Tag Archives: Wests Tigers

Willow’s 2009 Player Review

This will be the last of the Wests Tigers Review placed on this site as there is now a brilliant set up at http://www.weststigersforum.com/

With the Wests Tigers trial games about to start on the weekend I thought it was time to look back on 2009

2009 proved to be yet another heart breaking season for the Wests Tigers, as once again the team just missed out on making the top 8 and semi-final football. Before a ball had been kicked this season though, most critics thought the Tigers would battle to avoid the wooden spoon, with only one major new signing in Gareth Ellis joining the club. For the Wests Tigers fans though, we were slightly more optimistic about the Tigers chances this year but we were under no illusions that if the Tigers were to make the 8, then key personnel would need to remain injury free and play well all season. As usual though, injuries did play their part yet again, but so too did team selections, which left many fans frustrated each week when various players were picked to play out of position in key areas, namely fullback, stand off and halfback.

Having said that though, the Tigers were competitive in pretty much every game this season, showing a new found mental strength which had not been present in seasons past. Unfortunately execution let the Tigers down on a few occasions, in attack and defence, and a number of close losses mid-season badly affected the Tigers chances of making the 8. We did see several players make their first grade debuts this season and it is clear that there is some promising emerging talent pushing through the Tigers ranks which leaves myself, and a few others optimistic that 2010 could be the year where we see the Tigers make a serious push up the ladder, if the players continue to improve of course.

I thought I would take this chance though, to give my thoughts on each Tigers player to play first grade this season, and there were 29 players in total, so grab a coffee or something to eat, and feel free to read on…

1. Blake Ayshford – 2009 saw the debut of Ayshford, a former Roosters player who had come across to the Tigers in search of an opportunity. Well he certainly got one and didn’t waste it. Despite having a disrupted off-season in which Blake had wrist surgery and could not do any weights on his lanky frame, Ayshford slotted into first grade with relative ease, and showed deceptive strength despite his lean build, which bodes well for the future when he can get stuck into the weights. Blake made his debut against the Broncos in round 11 and did not miss another game for the remainder of the season. Blake predominantly played in the centres but also had a couple of games at 5/8 as well as on the wing to conclude the season due to injuries striking down the Tigers starting wingers. While not an outright speedster, Ayshford found open space a few times and also scored a few good tries. The Tigers right hand side defence also tightened up noticeably when Ayshford started playing. He possesses an uncanny ability to poke his head and arms through the line which suggests with the bit more size and speed work, he could prove a damaging centre next season if left there. Tigers coaching staff have also mentioned Blake could end up at lock, but personally I would like to see him start next season in the centres and go from there. With a level and calm head on his shoulders, Ayshford was one of the highlights for the Tigers this season.

Games played: 15 Tries: 8 Goals: 0 Points scored: 32 Average minutes played: 77.9 Linebreaks: 11 Linebreak assists: 1 Try Assists: 3
Average metres gained: 82.8 Average tackles per game: 14.6 Average missed tackles per game: 3 Offloads for season: 13 Tackle breaks: 46 Errors: 12

2. Dean Collis – 2009 could only be described as disappointing for Wests junior Dean Collis, as his season was hampered by poor confidence and form and ultimately injury, as he was taken down hard by Tigers team mate Dene Halatau in a wrestling match at training which saw Collis break his arm. A junior with an abundance of talent, Collis was one of the unfulfilled talents at the Wests Tigers which sadly, never kicked on to bigger and better things. Injuries have played their part in holding Collis back, as he has had numerous problems with his hamstrings and ankle. The highlight of Collis season was definitely his game against the Newcastle Knights at Campbelltown Stadium where he picked up a hattrick. Sadly that was as good as it got for Dean as he was injured shortly after. 2009 was an important season for Collis as he was off-contract, and despite the Tigers making him an offer, he chose to join the Cronulla Sharks in a move designed to hopefully re-ignite his career under Ricky Stuart.

Games played: 11 Tries: 4 Goals: 0 Points scored: 16 Average minutes played: 78.3 Linebreaks: 4 Linebreak assists: 3 Try Assists: 3
Average metres gained: 63.5 Average tackles per game: 11.3 Average missed tackles per game: 1.7 Offloads for season: 1 Tackle breaks: 17 Errors: 8

3. Simon Dwyer – 2009 saw the debut of talented backrower Simon Dwyer, a member of the talented Tigers Toyota Cup squad. Used as wide running backrower in the Toyota Cup, the 6″4, 102kg Dwyer is blessed with the ability to break the line and offload at will, often putting his outside men away into open spaces. Dwyer also scored a few tries himself in the Toyota Cup and his consistent good form saw him rewarded with two starts off the interchange bench in FG. While Dwyer was not given a great deal of gametime, he is a player to watch and will surely press for a spot on the interchange bench in 2010. He possesses decent speed and runs good lines, and training with the top squad in the off-season will only benefit him. I expect he will be working very closely with Gareth Ellis and Chris Heighington in the off-season on developing his game.

