Round 22 of the NRL saw the Wests Tigers travel back to the scene of last Monday nights thrilling win over Manly to take on the Sydney Roosters in another must win clash. The Tigers lost centre Chris Lawrence on the eve of the match which saw gummy-shark bound centre Dean Collis promoted to the starting lineup. The Roosters were playing for pride and looking to avoid the wooden spoon so while the Tigers entered the match as heavy favorites, this game had the potential to be a tricky one.
The Tigers began the match with all the early ball as the Roosters made a mistake on their first set of 6. The Tigers then proceeded to pound the Roosters line for the next 5 minutes as they were awarded penalties and forced an early line drop out through Benji Marshall. The Roosters goal-line defence held firm however, while the Tigers looked very flat in attack, possibly due to Monday night’s energy sapping win. The Roosters then received a penalty and from a regular hitup from Craig Fitzgibbon, they found themselves in space. The Tigers managed to halt the raid but on the next play the Roosters sent the ball left and caught the Tigers short out wide as Beau Ryan was forced to come in field to try and shut the play down. Fiztgibbon’s conversion missed and it was 4-0 to the Roosters after 6 minutes.
The game then developed into an arm wrestle for the next 10 minutes as the Tigers defence slowly steadied while the Roosters continued to play the game up the middle. In attack the Tigers looked off their game and did not show any real urgency, particularly with their kick chase game which was poor early on. The Roosters went further in front in the 18th minute as they crossed out wide through Kenny-Dowell. Again Fitzgibbon missed the conversion and it was 8-0 to the Roosters.
Again, the next 10 minutes proved to be an arm wrestle as the Tigers defence started aiming up while their attack continued to lack any real spark. That changed in the 31st minute however as a Tigers attacking raid on the Roosters 20 metre line found the ball spread out wide to Tuiaki, who didn’t have a whole lot of room to move so he did the next best thing - grubbered the ball through very neatly off his left foot and managed to score in the corner as he beat Perrett to the ball. Benji’s kick was wide of the posts and it was 8-4, with the Tigers back in the game.
There was no further change to the score and as the teams went to the sheds the Tigers had a bit of work in front of them and minus Shannon Gallant who was injured in the first half.
The Tigers began the second half with a bit more of a spring in their step as they again enjoyed the majority of early ball. Mitch Aubusson earnt himself a 10 minute stint in the sin bin for a professional foul in the 47th minute and Tuiaki nearly had his second try of the match in the 48th minute (I think it was around this time) but a no try ruling was made by the video ref as Farah had an obstruction in the play leading up to his cut out ball to Tuiaki. The Tigers soon found themselves attacking the Roosters line minutes later however and they eventually crossed through Beau Ryan in the 55th minute as he swooped on a well placed John Morris grubber kick in the corner. Benji landed the sideline conversion and the Tigers found themselves in front for the first time.
The Roosters managed to get themselves down the Tigers end of the field after what seemed an eternity and they looked like they might hitback, however some good goal line defence from the Tigers held them out. In the 62 minute the Roosters received a penalty and rather than keeping the pressure on, they took the shot at goal to level the scores with 18 minutes remaining. Once again though, the Tigers managed to grind their way down to the Roosters danger zone and after a potential try scoring opportunity was snuffed out by the Roosters, the Tigers were awarded a scrum feed and Benji Marshall chimed in to drift across field, drawing defenders. As he did so, Dean Collis cleverly changed his line of attack to put himself on the outside of his opposite and the it was a matter of catch and pass to an unmarked Ryan who scored a double. Benji again made no mistake with the conversion from wide out and the Tigers now lead 16-10 with 13 minutes remaining.
The Roosters had a chance to hit back a few minutes later as Willie Mason put Anthony Minichello down the sideline and with the opportunity to make things interesting. Tim Moltzen held back initially to give Minichello his opportunity and then swooped to hit him just of short of the line as Dean Collis (or possibly Ayshford) came across in cover to put Mini over the sideline touch in-goal. From there the Tigers again worked their way down field to camp themselves on the Roosters try line. The Roosters managed to hold firm on their line as the Tigers attack continued to look flat and devoid of options at times. In the 75th minute Robbie Farah landed a field goal to extend the Tigers lead to 7 points and from there they were never headed as they finished the game attacking the Roosters line.
Onto the players:
1. Gallant - He had limited involvement in the first half due to suffering what looked to be a serious lower leg injury. He was certainly hobbling quite poorly at the end of the game. If the injury is serious it could hurt his chances of being re-signed.
2. Tuiaki - Continued his try scoring feats and was unlucky not to have 2 tries today. His involvement in the second half was a bit quiet but the big fella is getting across the try line and defused a difficult bomb in the second half also. Made 138 metres in attack, 6 tackle breaks, 1 line break and 1 try in a solid effort.
3. Ayshford - Not bad again today. He was fairly well marked by the Roosters but he went forward again and looks a handful despite having some filling out to do. Made 107 metres in attack and made 10 tackles.
19. Collis - Went ok today although I think we definitely missed Lawrence out there in attack. Dean held his own though and did well for the last pass for Ryan’s second try and he had some good runs out of dummyhalf in the second half. If Lawrence is fit next week Collis could find himself playing for the Magpies though. Made 102 metres in attack, made 12 tackles but missed 3.
