Media Reports

By Wayne Cousins, ANZ Stadium
9/09/2011 9:37:51 PM

Wests Tigers recorded a hard fought 19-12 win over St George-Illawarra Dragons tonight at ANZ Stadium in the first Telstra Premiership qualifying final.

In front of a crowd of 45, 631, Wests Tigers overcame a 12-6 half-time deficit to record a gutsy win.

Wests Tigers will now host a home regiomal Week two semiffinal at a venue to be confirmed.

Wests Tigers centre Chris Lawrence was replaced by Matt Utai. Andrew Fifita and Wade McKinnon also dropped off the extended bench.

Video referees Russell Smith and Chris Ward were called on in the 4th minute to rule whether Wests Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall dropped the ball in trying to kick it. He regathered the ball after it bounced off Beau Scott before he stepped past full-back Darius Boyd to score next to the posts. The try was awarded.

Marshall converted the try from next to the posts to give Wests Tigers a 6-0 lead.

The Dragons got back to 6-4 when hooker Mitch Rein dived over from dummy half for a soft try in the 17th minute. Five-eighth Jamie Soward converted for a 6-all scoreline. It came on the back of sustained pressure from the Dragons through back-to-back sets.

Soward found a gap to slice past Utai before throwing a one handed pass back inside for winger Jason Nightingale to score in the corner. Soward failed to convert the try for a 10-6 scoreline after 25 minutes.

A loose arm by Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods caught Dragons half-back and captain Ben Hornby high. Soward converted the penalty goal from 25 metres out to extend the Dragons lead to 12-6.

Soward failed to land a penalty goal in the 37th minute from 20 metres out after referee Matt Cecchin ruled the ball had been stripped in a tackle by Gareth Ellis and Marshall.

Two minutes later, Soward failed to land a 25 metre field goal from in front of the posts after a good chase and pressure by Ellis.

Referee Tony Archer ruled a forward pass from half-back Rob Lui to winger Lote Tuqiri inside the final 20 seconds just 10 metres out from the Dragons line.

2nd Half
Wests Tigers started the second half well when a break down the right flank by centre Blake Ayshford saw winger Beau Ryan put a grubber kick through to force Dragons full-back Darius Boyd to knock it dead to give Wests Tigers a repeat set.

Unfortunately, Wests Tigers dropped the ball a few plays later 10 metres out from the Dragons line.

A beautiful inside ball by Lui put Moltzen through a gap before offloading a floating pass to right centre Ayshford who went for the corner before popping up a pass for winger Beau Ryan to score in the 47th minute for a 12-10 scoreline.

Marshall converted the try from the sideline for a 12-12 scoreline aftter 48 minutes.

Wests Tigers took a 14-12 lead in the 53rd minute when Marshall landed a penalty goal from 20 metres out in front of the posts after the Dragons were penalised for a play the ball infringement.

A beautiful short ball by Lui in drawing in centre Matt Cooper saw Wests Tigers second-rower Chris Heighington score out wide in the 66th minute after Lui had made a tackle break on the play beforehand. Marshall failed to convert the try in the 67th minute to leave Wests Tigers leading 18-12.

Lui had a field goal attempt in the 74th minute but his shot was deflected off a Dragons player.

Marshall then converted a field goal from 10 metres in front in the 77th minute to give Wests Tigers a 19-12 lead.

Marshall then sealed the win a minute later when the Dragons kicked out on the full from a drop out for a 21-12 lead.

Tigers leave Dragons with anxious wait
David Beniuk
September 9, 2011 - 10:04PM


The Wests Tigers turned in a superb second half to beat St George Illawarra 21-12 in Friday night’s opening NRL finals match, leaving the Dragons with an anxious wait to know whether their premiership defence is over.

Behind 12-6 at the break, halfback Robert Lui starred as the Tigers stormed home and the Dragons suffered a meltdown that looked to extinguish any hope they have of going back-to-back in 2011.