Games played: 2 Tries: 0 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: 21.5 Linebreaks: 0 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 26.5 Average tackles per game: 11.5 Average missed tackles per game: 1.5 Offloads for season: 0 Tackle breaks: 1 Errors: 0

4. Gareth Ellis – Ellis enjoyed an excellent first season in the NRL and was probably the Tigers best forward week-in, week-out. He came to the NRL with a question mark over his head as to whether he would be able to adapt and have an impact but Ellis soon silenced his critics with consistent 80 minute performances which consisted of strong ball running and hard hitting in defence. There were even a couple of Tigers supporters who labelled Ellis a ‘pillow’, but if you ask anyone who ran into Ellis’s shoulder, they will tell you otherwise. Ellis only disruption during the season was a broken thumb which saw him miss a a couple of weeks but otherwise he was one of the Tigers best this season and will no doubt look to improve next season.

Games played: 22 Tries: 0 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: 79.2 Linebreaks: 3 Linebreak assists: 4 Try Assists: 1
Average metres gained: 104.2 Average tackles per game: 27.6 Average missed tackles per game: 3 Offloads for season: 22 Tackle breaks: 46 Errors: 12

5. Robbie Farah – Farah would look back on 2009 and no doubt consider it mixed. By his own standards, he was very good but his running game was negated by the referees on quite a few occasions where he would scoot out of dummyhalf to catch the markers offside, only for the refs to not rule them offside. This didn’t stop Robbie from finally being picked in the NSW Origin side. While NSW lost the seriest 2-1, Farah had a solid first game, followed by a terrible second game, which ultimately saw him dropped to make way for Herman Munster…otherwise known as Michael Ennis. Farah was disappointed but bounced back well with some very good club form. As a captain, Farah led the Tigers well and was regularly one of the Tigers best. His short kicking game proved valuable throughout the season and he also landed a couple of 40/20 kicks. There’s still work to do though as Farah put several kicks out on the full towards the seasons end. Otherwise Farah proved vital to the Tigers in 2009, as his stats reflect.

Games played: 21 Tries: 8 Field Goals: 4 Points scored: 36 Average minutes played: 76.7 Linebreaks: 11 Linebreak assists: 19 Try Assists: 22 Kick metres: 223.5
Average metres gained: 77.5 Average tackles per game: 34.9 Average missed tackles per game: 2.4 Offloads for season: 33 Tackle breaks: 71 Errors: 30

6. Danny Galea – Galea entered 2009 desperately hoping he would get through the season injury free, as the last 2 years had not been kind to Danny, culminating in a season ending torn achilles in 2008. Galea missed the season opener but did return for round 2. Throughout the season he was used mainly off the bench as an interchange backrower. While there was no doubting Galea’s ability to hit hard in defence, his attack was nullified somewhat by having to make hit ups expected from a prop, and at 98kg, Galea was punching above his weight. In the second half of the season we saw Danny promoted to the starting side and his gametime was increased, and he looked a lot better for it. While not a flashy player, Galea is one of those players who gets in and does the dirty work and is a very solid defender in the ruck, and just wide of the ruck. Off contract this year, there were many Tigers fans calling for Galea to be re-signed, but as things currently stand, it looks like he has been released from the Tigers.

Games played
: 20 Tries: 1 Goals: 0 Points scored: 4 Average minutes played: 44.7 Linebreaks: 3 Linebreak assists: 1 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 48.75 Average tackles per game: 21.4 Average missed tackles per game: 2.1 Offloads for season: 6 Tackle breaks: 16 Errors: 4

