Round 25: Willow's match report

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Willow's match report and player review

Post by willow » Sun 29 Aug, 2010 5:38 pm

Round 25 of the Telstra NRL premiership saw the Wests Tigers return to Leichhardt Oval for their final home match of 2010 to take on the salary cap cheating Melbourne Storm. The Tigers were playing for a top 2 finish while the Storm were playing for pride only. Coming off the back of an impressive 20-18 win over the Eels last week, the Tigers entered this match boosted by the return of specialist fullback Wade McKinnon, however this was tempered by the loss of backrower Liam Fulton who was ruled out with a bad cork and replaced by the man who boasts arguably the best 6-pack in the NRL, Mark Flanagan who moved to the bench with Simon Dwyer promoted to the starting side. The Storm were also dealt a big blow, losing 5/8 Brett Finch to a hand injury, strike centre Greg Inglis and damaging backrower/centre Sika Manu.

Greeted with perfect sunny conditions and a full house at Leichhardt, just how would the Tigers go about their business today?

1st half:

The Storm kicked off and the Tigers got away to a safe start. The Tigers were awarded the first penalty of the match in the 4th minute as Chris Lawrence was taken high by Jeff Lima. The Tigers went on the attack while Lawrence left the field. The Tigers attacking raid came to an early end as Chris Heighington dropped the ball with an overlap on his right. The Storm lost the ball in a good grassing tackle by Tuqiri in the 6th minute giving possession back to the Tigers inside the Storm half. The Tigers again lost the ball through a poor pass from Lui and Melbourne counter attacked brilliantly, scoring a good try out wide. Smith missed the conversion to give the Storm a handy 4-0 lead.

A forward pass from Farah in the 10th minute put the Tigers under pressure as Melbourne went on the attack inside the Tigers half. The Tigers did well to hang on but struggled to get out of their own end until Blake Ayshford came up with a good run which then saw the Wests Tigers score a brilliant try on the last tackle as he shaped to kick, ran and broke the Storm up the middle and angled his way to the Tigers left, Marshall threw a nice flick pass for Mitch Brown coming back infield who offloaded to Lui who offloaded to Marshall who scooted over in the corner to score a brilliant Tigers try. Marshall’s sideline conversion was waved away to lock the scores up at 4-4 after 14 minutes. The Tigers were given an easy penalty from the re-start to help get them out of their own half. A nice inside pass from Lui put Wade McKinnon into a hole and they nearly scored from the next play as the ball was spun to the right but Melbourne got a hand to a Tigers pass putting the ball over the sideline.

From the scrum win the Tigers were bundled into touch as Blake Ayshford was man-handled in a solid tackle. The Tigers then came up with some solid defence to keep the Storm pinned inside their own half. The Tigers were given another penalty in the 19th minute putting them back on the attack inside Melbourne’s half. Andrew Fifita crashed over in the 20th minute after a great lead up run from Todd Payten drew in 3 defenders and then he got a very quick play the ball which left the Storm short on the line. Marshall converted the try to give the Tigers a 10-4 lead after 22 minutes. A forward pass was ruled against the Tigers as Marshall put Beau Ryan into open space in the 23rd minute. The attacking raid from Melbourne was short lived as they threw a forward pass of their own. From the scrum win the Tigers threw a pass which hit the referee and went over the sideline which resulted in a scrum feed to the Storm 10 out from the Tigers line. The Tigers defended very well and then came up with a great intercept to Andrew Fifita who raced 40 metres downfield. The Tigers were then given another penalty to put them deep on the attack inside Melbourne’s half. A chance went begging for the Tigers as Lui dropped a pass from Marshall which had the Storm stretched at all angles.

The Tigers again muscled up in defence to keep the Storm pinned deep inside their own half. The Tigers last play kick resulted in the ball bouncing back to the Tigers only for Mckinnon to pass the ball forward to Tuqiri to give away a penalty and allow the Storm to attack inside the Tigers half. Melbourne hit back with a try in the corner as they caught the Tigers short out wide. Smith missed the conversion to leave the Storm trailing 10-8 after 32 minutes. Lote Tuqiri came up with an excellent bomb defusal in the 36th minute to give the Tigers a 20 metre re-start. Marshall combined well with Tuqiri in a good piece of play in the 36th minute . The Tigers muscled up in defence once more to keep the Storm pinned deep inside their own half. Melbourne then came up with a great break in the 39th minute as a couple of Tigers players were obstructed from making a tackle. The Storm then dropped the ball close to the Tigers line while Cooper Cronk went down with injury.