Wayne Bennett’s coaching era could be over bySaturday night after his side appeared first to rediscover and then lose their mojo in the space of 40 minutes.

The premiers will exit the finals if two teams among the Warriors, North Queensland or Newcastle have upset wins in this weekend’s remaining games.

But even if they live to fight another day, Bennett will have a massive task to instil confidence back into a side that has won just two of their past eight games.

A ninth straight win for the Tigers, a club record for the joint venture, came after they were forced to rule out star centre Chris Lawrence before kick-off when he failed to recover from a hamstring injury.

Other results will determine whether Tim Sheens’ men have next week off, a bonus they will earn if two of the top three sides go down.

For the Tigers, Benji Marshall, Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington scored tries, while Marshall kicked four from five and a field goal in front of 45,631 fans.

Mitch Rein and Jason Nightingale bagged four-pointers for the Dragons with Jamie Soward booting two from four.

The game began with one of the most bizarre tries ever seen in an NRL game, star five-eighth Marshall mis-kicking and appearing to drop the ball before it deflected off an opponent and he regathered to run 30m and score, the apparent knock-on deemed a drop kick by video referees Russell Smith and Chris Ward.

The Dragons looked to have their groove well and truly back when they dominated the first half to lead 12-6 after tries to Rein and Nightingale.

But the Tigers came out of the sheds on fire and they levelled the scores in the 47th minute when Ryan finished a Tim Moltzen bust started with a Lui inside ball.

They hit the front at 14-12 when Marshall booted a 53rd minute penalty goal, and it was 18-12 when Lui sent Heighington over 12 minutes later.

As the clueless-looking Dragons cruelled their chances with errors, Marshall put it beyond doubt with a 77th minute field goal and then added a penalty goal two minutes later.

As well as Bennett, who heads to Newcastle, stars Mark Gasnier (retiring) and Darius Boyd (Newcastle) could have been involved in their last games for the Dragons.

What does he mean that Benji appeared to drop it Benji hit that sweet Well sweet enough for my liking anyway

Mistake or not, Marshall makes good

Steve Jancetic AAP Fri, Sep 09, 2011 - 9:51 PM

Only Benji Marshall can make a mistake look that good.

As his side looked to take advantage of some good early field position in Friday night’s qualifying final against St George Illawarra, the Wests Tigers maestro produced what for all intents and purposes could only be described as an airswing.

An embarrassing gaffe for a park footballer let alone one of the best players in the world.

But what Marshall made of the error showcased just why he is held in such high esteem.

The classy pivot managed to get some of his boot to the ball.

So little was the contact that it was a surprise the Nine Network didn’t call on ‘Snicko’ or ‘Hotspot’ to verify the result.

But it was a touch just the same.

The ball hit the dirt, bounced off an opponent and Marshall regathered.

It appeared to be a knock on and everyone stopped - everyone except Marshall that is.

He sensed a stagnate defence and he exploded.

There was still Darius Boyd to overcome in defence but it was a more customary type of Marshall brilliance that proved too much for the Dragons fullback, a massive left foot step leaving Boyd grasping at thin air and the Tigers with an early 4-0 lead courtesy of their inspirational playmaker.

It may not have been to script but, as he has proved time and again, Marshall rarely operates by conventional methods.

How the hell can you get a 12 paragraoh story out of a dodgy kick?

Only Marshall can make a drop goal attempt worth six points.

They fumbled, they stumbled … and then they pounced
Glenn Jackson
September 10, 2011

FOR so much of this game Wests Tigers were not even in it, which says a fair bit about them - that they could defeat the premiers under those circumstances, thus setting themselves up for a real play for this year’s title.

They have now won nine matches in a row, and will likely need to win another three to do just that. Every game is sudden death from here.

The fact remains, however, that they do not look much like losing. Just as they did in their final two home-and-away matches, they handed their opponents many opportunities, but held firm. Doing that against Gold Coast and Cronulla was worrying. Doing it against the might of St George Illawarra was wonderful.