7. Shannon Gallant – Local Magpie and a favorite among Tigers supporters, Mighty Mouse was often discussed on the forums, but not often played, in FG anyway. While he is one of the smallest players in the NRL, there is no doubt that Mighty Mouse has one of the biggest hearts, regularly putting his body on the line and doing his best to lift his team mates. It was during a State Cup match against the Central Coast Storm at Campbelltown where I saw Mighty Mouse make the best try saving tackle I have ever witnessed. It should never have been made but somehow he made it, typifying the fight he has in him. Gallant had a couple of games in FG during the first half of the season but did not excel and was then relegated back to State Cup. He received a call-up to FG in the second half of the season when Coach Sheens finally bit the bullet and moved Tim Moltzen to half. With the new look combinations in the Tigers backline, all of a sudden the Tigers looked a far more potent attacking outfit and Gallant came up with several solid games before breaking his leg against the Roosters, ending his season. Many people believed Gallant had done enough to earn himself a fulltime contract with the Tigers for 2010, and he verbally agreed to a new deal but with the Cowboys Matt Bowen facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines, Gallant was offered a far better deal, which he accepted after the Tigers allowed him to leave. Mighty Mouse will be missed but the Tigers have some decent prospects in the fullback position.

Games played: 7 Tries: 2 Goals: 2 Points scored: 12 Average minutes played: 72 Linebreaks: 5 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 1
Average metres gained: 100.8 Average tackles per game: 3 Average missed tackles per game: 1.7 Offloads for season: 1 Tackle breaks: 30 Errors: 4

8. Keith Galloway – Just like 2008, Galloway’s season was plagued by injury in a very cruel twist of fate as the big fella represented City and was looking good to make his debut for NSW in Origin before he suffered a nasty knee injury against Souths. This kept him sidelined for half the season and it was no coincidence the Tigers lost a lot of games during this period and their go forward suffered noticeably. When fit and on the field KG was a force to be reckoned with, with his strong running and hard hitting in defence making him a handful for any side. All we can hope for in 2010 is for Keith to stay injury free, as he has SOO written all over him and is one of the Tigers best players.

Games played: 15 Tries: 1 Goals: 0 Points scored: 4 Average minutes played: 43.3 Linebreaks: 0 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 105.8 Average tackles per game: 15.9 Average missed tackles per game: 1.2 Offloads for season: 10 Tackle breaks: 18 Errors: 7


9. Bryce Gibbs
– In previous season Gibbs has copped his fair share of criticism on the forum. The guy can defend well, no argument there, but what has let him down is his discipline, with Gibbs often giving away at least 1 penalty per game, sometimes more. The other area where he has struggled in seasons past is his go forward. A 107kg front rower should be able to bend the opposition line. Thankfully Gibbs finally learnt how to use his legs when hitting the line and his go forward was much improved this season, much to my surprise. Unfortunately he still gave away silly penalties. Unfortunately for Gibbs and the Tigers, his season came to an end early, not through injury but suspension, as he was rubbed out for 3 weeks after dropping the knees into Luke Burt as he scored a try. Here’s hoping Gibbs can continue to improve his go forward but cut out the silly penalties next season.

Games played: 21 Tries: 0 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: 53.4 Linebreaks: 1 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 103.3 Average tackles per game: 24.1 Average missed tackles per game: 1.3 Offloads for season: 17 Tackle breaks: 21 Errors: 12

10. David Gower
– One of BRETs most consistent players this season, Gower made his debut in round 26 against the Bulldogs, a match which the Tigers won convincingly. Gower only played 19 minutes and with the emerging talent coming through the Tigers Toyota Cup squad, it’s hard to tell where Gower’s future lies. I think he could definitely handle FG, but the Tigers are not short on backrowers so Gower has plenty of competition for a spot in FG next season.

11. Dene Halatau
– A Balmain junior and Kiwi international, Halatau had a disappointing season. He has carried the utility tag for a few seasons now and whether this has contributed to his lack of development, I don’t know, but once again this season we saw Halatau in the centres, second row, lock and sometimes at dummyhalf. The weak points of Halatau’s game is his defence, which at times was simply not FG standard, and his lack of vision. Dene does not possess a passing game as such, and while he certainly runs the ball straight and hard, this can often be to the detriment of the player outside him. 2009 is Halatau’s last at the Tigers as the Bulldogs have now snapped him up for the next 3 seasons. Nothing against the guy personally, he’s a lovely bloke, but he won’t be missed on the field.

Games played: 18 Tries: 2 Goals: 0 Points scored: 8 Average minutes played: 52 Linebreaks: 2 Linebreak assists: 2 Try Assists: 1
Average metres gained: 68.1 Average tackles per game: 21.8 Average missed tackles per game: 1.6 Offloads for season: 4 Tackle breaks: 17 Errors: 9


12. Rhys Hanbury
– Used predominantly as an interchange backline player, Hanbury had limited opportunities to impress this season. He was unable to cement a permanent spot in the top 17 but had a decent dig when given a go. He’s a handy backup player when it comes to fullback, centre and wing.