The Tigers completion rate was the biggest concern for the side as they dominated possession but made too many simple mistakes, and the kicking game was also fairly poor. Best for the Tigers in the first half were Benji Marshall, Andrew Fifita, and Lote Tuqiri while Keith Galloway and Simon Dwyer also had some good touches.

2nd half:

The Tigers kicked off and got away to a safe start. Beau Ryan did well so save the Tigers in the 42nd minute as Benji Marshall lost sight of the ball and the Storm regathered only to pass the ball to Ryan who was on the spot. The Tigers lost John Skandalis to injury in the 45th minute as the Storm were given a scrum feed after the Tigers were ruled to have stripped the ball. Blake Ayshford came up with a strong run in the 46th minute and the Tigers scored moments later as the ball was spread to the right for Beau Ryan who put in a well placed grubber kick which sat up for Marshall who scored his second try for the afternoon. Marshall converted from the sideline to extend the Tigers lead to 16-8 after 48 minutes. The Tigers were given a penalty from the re-start to help get them out of their own half. The Tigers were given another set of 6 but were unable to crack the Storm’s line, they muscled up brilliantly in defence though as Billy Slater was injured.

A forward pass from the Storm in the 54th minute allowed the Tigers back on the attack inside Melbourne’s half. The Tigers coughed up the ball through Simon Dwyer a couple of tackles later though. The Storm were then awarded a penalty as Benji Marshall was ruled to have taken a player high. The Storm then hit back through Ryan Hoffman as he crashed over in the corner to put them right back in the game, they did lose Cooper Cronk to injury though. Smith landed the conversion to leave the Storm trailing by 2 points with 22 minutes left to play.

Lote Tuqiri came up with a great kick return in the 61st minute in an effort to lift the Tigers. The Tigers gave away a penalty in the 62nd minute to again give the Storm a sniff inside their own half but fortunately their defence held and Beau Ryan did well to defuse a grubber kick at the end of the set. Tuqiri then came up with a good tackle in the 64th minute to help keep the Storm pinned in their own half. The Storm then ran the ball on the last tackle to get trapped inside their own half. The Tigers were then given another set of 6 in the 66th minute to keep them right on the attack. Robbie Farah then scored in the 67th minute and Marshall landed the conversion to put the Tigers back out to an 8 point lead with 12 minutes left on the clock.

The Tigers lifted inside the final 10 minutes as they attempted to run the Storm off their feet. The Storm did well to force a line drop out from the Tigers and Wade McKinnon looked to re-injure his hamstring in fielding the ball. The Storm were given a penalty close to the Tigers line as they had one last crack at the Tigers. The Storm lost the ball only for the Tigers to counter-attack brilliantly through Robbie Farah who streaked off downfield and then offloaded to Marshall who raced 40 metres to score in the corner for a hattrick. Marshall just missed the sideline conversion to put the Tigers out to a 26-14 lead with less than 2 minutes remaining. There was no change to the score as Marshall attempted a long range field goal right on fulltime which just sailed wide of the posts.

Onto the players:

1. Wade McKinnon – Was going along nicely until he succumbed to a hamstring injury once again in the backend of the game. His pace has definitely been affected by the injury and it’s a shame to lose him again, he might be right at some stage during the finals, although do you risk him in a finals match? Solid at the back today and his support play was good. 146 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 1 offload, 3 tackles, 1 error. 7.5/10.

2. Lote Tuqiri –Strong game from Lote today as he was safe under the high ball, had several strong runs and also made several strong tackles. 131 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 4 tackle breaks, 2 offloads, 5 tackles, 1 error. 8/10.

3. Blake Ayshford – Pretty good game from Blake. Proved a handful in attack once again with a couple of really good runs carrying players with him. Needs to look to pass more as he got one good ball away to Ryan in the second half in the lead up to Benji’s second try. Defended well and finding form at the right time of year. 151 metres in attack, 1 offload, 12 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 1 error. 7.5/10.

