Benji’s Tiger tough
- Ricky Stuart
- From: The Sunday Telegraph
- September 19, 2010 12:01AM
THE genius of two men got the Wests Tigers home on Friday night. The genius of one might stop them.
Tim Sheens came up with the game plan to stop the Raiders and drive the Tigers into Friday’s grand final qualifier, and Benji Marshall was the man who delivered it.
They have paired up countless times for the Tigers, as we have all seen so often, but the difference this time was that it wasn’t a Marshall flick pass, field goal or intercept, or any of those things we have come to expect from him that got the Tigers home. The difference this time was his defence.
It was a high-risk, shock strategy that could have only been thought up and executed by the best.
Through Marshall - at least it was mostly Marshall, others also played their part - the Tigers attacked Canberra with their defence and took them out of their game.
Right from the start Marshall launched himself out of the Wests Tigers’ line to take on Terry Campese one on one. It was aggressive and physical and needed to be absolutely perfect. It suffocated their attack.
The Raiders like to play long shifts and sweeping plays, most of the time through Campese. But with Marshall getting in his face at almost the moment he caught the ball, all that was shut down.
It stopped their expansiveness in attack and their second-phase play.
It rattled the Raiders.
And where their big forwards are used to rolling over the advantage line, Marshall’s defence meant that many times, after tackles, they were forced back behind the football to go again.
It more or less makes the next play after that null and void. And it sucks the juice right out of you.
If you’re a football fan, you can’t help but admire the nerve of what Sheens did. The strategy was some risk, taking courage to attempt a game plan like that. If Marshall misses his mark the Raiders go right through the hole he has just left in the line and they are in all sorts of trouble.
But that is the genius of Tim Sheens.
Only good players are capable of doing it and he put his best player on it.
And Marshall pulled it off, knowing when to race up and when to hold the line, and when to work in with a football team that at the moment is wonderfully cohesive.
So here is Sheens, 21 years after he won his first premiership - five years since his last - one game away from challenging for another.
We all know him for his beautiful pet plays, like the move he pulled off the scrum to send Lote Tuqiri down the sideline for a try, and for the way his teams have always attacked. But the difference on Friday night was the defensive plan that was extremely effective.
As good as the performance was, the Tigers need to improve this week if they are to head back to the grand final. Sheens would be disappointed in the defensive performance of some individuals.
One-on-one there were missed tackles that he will have to get right this week. And they will have to stop those mental lapses that undo a lot of the good work done at other times.
In two games in this finals series they have jumped out to good leads, getting run down in one game and almost being run down in the second.
Canberra played with a lot of heart on Friday. Just as it looked like any fatigue from the 100-minute game against Sydney Roosters a week earlier might take a toll on the Tigers’ legs, and help bring Canberra back in it, Campese went off and they suffered for it.
In the past two years the Raiders have won just ?? from ?? when Campese hasn’t played. Yet despite that, their courage nearly got them home this time. The concern for the Tigers is the Dragons won’t allow them the opportunity to break away early in the game, or relax later and allow their lead to save them. The Dragons play a relentless, disciplined game of football in both attack and defence.
To beat them you have to play for the whole 80 minutes. If you drop off, they’ve got you by the throat.
You can beat them only by out-grinding them. Like the Tigers are a product of Sheens, the Dragons are a product of Wayne Bennett.
He is the man who can stop them.
What I like about the Tigers is they have been down this road before.
They know what it is like to get on a roll through the finals and take it all the way through to the premiership.
Marshall was outstanding.
Keith Galloway played as well up front as I have seen him play.
If they can tidy their game while maintaining their momentum, which comes from their spirit with the ball, then they are in a very good position against the Dragons.
I said last week that the Tigers are a team who take what they do on the training paddock and replicate it on the playing field better than most.
That comes down to the genius of two men and the hard work of many others. The genius of those two have got them this far. The genius of one man might stop them.
all players contribute to the team performance.
we know Benji is tough, look at how he has overcome the injuries he had.
i do believe if he continues to stay majority of injury free for remainder of his career, he will be spoken of in same circles as Lewis, Lockyer etc.
for the dragons game, shut down their playmakers, make Soward do alot of defending.