Games played: 15 Tries: 4 Goals: 0 Points scored: 16 Average minutes played: 40.1 Linebreaks: 34 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 54 Average tackles per game: 6.5 Average missed tackles per game: 1.6 Offloads for season: 5 Tackle breaks: 33 Errors: 7

13. Chris Heighington – After enjoying career best form throughout 2008, a lot was expected of Rhino this season, as many thought he might take the next step in rep football and give SOO a shake after being told early on this year that he was being looked at by Craig Bellamy. Unfortunately for Rhino, he never recaptured his form from 2008, suffering numerous injuries and not breaking the line like he did last year in attack. Don’t get me wrong, Rhino was by no means poor, but his go-forward was not as effective while his defence was sound. Rhino looked to be getting back into some sort of form with a solid game against the Bulldogs to finish the season and he’ll no doubt be looking to improve in 2010.

Games played
: 18 Tries: 0 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: 65.6 Linebreaks: 2 Linebreak assists: 1 Try Assists: 1
Average metres gained: 104.7 Average tackles per game: 26.8 Average missed tackles per game: 2.3 Offloads for season: 22 Tackle breaks: 37 Errors: 11

14. Daine Laurie – The Predator…where to start really? The big unit burst onto the scene last year from obscurity and threw himself into the thick of it in the NRL. Despite being as raw as Sushi, there is a fair bit of talent in Laurie, and a lot of us thought he might start to fulfill that potential this season. Sadly it wasn’t to be, as the Predator has a disrupted offseason and then suffered a close loss in his family at the start of the season which set him back further. When he did play, it was hit and miss, with the occasional good run brought undone by a penalty given away. Laurie can certainly iron players out though and jolt the ball loose, but he is still too raw and Sheens relegated him to State Cup for most of the season as Daine earnt his wrath by missing training. After being talked up by Sheens as being a superstar in 2010, it remains to be seen just what Laurie can make of himself, if he remains at the Tigers that is. There is talk that he wants out but the Tigers are apparently keen to hang onto him and develop him into a wide running backrower.

Games played: 10 Tries: 0 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: 29.2 Linebreaks: 0 Linebreak assists: 2 Try Assists: 1
Average metres gained: 61.5 Average tackles per game: 11 Average missed tackles per game: 2.2 Offloads for season: 5 Tackle breaks: 12 Errors: 6


15. Chris Lawrence
– A superstar in development. Lawrence was heading towards rep football this season, being selected for City and being touted as a possible Blue in SOO before injury struck. Suffering an ankle injury, Lawrence missed a few games this season and injured his hamstring later in the season, battling his way through as best he could. He formed a lethal combination with TNT with his lethal pace and ability to put TNT away proving very dangerous. In defence Lawrence has really picked his game up, now regularly crunching the opposition. Unfortunately he was not given a great deal of ball to work with this season, but on the rare occasions where he did get plenty of ball, he looked dangerous. Hopefully 2010 sees Lawrence injury free and playing some rep football.

Games played: 18 Tries: 7 Goals: 0 Points scored: 28 Average minutes played: 79.1 Linebreaks: 12 Linebreak assists: 9 Try Assists: 7
Average metres gained: 81.7 Average tackles per game: 18.8 Average missed tackles per game: 2 Offloads for season: 7 Tackle breaks: 33 Errors: 8

16. Robert Lui – A superstar in the making perhaps? A bit too soon to tell, but there’s no denying Lui is a talent. He played most of 2009 in the Tigers Toyota Cup squad at stand off, and was voted best stand off in the Toyota Cup. Blessed with excellent ball skills, a decent kicking game and an uncanny ability to put a player into a hole, Lui was regularly running havoc against the opposition in the Toyota Cup before being promoted to halfback in FG late in the season. While he didn’t stand out, he held his own, with defence his major issue at this stage. At 19, Lui is sure to become a better defender with more work. At 92kg he’s no midget and he also has decent speed and very good footwork. Odds are we’ll see a lot more of Lui in FG next season.

