Round 1, Leichhardt Oval, Sunday afternoon, sunny, hot, humid and before a near sell out crowd, the Wests Tigers kicked off season 2012 with a win, albeit a very scrappy, dour win spiced with some individual brilliance from Benji Marshall and Beau Ryan. Without rehashing the entire game, I’ll break it down into attack, defence and kicking.
Rusty, very rusty. If the Tigers were going to struggle in one department more than others, it was always going to be in attack. It’s just the nature of their game and how they like to play, and it will take a few weeks before they settle down. Now they got off to a great start through the boot of Marshall and some sharp reflexes from Beau Ryan, but as the game got older, fatigue set in and the Tigers completions really did decline and suffer. This is highlighted by Aaron Woods being the only Tigers forward making over 100 metres in attack today.
While the forwards held their own in the middle, the backs didn’t have a lot to smile about. Marshall looked dangerous every time he touched the ball, and James Tedesco also looked very sharp until he succumbed to what looked to be a season ending ACL injury to his left knee. The centres, Chris Lawrence and Blake Ayshford were both well contained while on the wings Matt Utai and Beau Ryan had solid games, Ryan being the standout bagging two excellent tries while almost grabbing a third whereas Utai was denied a try in the second half as his foot brushed the sideline. Ellis, Blair, Marshall, Galloway and Woods were all prominent in making offloads to create second phase play too.
In the end the Tigers found enough attacking spark to get them across the line, just. There is certainly plenty to work on though and it will start by the Tigers hanging onto the ball and completing their sets. Main offenders for errors were Beau Ryan, Matt Utai, Blake Ayshford, Tim Moltzen and Benji Marshall, who all came up with 2 or more errors.
Plenty to work on here for the Tigers as they missed 25 tackles to the Sharks 11. For most of the game, and particularly the second half, the Sharks looked the more dangerous side, and the Tigers were backpeddling for large portions of the game as they failed to meet the Sharks on the advantage line. The main offenders for the Tigers in missing tackles were Benji Marshall, Tim Moltzen and Adam Blair, while Gareth Ellis and Liam Fulton topped the tackle count. Chris Lawrence looked a bit sluggish in defence out wide at times, while Blake Ayshford also struggled, being stood up by Todd Carney a couple of times and being caught out by Colin Best in the second half as the Sharks mounted their resurgence.
On a more positive note, I was impressed with the defence of Matt Bell and Matt Groat when they came on, while Liam Fulton was busy as always and these 3 players helped keep the defence tight around the ruck.
The Tigers will definitely need to stiffen up their defence if they are to topple last year’s premiers Manly next week.
Marshall’s kicking game was pretty good overall. He shanked one in the first half which went out on the full, but his grubber kicks were effective as were his spiral bombs which caused the Sharks a few headaches. Unfortunately I only saw Moltzen put in one kick all game, while Farah kicked a couple of times searching for the touchline. As far as goalkicking goes, Marshall hit 2/3, missing one from the sideline late in the game which would have given the Tigers the lead. No such troubles with his wobbly 35 metre field goal which won the Tigers the game. Hopefully we see Farah and Moltzen start to chime in more as the season develops.
Onto the players:
James Tedesco – Impressed for 29 minutes before his left knee went from under him as he was bringing the ball back at speed. It was a terrible injury for young Tedesco whom so many fans were looking forward to watching play this year. If he’s not back this year, he’ll be back bigger and better next year.
87 metres in attack, 4 tackle breaks, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 error.
Beau Ryan – One of the Tigers best today, scoring 2 tries, both of which were very good and nearly picked up a third. Copped a smack in the mouth and also placed on report for a high shot.
149 metres in attack, 2 tries, 1 tackle break, 1 offload, 8 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 3 errors.
Blake Ayshford – An unhappy for Blake today I must say. His hands let him down on a couple of occasions and he was also bundled over the sideline as well as stood up in defence on several occasions. Hopefully he does not play any worse than today because he is capable of much, much better. Look for him to rebound against Manly.
97 metres in attack, 2 tackle breaks, 19 tackles, 5 missed tackles, 3 errors.
Chris Lawrence – Also looked out of sorts today. Noticed him sporting some heavy strapping on his left shoulder at halftime, so it looks like he’s going to be carrying this all season. Looked sluggish in attack and defence and lacked the explosiveness for which he is renowned for in attack. Like Ayshford, he has a lot to work on based on today’s performance.
92 metres in attack, 1 tackle break, 20 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 1 error.
Matt Utai – Did the hard yards today, and while he was solid, he also deserved, and should have scored a try down the sideline in the second half. It wasn’t to be though, and thankfully the Sharks did not target him with the ball in the air. No doubt he will make way for Tuqiri in a few weeks time, but today he was solid and got the job done.
104 metres in attack, 4 tackle breaks, 1 offload, 3 tackles, 1 error.
