32 tackles. 7.5/10.
10. Keith Galloway –Galloway has been excellent over the last few weeks, and while he didn’t make as many metres overall as previous efforts, his opening spell was arguably the best I’ve seen from him. He dominated Canberra’s pack and it was highlighted by a brilliant 25 metre run where he broke the line. 114 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 23 tackles, 4 missed tackles. 8.5/10.
15. Bryce Gibbs – Another good effort tonight after battling a knee injury all week. Earnt the Tigers a valuable penalty which proved the difference in the end and he defended very well as usual. 80 metres in attack, 25 tackles, 2 missed tackles. 7.5/10.
12. Gareth Ellis – Awarded channel 9 MOM tonight and didn’t disappoint, although his work in attack was down, he really did defend well throughout the game. 51 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 41 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 error. 8.5/10.
13. Chris Heighington – Played strongly until copping a high shot in the second half which forced him front the field. Eventually returned and was busy in defence. Good game. 75 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 23 tackles. 7.5/10.
11. Liam Fulton –Seemed to be everywhere tonight, making tackles and running the ball all over the place. Very good game from Liam and he didn’t let anybody down tonight. 55 metres in attack, 3 offloads, 25 tackles, 5 missed tackles. 7.5/10.
14. Andrew Fifita – Didn’t come on until well in the second half as Sheens is clearly preserving the young fella in the finals series so far. Went alright when he came on but lacked the impact in attack that we have been used to. Could be due for a big one next week hopefully. 19 metres in attack, 10 tackles. 5/10.
16. Simon Dwyer – Played alright tonight although nearly cost the Tigers dearly as he was penalised for a sloppy tackle which landed high and drew blood. Fortunately Croker missed the kick and the rest is history. Defended well overall. 40 metres in attack, 1 offload, 20 tackles, 2 missed tackles. 6.5/10.
17. Daniel Fitzhenry – Did not get on the field tonight.
Overall team analysis:
It looked very slick and dangerous in the first half and the Tigers ran in 3 good tries including a long range effort to Tuqiri. Marshall was the chief destroyer tonight and Lui also had a couple of nice touches. The attack went a bit quiet in the second half as the Raiders had more ball and mounted a comeback. The forwards were very good early but the lack of ball in the second half blunted their attack.
It needs to improve based on what I saw tonight. The defence on the line in the first half was soft, but the Tigers scrambled better in the second half when put under the hammer. Lawrence was the big disappointment as he tried to avoid any heavy contact which resulted in a lot of shirt grabbing. The defence will most certainly need to improve a lot if the Tigers are to trouble the Dragons next week.
Pretty good overall, the Tigers handled Dugan well for all bar a couple of occasions where he broke tackles and ran amok. Marshall and Farah both kicked well though and turned the Raiders around effectively.
Overall team stats (To be updated and Raiders in brackets):
Try assists: 4 (2)
Offloads: 4 (17)
Linebreaks: 5 (9)
Linebreak assists: 4 (3)
Tackles made: 288 (281)
1 on 1 tackles: 16 (14)
Missed tackles: 39 (26)
Tackle breaks: 26 (39)
Total metres made: 1203 (1470)
Possession: 48% (52%)
Completion rate: 30/33 = 91% (30/38 = 79%)
Errors: 7 (8)
Penalties conceded: 6 (5)
Final wrap up:
Wow. The Tigers sure know how to drag a game out and keep their fans on the edge of their seats. After a very slick start coupled with some brittle defence, the Tigers were forced to hang on down to the wire once again, except this time they hung on to chalk up a very gutsy win. Canberra had a chance to level the scores late in the game however they missed the kick and the Tigers held their composure to run out deserved 2 point winners.
This now puts the Tigers into a major preliminary final next week against Minor Premiers the St George Illawarra Dragons in a replay of the 2005 final. Can the Tigers repeat the success they had then? We will know in a week’s time, but the Tigers certainly need to improve their defence. Ball control and the kicking game was very good tonight, and the attack sparkled in some passages, but the Dragons are clinical and for the Tigers to win, they have to get their defence set and stay switched on for the full 80 minutes.
Bring it on!
I would have given Benji a 9. Apart from the 1 pass that was close to one of best individual performances I have seen. Attacking, defending, kicking he had it all.
I would have liked him to run a bit more, I felt he had opportunity and that’s the only reason he doesn’t get a 9. As an all-round game though, it was certainly a top effort from him.
Benji was a 9 and man of the match for me.
This week was guts and heart. While Lawrence was a little hesitant he will gain confidence from his showing which required both guts and heart.
We need to be better next week and I think we will. Another week of rest in between games won’t hurt Gibbs, Lawrence, Ayshford and Ellis. They are the major worries.
Stoked for the team. What an effort off a 6 day turn around. I thought we would ambush them and we did them. We outplayed them for huge patches of the game. They are becoming a real tight knit unit, a real honest footy team. Whatever happens next week it was a special effort and in the top 2 or 3 wins in our history. Sure the defense was very frail at times but you have t put it into context. Outstanding effort, very proud.
Just got home from witnessing one of the best efforts by the Wests Tigers in a long time. The team was written off by every commentator and so called expert, sitting amongst very cocky raiders supporters, the home ground advantage for them all meant nothing when the mighty WTs got up and did their talking on the field. I couldn’t believe Maxwell actually gave us a match winning penalty, now I’ve seen everything. WELL DONE TO THE TEAM AND CLUB.
ps. the Maccas at Sally’s corner on the way home was like a Tigers club it was full of supporters, luckily we just left before the Tigers bus pulled up, the line for food was too long as it was !!! just joking!!!
I think if Fitzy had had a couple of 5 minute spells here and there it may have thwarted the Raiders come back as there were a few fatigued Tigers out there, would this have been the reason that Robert Lui failed to collect the ball that led to Alan Tongue scoring.
I thought Beau went OK, at best he should have got one try from the Benji kick but the rest of the time he was thrown some pretty poor passes while Robbies pass to Tuquiri that Lote dropped, nothing wrong with the pass itself I just think that Robbie confused the hell out of Lote with the way he ran across the field.
as i am a virgin to this forum but along time tiger fan.I would hate to have someone analysis my last week at work. LETS JUST SUCKIT UP.WE WON.Let the players enjoy and have a rest this weekend. I am sure the coaching team know what to do for next to get the team through.BUT I DO HAVE TO AGREE with why did we kick twice on the 3rd tackle.Great game.loved it.
Just finished watching a replay of the game, a few players have amended ratings (Ryan, Lui, Marshall, Fulton). Stats have also been updated.
Alarmingly the Tigers missed more tackles and were well beat in the yardage department, but it shows how they toughed it out in the second half when the Raiders mounted their comeback.