4. Chris Lawrence – Unfortunately left the field very early after his first run with what was suspected to be a broken jaw. Massive loss for the Tigers.

5. Beau Ryan – Didn’t see a lot of ball in attack, but was safe at the back in defusing a couple of dangerous kicks. Came up with a nice little try assist for Benji and had a safe game today. 120 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 1 try assist, 2 tackles, 1 error. 6.5/10.

6. Benji Marshall – The star of the show today scoring a hattrick, with his first try being an absolute cracker and he also finished the game well running away with his third try. Kicking game wasn’t the best today in general play but he defended fairly well and looked dangerous most times he touched the ball. 129 metres in attack, 3 tries, 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 4 tackle breaks, kicked for 257 metres, 2 offloads, 11 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 errors. 8.5/10.

7. Rob Lui – Not his best game today as he threw a couple of ordinary passes and his running game was pretty quiet and contained too. Defensively he was a little better but the learning curve continues for young Lui. 40 metres in attack, kicked for 45 metres, 1 linebreak assist, 1 try assist, 1 offload, 18 tackles, 1 error. 6/10.

8. Todd Payten – Solid game in defence once again from Payten as he really helped keep the Tigers ruck well defended. His attack was a bit quiet as a result, but I didn’t really notice the loss of Fulton with Todd’s defence being so good. Came up with a great quick play the ball in the first half which Fifita scored off the next play. 67 metres in attack, 31 tackles. 7.5/10.

9. Robbie Farah – Was kept pretty quiet until late in the game when he scored a vital try which put the Tigers clear, and then he came up with an intercept to put Marshall away. Defended well and kicked ok and found open space a few times. 84 metres in attack, kicked for 122 metres, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 2 try assists, 1 offload, 32 tackles, 3 errors. 7.5/10.

10. Keith Galloway – Strong game from big KG up front today, got through a lot of work in attack and looking pretty solid out there. Defended well also. 141 metres in attack, 1 offload, 18 tackles. 7.5/10.

16. Simon Dwyer – Promoted to the starting side today with the loss of Fulton and went well I thought. Used on the edges a bit more today with more effective results and got away a few offloads. Got through a fair bit of work in defence too, nice game from the young fellow. 109 metres in attack, 2 offloads, 30 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 1 error. 7.5/10.

12. Gareth Ellis – Quiet in attack today but I really noticed him in defence as he came up with plenty of solid hits throughout the arvo. Replaced late in the game for a well earned breather. 66 metres in attack, 28 tackles. 7.5/10.

13. Chris Heighington – Busy game from Heighno once again and apart from a dropped ball in the first half, he was good. 97 metres in attack, 1 offload, 27 tackles, 1 error. 7.5/10.

14. Andrew Fifita – Great impact off the bench once again, particularly in the first half where he was very effective. Scored yet another try and came up with a very handy intercept off the Tigers line. 117 metres in attack, 1 try, 1 linebreak, 7 tackle breaks, 18 tackles. 8/10.

15. John Skandalis – Didn’t get a lot of gametime as he succumbed to a hip injury which forced him from the field. He was going ok while he was out there. 35 metres in attack, 11 tackles. 5/10.

17. Mitch Brown – Pretty much played the full game with Lawrence being injured so early. Didn’t see a lot of ball in attack, but his defence was very good today and he came up with several solid tackles. Will most likely find himself back at fullback next week. 34 metres in attack, 13 tackles. 6.5/10.

18. Mark Flanagan – Played the last 20 minutes or so and went ok, doing a lot of defending around the ruck. Had a few hit ups but lacks the size to break the line in the middle of the ruck and lacks the ball playing skill that Fulton offers. Handy replacement to have but just lacks that impact coming off the bench. 21 metres in attack, 10 tackles. 5/10.