Games played: 3 Tries: 0 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: Linebreaks: 2 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 1
Average metres gained: 85.6 Average tackles per game: 15.6 Average missed tackles per game: 4 Offloads for season: 1 Tackle breaks: 13 Errors: 3

17. Benji Marshall – Marshall’s first half of the season was hit and miss, after enduring a shift to halfback at the start of this season. The pressure looked to get the better of Marshall at times, with the occasional brilliant pieces of play being undone by brain melts which consisted of passes aimed at spectators heads. While this left many fans frustrated, one thing was apparent, Marshall was injury free and it was just a matter of time before some much needed consistency was acheived in his game. The plan to keep Benji at 7 changed in the second half of the season, with Sheens opting to move Tim Moltzen to half and putting the number 6 jersey back on Benji. When all was said and done though, the only thing that changed was the number on his back. Defensively he has improved and his kicking game at times was good, but like Farah it needs work. Benji enjoyed a fine second half to the season and he turned on some absolutely miraculous plays that only he could pull off. In the end he was one of the Tigers best without question, as his stats show.

Games played: 23 Tries: 8 Goals: 69 Points scored: 170 Average minutes played: 79.5 Linebreaks: 10 Linebreak assists: 26 Try Assists: 24 Kick metres: 250
Average metres gained: 76.5 Average tackles per game: 9.5 Average missed tackles per game: 2 Offloads for season: 24 Tackle breaks: 71 Errors: 35

18. Willie Mataka – Another FG debutant for 2009, Mataka was a member of the Tigers under 20 squad from last season while this season saw the powerfully built backrower turn out for BRET in the State Cup. Mataka was not given many opportunities this season, but what I saw of him, I liked. He has good leg speed and runs good lines and looks a likely player of the future IMO. I’m not sure what the status of his contract is for next season, but I hope he is in the Tigers plans.

Games played: 4 Tries: 1 Goals: 0 Points scored: 4 Average minutes played: 20.5 Linebreaks: 1 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 38 Average tackles per game: 10.7 Average missed tackles per game: 1.75 Offloads for season: 0 Tackle breaks: 6 Errors: 2

19. Shannon McDonnell – 2009 saw the mid-season departure of McDonnell, and it’s fair to say that he wasn’t missed after struggling to make a regular impression in FG.

Games played: 9 Tries: 1 Goals: 0 Points scored: 4 Average minutes played: 64.4 Linebreaks: 3 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 1
Average metres gained: 95 Average tackles per game: 4.7 Average missed tackles per game: 1.25 Offloads for season: 2 Tackle breaks: 38 Errors: 5

20. Tim Moltzen – Arguably the Tigers most improved in 2009, Moltzen was another of the Tigers emerging talents make his mark on the game. Played mainly at fullback, Moltzen left many questioning the decision as he would regularly offload to either of his wingers instead of hitting the ball up himself. Moltzen did suffer a dislocated elbow early in the season, whether he fully recovered from this, I’m not sure. Moltzen’s positioning at the back wasn’t bad, but if he’s to remain a fullback long-term, then he’ll need to work on this. His support play was quite good though, and his speed is also a good asset. A brief shift to halfback late in the season saw Moltzen look far more comfortable, as his footwork saw him beat the line on more than one occasion and his passing game helped relieve the pressure on Marshall. 2010 should be an interesting season for Moltzen. Will he remain fullback or will Sheens move him to halfback? 2009 was certainly a good year for Tim though.

Games played: 22 Tries: 12 Goals: 0 Points scored: 48 Average minutes played: 76 Linebreaks: 18 Linebreak assists: 7 Try Assists: 9
Average metres gained: 83 Average tackles per game: 7.7 Average missed tackles per game: 2.3 Offloads for season: 14 Tackle breaks: 76 Errors: 29

21. John Morris – Poor old Johnny has copped a lot of criticism on here, but was it always his fault? Coach Sheens has played Morris at half for far too long, and this is where the criticism stems from. Morris isn’t a halfback, and this isn’t his fault, he just shouldn’t have been selected there so often. What Morris is though, is a decent 14, offering good utility value off the bench, mainly at 9, but he was also used in the centres, stannd off and on the wing. This season was Morris’ last in Tigers colours as he is off to Cronulla next season. If I’m going to be critical, I’ll say his kicking game is poor, so too his passing game as he has murdered many an overlap. His defence is very good though.