5. Ryan - Went alright today. Didn’t see a great deal of ball but he picked up a double and made some good runs from dummyhalf in the second half. Made 74 metres in attack, 1 error, 1 linebreak and scored 2 tries in a decent performance.
6. Marshall - Played a restrained role again today, not trying anything too flash. Almost scored late in the game but played pretty much as a receiver all game. Kicking game was good, both long and short and his passing game was also pretty good. Probably the Tigers best on field but it was a hard call to make. I would have liked more in attack, but along with Farah, Benji directed the side well. Made 70 metres in attack, 4 tackle breaks, kicked for 313 metres, landed a 40-20, made 5 tackles and missed 3.
7. Moltzen - Shifted to fullback when Mighty Mouse became a casualty and went well for the most part once again. Made one poor mistake in the first half with a dropped ball but came up with a try saver on Minichello in the second half and also sliced the Roosters open to almost score a great solo try. Made 69 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, made 13 tackles, missed 1 tackle and broke 6 tackles in a solid effort.
8. Gibbs - Another good game today with 100 metres in attack and drove forward against the Roosters big men. Showed good leg drive, made 19 tackles and 1 offload in a solid effort.
9. Farah - Pretty good game. Didn’t have a great platform set for him today but he managed to earn a couple of penalties for the Tigers and came up with a couple of good runs out of dummyhalf. Racked up 35 tackles, made 89 metres in attack, kicked for 226 metres, kicked a field goal and made 4 offloads in a good captains knock.
10. Payten - Solid effort, similar to Gibbs. Made 94 metres in attack, 16 tackles and 2 offloads in a decent effort and looks to have found some form into the backend of the season.
11. Ellis - Strong game again, ran hard and while he gave away a penalty in the first half, that was his only real blemish. Made 138 metres in attack, 17 tackles, 4 missed tackles and 5 offloads. Almost scored his first try of the season too, soccer style of course but was narrowly beaten to the ball by Pearce.
12. Galea - Another strong defensive game as he came up with plenty of good tackles. Played big minutes again but was down on attack, mainly due to the Tigers playing a lot of the game inside the Roosters half. Ran for 44 metres and topped the tackle count with 37 tackles in a good effort.
13. Payne - Went ok today in attack, making 71 metres with some good runs in the second half and 15 tackles for the match. Not a bad effort from Payne.
14. Morris - Played well today I thought, and actually passed the ball a few times which was good to see. Even had a try assist for Ryan’s first try. Good overall game from Morris as a result, as he also defended well. Made 49 metres in attack, 14 tackles and 1 try assist.
15. Heighington - I thought he was very good defensively today, came up with some good reads and did plenty in attack, although he aimed himself at the Roosters ruck which resulted in him being slammed a couple of times. Made 88 metres in attack for his effort though, and 16 tackles with 1 offload in a good effort.
16. Galloway - Went forward once again although still working on his match fitness it would seem to me. Made 89 metres in attack and 13 tackles in a solid performance.
17. Skandalis - Good game from Skando today, surged forward well and tackled well also. Came up with one dropped ball while trying to offload, but otherwise he was good. 109 metres in attack and 16 tackles in a solid game from the veteran.
Poor I have to say, especially given the amount of ball the Tigers had. Monday night evidently took a bit out of the side, both physically and mentally as they started the game very flat and eventually worked their way into it. Only through sheer weight of possession were they able to overcome the Roosters IMO. The forward pack was ok, but did not dominate the Roosters pack, and as a result, Farah and Marshall did not have a great platform to work off and a lot of the time the attacking structure was too flat. Definitely some work to do here.
Opened up early in the game but eventually the Tigers defence tightened up and made life tough for the Roosters. The Roosters did manage more linebreaks than the Tigers though but overall the D wasn’t bad apart from the early lapse in the first half. All of the forwards tackled well, particularly Galea, Heighno and Ellis. Moltzen’s try saver on Minichello was a highlight too.
Not real good in the first half as plenty of kicks found Perrett or Kenny-Dowall who were able to wind up as the Tigers kick chase was ordinary. Benji’s short kicking game was good though and when the Tigers had an avalanche of possession in the second half, Benji’s kicking game was good. Farah didn’t kick as much today. Benji also landed another 40/20 which was good to see.
Final stats (Roosters in brackets):
Tackles: 242 (347)
All run metres: 1449 (1059)
Penalties: 9 (7)
Errors: 8 (12)
Offloads: 16 (8)
Line breaks: 4 (5)
Completions: 36 (21)
Possession: 57% (43%)
So that makes it 5 wins in a row today, and today was the least impressive of the lot IMO. The Tigers started very flat and I think the Manly match took a lot out of them, physically and mentally. Whether the Tigers realised this early or not, they completed their sets well and ground their way to victory in the end. They certainly tightened the screws in the second half as they enjoyed plenty of time in the Roosters half and the kicking game improved in the second half.
The injury to Gallant was the only real disappointment as there will no doubt be a reshuffle for the Sharks match next week. It is Cronulla who will be coming off the short turnaround though with a match in Brisbane tomorrow night. I expect the Tigers to come out far more energised next week, but for now, we’ve got the 2 points and some good momentum. Hope you found the report informative.