For much of the first half, the Dragons found themselves with much of the vital statistics, but now they will have a nervous wait to see whether they have any vital signs after the weekend.

It had all started so well for the Tigers, if unexpectedly - if you can say that about anything Benji Marshall is involved in. Like David Copperfield, his opening try was magic and awful at the same time. Marshall failed to get boot to ball but regathered. From there, the brilliance took over. A left-foot step left Dragons fullback Darius Boyd grasping at thin air.

However, it was that trouble to get boot to ball that caused the Tigers problems later. Halfback Robert Lui first, and then Marshall, scuffed clearing kicks, which gave the Dragons the territory and subsequently the opportunity.

Hooker Mitch Rein took it wonderfully, dummying to score. Then it was Jamie Soward; cue all those Sweet and Soward puns.

The Dragons No. 6, sometimes maligned for his running game, showed wonderful speed to cut through the Tigers defence, and then the vision to fling the ball back inside for his winger, Jason Nightingale.

The Tigers were their own worst enemies by this stage. Interchange prop Aaron Woods caught Dragons skipper Ben Hornby high, and the ensuing penalty gave the Dragons a 12-6 half-time lead.

The Tigers’ fumbling continued, but they hung in there. Fullback Tim Moltzen kicked out on the full from the kick-off, winger Lote Tuqiri lost possession in his own quarter, Marshall’s strip gave Soward another chance to extend their lead. He missed but the Tigers could not have missed the obvious; they were off their game. Maybe the brilliance of Marshall’s first-up try masked that fact.

‘‘When we didn’t go away, I think they started to panic a bit,’’ Tigers coach Tim Sheens said.

They could not have handed the Dragons more opportunities, and yet they trailed by just six points at the break. Eight minutes after the restart, they were level. Centre Blake Ayshford was about to be forced into touch when he gave a basketball pass to winger Beau Ryan, who planted the ball down then sent it flying into the air. So too their spirits soared.

Suddenly, the Dragons were doubting themselves, then the Tigers took charge.

Lui, so often the understudy to Marshall, was involved in much of the Tigers’ travails. He set the team on its way with a half break, and then not long after he held up his ball superbly for lock Chris Heighington, who scored with 14 minutes left on the clock.

Marshall’s kick could have ended it there but, as ever, the Tigers like to keep their fans on the edge of their seat. He decided to wait for the field goal, with three minutes remaining.

Roar power: Tigers step up when it counts as premiers fade away
Greg Prichard
September 10, 2011

THERE will be an enormous amount of improvement in Wests Tigers coming out of last night’s game. They had gone into the finals on a soft run against a few below-average opponents, and it showed. They still ended up being the better team but they would have won by a lot more had they been right on their game, and that is very scary for all the other teams in the finals.

St George Illawarra? It’s time to accept that when it matters most they simply aren’t as good as they were last year. They face a huge battle to get past whichever team they play next week - presuming they make it to next week.

The fact the Dragons didn’t panic after Benji Marshall had put them behind early in the game made you think they had their mojo back. During their losing run in the second half of the season they reeked of uncertainty but last night they reacted to a 6-0 deficit by simply getting on with their business.

They backed themselves to get on top, which was their way when they won the title last year and dominated in the first half of this season. The Dragons would have liked to have broken out of their losing streak a lot earlier than they did but as it turned out their lift in form approaching the finals was timed well.

A narrow loss to Melbourne in an intense contest, glimpses of their best form as they beat the Warriors and then a full-tilt win over the Panthers appeared to put the Dragons in good stead, but it still wasn’t enough against the Tigers.

The Tigers, while they had won eight in a row going into the finals, did not play any top-eight teams in the last four rounds, and it left them a bit vulnerable. They made some uncharacteristic mistakes in the second-last round against Gold Coast, and their defence was a bit shabby at times in the last round against Cronulla.

Rather than have a sharp edge in the first half against the Dragons, which may have been there had they played some better-quality opponents in the last few rounds, the Tigers made too many mistakes.