Games played: 24 Tries: 5 Goals: 0 Points scored: 20 Average minutes played: 65.3 Linebreaks: 6 Linebreak assists: 2 Try Assists: 4
Average metres gained: 57.8 Average tackles per game: 23 Average missed tackles per game: 1.8 Offloads for season: 4 Tackle breaks: 41 Errors: 13

22. Corey Payne – Another Tiger often criticised, rightly so in many regards as Payne came to the Tigers on good money but often lacked impact. His defence was usually good, as he has the ability to pull off a good shot or two, but his running game is pretty ordinary and he was often stopped in his tracks. Another ill-feature of Payne’s game is his discipline, like Gibbs he would regularly give away a penalty. As a result, Payne has found himself in a similar position to Danny Galea, and that is currently without a club for next season, as the Tigers have let him go.

Games played: 22 Tries: 2 Goals: 0 Points scored: 8 Average minutes played: 40 Linebreaks: 2 Linebreak assists: 4 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 54.3 Average tackles per game: 17.5 Average missed tackles per game: 1.7 Offloads for season: 15 Tackle breaks: 12 Errors: 6

23. Todd Payten – Payten endured a slow start to the season and copped a bit of criticism for lacking in the go-forward department. Built like a Humvee, one would not assume that Payten is more renowned for his ball playing than he is for denting the opposition line in attack, but he is, so there you have it. Todd did pick up his go forward late in the season though which was good to see, but it was sorely missed during the first half of the season when Galloway was injured. No dramas with his defence though as Todd regularly comes up with important tackles and is very good one-on-one with the opposition. He was steady without being great this season.

Games played: 24 Tries: 2 Goals: 0 Points scored: 8 Average minutes played: 52.4 Linebreaks: 1 Linebreak assists: 5 Try Assists: 2
Average metres gained: 78.6 Average tackles per game: 23.4 Average missed tackles per game: 2.1 Offloads for season: 24 Tackle breaks: 27 Errors: 16

24. Beau Ryan – Often maligned due to his lack of outright pace on the wing, Ryan had a decent 2009 but did come under fire on a few occasions for not putting his body on the line (Cowboys at Townsville) and his impersonations of Dr Zoidberg (running sideways like a crab). Ryan kept at it though and as the season went, he improved a bit. Safe under the high ball and a decent defender, Ryan was solid without being great and looks to have a bit of competition for his wing spot next season.

Games played: 22 Tries: 13 Goals: 0 Points scored: 52 Average minutes played: 79 Linebreaks: 8 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 2
Average metres gained: 89.7 Average tackles per game: 5 Average missed tackles per game: 1.1 Offloads for season: 5 Tackle breaks: 83 Errors: 18


25. Alan Schirnack
– Another of BRETs stars, Schirnack got his chance in FG when injuries hit the Tigers forward pack yet again. A front rower, Schirnack is not particularly big at 103kg, built more like a hard working backrower. He’s certainly a no-frills type of player who may figure in FG next season. It will be interesting to see how he goes with a full off-season with the top squad.

Games played: 5 Tries: 0 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: 23.4 Linebreaks: 0 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 47.6 Average tackles per game: 11.2 Average missed tackles per game: 1 Offloads for season: 1 Tackle breaks: 2 Errors: 0

26. John Skandalis – I thought we saw the last of Skando in 2006 when he departed the Tigers to head over to the UK to play for Huddersfield. A knee injury cut Skando’s time short in the UK though, and he returned to Sydney this season to take up a position with the Wests Tigers as a community liaison officer. It was little surprise when he came out of retirement to play for Wests and help along the younger players at the club. Again it was little surprise when Skando returned to FG in round 11 against the Broncos. I had my doubts that Skando would struggle to keep up but he did so without any dramas and was used with good effect off the interchange bench. He went forward well and while he had a tendency to drop off tackles, his defence was ok overall. Not sure how he’ll figure in the Tigers plans for next season, but he went alright this year.

Games played: 14 Tries: 1 Goals: 0 Points scored: 4 Average minutes played: 33.9 Linebreaks: 2 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 91.8 Average tackles per game: 17.1 Average missed tackles per game: 2.2 Offloads for season: 2 Tackle breaks: 11 Errors: 5

27. Peni Tagive – Another unfulfilled talent at the Tigers. Tagive is a big unit who can really motor when injury free. Unfortunately for the junior Kangaroo, he has only played 8 games in the last 2 seasons as he been plagued by groin injuries. When Chris Lawrence and Dean Collis were both injured, we saw Tagive come into the centres, and he looked alright. Unfortunately he dislocated his shoulder in his second game this season and that put him out for the season while he underwent his second reconstruction. Off-contract, the Tigers tried to hang onto Peni, but the Dragons came along with a significantly larger offer which the Tigers could not match.