Benji Marshall – The difference between the two sides today really. Came up with a pinpoint grubber kick for Beau Ryan’s first try, and then took the line himself to score the Tigers second try. His general kicking was solid and he came up with a 35 metre field goal to win the game for the Tigers in golden point extra time. Came up with his fair share of errors, but that is just part of his game as he is constantly probing and attacking.
63 metres in attack, 2 tackle breaks, 1 try, 2 goals, 1 field goal, 1 line break, 1 offload, 6 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 4 errors.
Tim Moltzen – Ended up splitting the webbing in his hand just before halftime which required stitches and it affected his defence in the second half. As far as attack and organisation goes, Marshall and Farah dominated, with Moltzen not sighted as much. Looking at today, he’s going to take a few weeks to look comfortable at 7, but we know he can play.
40 metres in attack, 1 tackle break, 11 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 2 errors.
13. Chris Heighington – Pretty solid game from Heighno today, couldn’t fault his effort or anything he did really.
98 metres in attack, 3 tackle breaks, 1 line break, 1 offload, 32 tackles, 3 missed tackles.
12. Gareth Ellis – Pretty solid game also, worked very hard in defence and went forward in attack. A shame it is last season with the Tigers, but he’ll make it count and hopefully the rest of his team mates do to.
81 metres in attack, 2 offloads, 39 tackles, 3 missed tackles.
11. Adam Blair – Looked pretty solid out there and came up with a very good one on one steal close to the Sharks line which the Tigers could not capitalise on. Defensively he looked solid although he did miss a lot of tackles and he got sucked in by Fifita once and gave away a penalty. He’ll only improve as the season goes though.
84 metres in attack, 2 offloads, 25 tackles, 6 missed tackles.
10. Keith Galloway – Not a bad start to the season for KG, he generally takes a few weeks to wind up and find form and today he was solid without being great. Again though, he’ll improve with match conditioning.
98 metres in attack, 2 offloads, 21 tackles, 1 missed tackle.
Robbie Farah – Much improved over his Foundation Cup performance and had some nice touches out there. Defensively he wasn’t worked over as heavily as most matches last season, and he should also improve with match fitness. Made decent metres around the ruck.
80 metres in attack, 1 offload, 20 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 2 errors.
Aaron Woods – Impressed me the most out of all the Tigers forwards today, went forward well and he was the only forward to make more than 100 metres in attack for the Tigers. Looks set for a big season.
108 metres in attack, 2 offloads, 19 tackles, 2 missed tackles.
14. Liam Fulton – Busy and professional as always out on the field. Got through a lot of defence in the middle of the field, and he also filled in at dummyhalf at several stages. Good game overall.
68 metres in attack, 40 tackles.
15. Matt Groat – Looked quite busy coming off the bench and defensively he got through a bit of work in conjunction with Bell. Unfortunately during this time the Tigers didn’t have a great deal of ball due to mistakes and penalties, so his go forward was limited.
31 metres in attack, 16 tackles, 2 missed tackles.
16. Matt Bell – Like Groat, he was busy in defence and helped keep the ruck tight for the Tigers. Hard to gauge his overall impact with the ball as the Tigers were going through a heavy defensive workload whilst he was out there.
25 metres in attack, 24 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 error.
17. Tom Humble – Replaced Tedesco at fullback and went quite well I thought. He has good pace and was quite involved, and he brought the ball back at speed which was good to see. Now that the fullback spot has opened up, it will be up to Humble to make the most of his chance. He certainly didn’t do his chances any harm today.
92 metres in attack, 1 line break assist, 6 tackles, 1 error.
Overall team stats (Sharks in brackets):
Try assists: 1 (2)
Offloads: 13 (13)
Line breaks: 2 (6)
Line break assists: 1 (5)
Tackles made: 310 (277)
1 on 1 tackles: 25 (24)
Missed tackles: 34 (21)
Tackle breaks: 25 (42)
Total metres made: 1397 (1482)
Possession: 47% (53%)
Completion rate: 20/36 = 56% (27/40 = 68%)
Errors: 19 (17)
Penalties conceded: 7 (5)
Thanks willow always look forward to your post game wrap up. But where is your player ratings.
Posted using RoarFEED 2012
People will always dispute the player ratings, I don’t get to many games and therefore I miss a lot of the stuff that happens “off the ball”, and that’s where you can pick up a lo of things that players do. I’ll just try and keep it objective and throw the stats in there for everyone to check out.
I’d like to go a bit further with the praise for Humble, thought he was really, really good!
Bell and Fulton are great to have on the bench to stiffen up the defence.
Groat was 100% better than trial form.
Blair and Ellis are just real pro’s - always in the right place and doing the right thing.
Heighnington was excellent.
And as others have said Woods was terrific - he just gets better and better!