Marshall had run into traffic and out of room near the sideline in the third minute, and even when he scored a try in the fourth minute he got lucky off his own mistimed kick.

The Tigers defended poorly in the lead-up to Dragons winger Jason Nightingale’s try in the 23rd minute, which put the Dragons in front, and an attacking raid by the Tigers broke down through a Marshall forward pass in the 28th minute.

The mistakes continued, with the Tigers kicking out on the full in the 30th minute, after a Jamie Soward penalty goal had put the Dragons up 12-0, Lote Tuqiri losing the ball coming out of his own area in the 35th minute and Gareth Ellis forcing a mistake from Tuqiri with a bad pass in the 38th minute. Yet the Tigers could have easily gone to half-time level had a dangerous attacking raid in the final minute before the break brought the result.

There was a sense about the game that if the Dragons didn’t score the first try in the second half they were going to be dragged into an almighty battle, because it was reasonable to assume the Tigers wouldn’t make as many mistakes in the second half.

And that was how it panned out. The Tigers put the Dragons under the pump straight away in the second half, and 13 minutes later they had hit the lead. When Marshall missed with the conversion attempt off a Chris Heighington try with 14 minutes to go, the Dragons were still in the game, only a converted try behind. But that forced the Tigers to play the game right out to the finish, which they did well.

Belief now starting to brew as Benji’s boys keep roaring until the end
Brad Walter
September 10, 2011

WESTS TIGERS captain Robbie Farah last night revealed that two shots at penalty goal and a field-goal attempt by Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward before half-time had given his side the confidence to overcome what coach Tim Sheens described as their worst first-half performance of the season.

The Tigers trailed just 12-6 at the interval, and Sheens said he couldn’t believe St George Illawarra weren’t much further ahead after dominating the opening 40 minutes of the match. But a stunning second-half turnaround extended the Tigers’ winning streak to nine consecutive matches and propelled them to equal premiership favouritism by TAB SportsBet after their 21-12 victory.

The result could have also put the Tigers within 80 minutes of their first grand final since 2005 as the winner of the opening finals match between the fourth- and fifth-placed teams has received the following weekend off and the loser has been eliminated each of the past two seasons. Gold Coast beat Manly last year, while the Storm beat the Warriors in 2009.

Sheens and his players did not want to contemplate when and where the Tigers would play next after last night’s impressive win, but they are more than happy about the position they now command after being written off in most quarters two months ago.

‘‘No one believed in us, but we believed in us,’’ Farah said.

Asked when he thought they could turn things around last night, Farah said: ‘‘The fact they kept going for the two points and went for a field goal before half-time gave us confidence. Maybe they thought they were going to win 13-12 but we knew we had points in us.’’

Sheens said the Tigers defence had kept them in the game after an error-ridden first half in which even Benji Marshall’s stunning fourth-minute try came from a mistake by the star playmaker. He barely got a toenail to an attempted kick but stole the ball from Beau Scott and sidestepped Darius Boyd to score.

Marshall also threw a pass that was clearly forward and kicked out on the full from the restart after a 28th minute Soward penalty goal.

‘‘I think it was the worst first half we have played this season. I couldn’t believe we weren’t down 20-0,’’ Sheens said. ‘‘When we didn’t go away I think they started to panic a bit. That was probably the best second half of footy we have played for a long time.’’

Whatever their fate is now, the Tigers next match will be in Sydney and probably back at ANZ Stadium where the NRL was last night celebrating an attendance of 45,631 despite the wet conditions.

If the Tigers get next weekend off, their remaining games could be at the former Olympic stadium that hosts the grand final on October 2.

After deciding not to risk Chris Lawrence (hamstring), Sheens said the star centre should be fit for the Tigers’ next match, while Blake Ayshford shouldn’t miss any more game time after a head knock forced him from the field.

Prop Todd Payten also didn’t play due to a calf injury but it is hoped he will also be available for the Tigers’ next match, which will be his last if they lose because he is retiring at the end of the season.

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