Overall team analysis:


There were moments of brilliance today, mainly started by Marshall and a couple of good moments from Fifita, but the attack and execution also stuttered a fair bit with Lui’s passing game not as crisp as it has been, and Farah was also very well contained around the ruck. The loss of Lawrence didn’t help the Tigers either, with a lot of the attack directed down the right side today as a result. The Tigers dominated possession but their completion rate in the first half also let them down. Can’t complain about the go forward with Galloway, Dwyer, Heighington and Fifita all making good metres while Marshall, Ayshford, Tuqiri and McKinnon all made good metres for the backs. Marshall was clearly the most dangerous player on the field today.


The Tigers only conceded 3 tries today, but they were pretty soft tries in the scheme of things. The Ryan Hoffman try disappointed me the most as there were enough defenders to stop that try. The Tigers scrambled well once again and they also defused Melbourne’s kicking game well, with McKinnon, Ryan and Tuqiri all safe at the back today. The Tigers also controlled the ruck well I thought.

Kicking game:

Not real flash today with the Tigers not really building any pressure through their kicking game. That also says something about the talent in the side though as their kicking game was weak today, but they did enough with the ball in hand, and defended well enough to keep the Storm out of it. Plenty to work on though.

Overall team stats (To be updated and Storm in brackets):

Try assists: 4 (2)
Offloads: 11 (9)
Linebreaks: 5 (3)
Linebreak assists: 2 (1)
Tackles made: 275 (304)
1 on 1 tackles: 21 (20)
Missed tackles: 19 (30)
Tackle breaks: 30 (19)
Total metres made: 1490 (1157)
Possession: 51% (49%)
Completion rate: 31/41 = 76% (26/33 = 79%)
Errors: 12 (12)
Penalties conceded: 4 (5)

So in front of a packed house at Leichhardt the Tigers came away deserved 26-14 winners. There were some brilliant moments thrown in with some not so brilliant ones, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from the Tigers. Today’s win moves the team into outright second spot on the ladder and they have a chance to cement that position with a win over the Gold Coast Titans next Friday night who are two points behind them. Today’s win did not come without a price though, as the Tigers have lost star centre Chris Lawrence for the season with a broken jaw while Wade McKinnon limped from the field late in the game with a reoccurrence of his hamstring injury while veteran prop John Skandalis picked up a hip injury.

Still, the Tigers have better depth this year and are certainly capable of going a long way in the finals if they get it right. Next week’s final regular season match against the Titans promises to be a beauty as the Tigers look to cement a top 2 finish this season.
Image courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald website
tigers5-600x400.jpg (31.34 KiB) Viewed 1370 times
Image courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald website
tigers4-600x400.jpg (30.69 KiB) Viewed 1370 times
Image courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald website
tigers2-600x400.jpg (30.58 KiB) Viewed 1370 times

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Post by Paris Cobbs » Sun 29 Aug, 2010 6:04 pm

Thanks Willow. I wasn't able to see the game at all, so your work is much appreciated. Good to hear that Benji displayed his brilliance, but the loss of Chris Lawrence is a terrible blow and a tragedy for the young man. Lets hope we get Fulton and Gibbs back, at least.
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Post by norm » Sun 29 Aug, 2010 6:15 pm

Good to see that we beat them for offloads, we never seem to be anywhere near other teams in that area.

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Post by wtffl2005 » Sun 29 Aug, 2010 6:15 pm

the pictures always look good at LO

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Post by Tiger Watto » Sun 29 Aug, 2010 8:28 pm

I thought Galloway has really stepped up with the absence of Bryce... Sauce & Ellis played there guts out today and you could sense some of the smaller guys feed off the back of there energy...
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Post by willow » Sun 29 Aug, 2010 9:53 pm

Player and team stats updated. Improvements in metres made for Tuqiri, Ryan, Galloway, Farah and Dwyer.

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Post by cunno » Sun 29 Aug, 2010 10:40 pm

In the main the forwards have played well as a pack in this back end of the season. The improvement of the Lord of the Rangas has made a big difference and Todd played one of his better games today. The continuing improvement from Fifita and Dwyer adds further strenght.

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Post by Aladinsane » Mon 30 Aug, 2010 6:25 am

Brilliant Benji gives Storm the flick
Christian Nicolussi From: The Daily Telegraph August 29, 2010 3:03PM

Tigers 26 - Storm 14

RATHER than celebrating the brilliant three-try performance of Benji Marshall, Wests Tigers officials were counting the cost of a horror injury toll they hope won't ruin their charge to the finals.