Games played: 2 Tries: 1 Goals: 0 Points scored: 4 Average minutes played: 65.5 Linebreaks: 1 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 69 Average tackles per game: 15.5 Average missed tackles per game: 4 Offloads for season: 0 Tackle breaks: 3 Errors: 1


28. Rocky Trimarchi
– Another utility backrower who came through the grades with Wests, but has been unable to cement a position in FG. Trimarchi reminds me of Liam Fulton, similar build and a very good defender, but lacks Fulton’s ball-playing skill. Having said that, he makes a decent lock. He was given little opportunity to impress though and it seems the Tigers lost patience with him as he has not been re-signed by the club, yet another victim of the clean-out the Tigers have had this year.

Games played
: 5 Tries:01 Goals: 0 Points scored: 0 Average minutes played: 31.8 Linebreaks: 1 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 37.4 Average tackles per game: 17 Average missed tackles per game: 1.4 Offloads for season: 2 Tackle breaks: 4 Errors: 0


29. Taniela Tuiaki
– TNT was named Dally M winger of the year this season, and rightfully so as he was a force to be reckoned with all season until a shocking broken leg and damaged ankle late in the season was his try scoring spree come to an end. TNT began the season in ominous form, bagging a double against the Raiders and never looking back from there. He worked hard on his fitness and lifted his work rate noticeably, doing a lot of running, usually going through players rather than around them. Tuiaki formed a very good combo with Lawrence and if there is one weak point in his game, it’s defusing kicks on the tryline, as the big fella seriously struggles when it comes to jumping. Still, he had an excellent season until injury robbed him of becoming the leading tryscorer in 2009. He has a long road to recovery ahead of him so I hope he can get back to his best next season.

Games played: 22 Tries: 21 Goals: 0 Points scored: 84 Average minutes played: 77.2 Linebreaks: 24 Linebreak assists: 0 Try Assists: 0
Average metres gained: 130 Average tackles per game: 2.8 Average missed tackles per game: 1.1 Offloads for season: 3 Tackle breaks: 113 Errors: 20

So that’s it for 2009, every player to have played first grade for the Tigers this season.


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Round 26: Willow’s Match Report and Player Review

R26:  Wests Tigers vs Canterbury Bulldogs
@SFS

Round 26 of the NRL premiership saw the Tigers travel to the SFS for the final time this season to take on competition leaders the Bulldogs, who were aiming to win the minor premiership after finishing with the wooden spoon last season. For the Tigers, tonight was all about pride and playing for each other, as yet again the Tigers just fell short of making the top 8 for the 4th season in a row. With the 2 competition points being merely academic, and the Bulldogs calling upon the Tigers to take it to them, this match was sure to prove interesting…

Ayshford Scores

Ayshford Scores

1st half:

The Tigers got away to a flyer tonight, earning a penalty off the 2nd tackle and heading deep into the Bulldogs half. The Tigers gave the ball plenty of air early, coming up with a lot of quick and clever short passing and the early pressure was rewarded in the 4th minute as a good cut-out pass from John Morris found makeshift winger Blake Ayshford unmarked who crossed in the corner. Marshall’s sideline conversion went astray in a similar sign to last week against the GC, but it was a handy 4-0 lead to the Tigers.

Things didn’t get any better for the Bulldogs as Hasem El-Masri lost the ball on the first opportunity they had. The Tigers made them pay immediately from the scrum win as Benji Marshall caught the Bulldogs short and put Chris Lawrence away who had too much pace for the cover defence. Marshall made no mistake with the sideline conversion this time and now the Tigers had jumped out to a 10-0 lead.

It wasn’t until the 9th minute when the Tigers had to actually defend, and they showed good line speed early on. The Tigers continued to control the ball, and the game in the first 20 minutes as they played direct football up the middle of the field and made the Bulldogs work the ball out from their own danger end. The Bulldogs did manage to force a line dropout from the Tigers in the 21st minute but the Tigers defence held solid as they numbered up well.

The Tigers again placed more pressure on the Bulldogs line in the 25th minute but the ball was knocked forward by Heighington. A great break by Gareth Ellis in the 29th minute was brought undone when Farah put down his offload. The Tigers managed to force a line drop out of their own in the 30th minute but they were unable to break the Bulldogs defence. The Tigers continued to camp themselves on the Bulldogs line though and they eventually crossed in the 36th minute through fullback Tim Moltzen after he capitalised on a good offload from Galloway who found Farah who in-turn put Moltzen into a good gap. Marshall made no mistake with the conversion and the Tigers went to halftime with a handy 16-0 lead.