The Tigers moved into outright second with their win over Melbourne before 20,168 fans at a sunny Leichhardt Oval.

But coach Tim Sheens did not have one player on his interchange bench at fulltime.

Chris Lawrence was rushed to hospital for surgery on a broken jaw he suffered in the fourth minute and Gareth Ellis picked up a corked calf.

Veteran John Skandalis injured his buttock - and might have played his final game in a Tigers jumper - while Wade McKinnon reinjured his hamstring in the final minute of the game.

Sheens was also forced to scratch Liam Fulton (calf) before the game and he has Bryce Gibbs (kneecap) still sidelined until the first week of the finals.

"It's a pretty fair injury list," Sheens said. "Chris had an issue coming into the game and had taken a knock a few weeks ago.
"They are operating on him tonight and if we're still there in a month he'll be back.

"I'd like to think the boys can play well enough and give him another opportunity.

"In the meantime, Geoff Daniela, Mitch Brown and company ... guys who have helped get us there ... it's amazing if you keep your head down and go well you could find yourself playing semi-finals football."

Because of the quick turnaround for Friday's clash against the Titans - which could determine whether the Tigers finish second - Sheens does not have the luxury of giving his walking wounded proper time to heal.

The Tigers had too much spark in attack against a Storm outfit that lost Greg Inglis, Brett Finch and Sika Manu before the game and which suffered a bout of gastro in camp during the week.

Marshall's first try in the 13th minute was arguably the best of the season, and it was fitting he started the move by skipping past Brett White on his own 40m line.

Marshall charged down field and threw a trademark flick pass to Mitch Brown, who offloaded to Robert Lui. The halfback then gave the ball to a puffed Marshall on the left wing to score.

The Tigers went to the break leading 10-8 and despite being held 18-14 on the hour, sealed the win with tries to hooker Robbie Farah and Marshall.

Marshall had challenged himself to cut out the razzle-dazzle and play a more structured game.

He said he should have chosen his words more carefully.

"I did try my hardest," Marshall said. "What I should have said was there's a time and place for that sort of stuff.

"When I think about doing something, that's when it goes wrong. If I just do it, it usually happens. It's hard to explain.

"I was struggling at times with the flu and probably needed to run more, but I can't complain. It's always nice to get three tries."

Sheens laughed when he read that Marshall would try to play more conservatively and said: "I've been trying for eight years to change him. This bloke has got some flair and we are who we are and where we're at because we play a bit of football.

"There is risk-taking and you never achieve anything if you don't take a risk. We've lived by that, and I've coached like that my whole life."

The Tigers' ability to throw the ball around will make them a handful for teams in the finals.

Storm skipper Cameron Smith said that once players like Marshall spotted daylight, they were hard to hold out.

WESTS TIGERS 26 (B Marshall 3 R Farah A Fifita tries B Marshall 3 goals) bt MELBOURNE 14 (R Hoffman W Isa J O'Neill tries C Smith goal) at Leichhardt Oval. Referee: Gavin Badger, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 20,168.

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Post by westTAHger » Mon 30 Aug, 2010 12:13 pm

thanks for the review willow.
it was a great atmoshpere at the game, good sunny weather as well.
good to catch up with some people had not seen for a while.
Basil, our rescue dog, is wondering when wests tigers will win 25 - 18 :D

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Post by tigeress » Mon 30 Aug, 2010 1:37 pm

Great report again Willow ! A great win from the Tigers, it's hard to believe we have come so far. Win lose or draw from here I think we can all be proud of their achievements this season. Good work

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Post by Poppa » Mon 30 Aug, 2010 2:38 pm

Good report again willow.Great win WT.Benji played extra well along with Lui.Our forwards all played well and with Fulton/Gibbs to come back into the side we are looking good for the finals.Great win and so onward to the GF...GO! GO! West Tigers...

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Post by scarcev » Mon 30 Aug, 2010 7:18 pm

I thought Ellis played well above his 7.5 he was everywhere and his first contact, mate it shakes the stands out at Leichardt, other than that great report Willow as ever.

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