The Tigers did lose Rhys Hanbury to a suspected calf injury and Todd Payten also came off with a head cut.

2nd half:

The began the second half like they did the first – With plenty of ball, and partly due to Keith Galloway ending up on his head in being tackled by Josh Morris and Luke Patten. The Tigers crossed in the 43rd through Danny Galea who scored his first try after 3 season with the Tigers. Galea crossed untouched after Marshall did very well to pick up a low pass. Marshall converted the try and the Tigers now lead 22-0.

The Tigers continued to hold the Bulldogs at bay and they went further in front in the 52 minute through Benji Marshall who scored a very good individual try as he stepped between Idris and Holdsworth and had too much pace for Patten and El-Masri. Marshal converted his try and the Tigers now lead 28-0. The Bulldogs soon got themselveson the scoreboard through Luke Patten as Ben Roberts broke through the Tigers line. El-Masri converted to leave the Bulldogs trailing 28-6 after 55 minutes.

The Bulldogs almost went back to back after Jamal Idris left Chris Lawrence and several other Tigers players in his wake in the 58th minute but Lawrence eventually scrambled and brought him down from behind. The Tigers were able to get a penalty and work it out of their own half. David Gower made his first grade debut in the 62 minute for the Tigers and was imediately involved in defence and attack. The Tigers extended their lead in the 64 minute through Dene Halatau as the Tigers switched the angle of play on the last tackle through Benji Marshall. Marshall found Lawrence on the short side who then put Halatau in the corner. Marshall had his kicking boots on tonight as he landed the conversion from out wide to make the scoreline 34-6.

The Bulldogs then capitalised on a Tigers mistake in the 69th minute as Josh Morris ran 80 metres to score after swooping on a loose ball from Tim Moltzen. Marshall put in a great chase to match Morris for speed, but Morris then turned him inside out with some good footwork before holding off Moltzen whose chase was too late. El-Masri converted to make the scoreline 34-12. The Bulldogs almost went in again from the re-start as they had the Tigers at sixes and sevens however Dean Collis came up with a good try saver on a runaway Stagg (no pun intended). The Bulldogs were penalised for a double movement moments later as the Tigers breathed a sigh of relief.

Tim Moltzen then burst through a gap in the 72nd minute but his pass found a Bulldogs player rather than Marshall who was lurking in support. There would be no further change to the scoreline though as the Tigers finished 2009 with a thumping win over the Bulldogs who now enter the finals with plenty of doubt over their ability to win the premiership.

Seven Tigers players took to the field with pain killing injections tonight too in a good display of courage.

Onto the players:

1. Moltzen – Decent game from Tim tonight. As usual he didn’t run the ball much from the back, but he did chime into the backline regularly in attack and also positioned himself around the ruck. Came up with a couple of good tackles in the second half to shut down breaks made by the Dogs. Scored a nice try to end a very good season for him. 79 metres in attack, 1 try, 2 linebreaks and 2 errors.

2. Ayshford – He’s definitely not a winger but geez he played well there tonight. Made good metres out of dummyhalf all night and also got across the tryline again and made a good linebreak in the second half. One of the shining lights for the Tigers this season as he had a very good debut season and will be sure to improve next season with a proper off-season under his belt and some muscle added to his frame. 165 metres in attack, 1 try, 2 linebreaks.

3. Collis – Not a bad game for Dene in his last in Tigers colours. Had a decent battle with Josh Morris all night and while he couldn’t get around him in attack, the same went for Morris with Collis defending. Came up with a good try-saver on Stagg in the second half. Good luck at the Sharks Dene. 73 metres in attack and 8 tackles.

4. Lawrence – Amazing how good he looks when he gets plenty of ball. Scored a nice try off a set scrum move and generally played well all night, with one bad miss on Idris his only real blemish from what I saw. Time for Lawrence to get over his niggling injuries and look towards rep selection in 2010. 126 metres in attack, 1 try, 11 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 linebreaks and 1 try assist.

5. Hanbury – He was playing well in the first half until he was forced from the field with what is suspected to be a calf injury. Hanbury had made 61 metres in attack prior to coming off.

6. Marshall – Best on the field for the Tigers tonight and channel 9 MOM. Scored a great solo try and had a hand in several others. Had his kicking boots on too which helped. 74 metres in attack, 1 try, kicked for 230 metres, 2 errors, 3 missed tackles, 1 linebreak, 2 try assists.

7. Morris – Solid game for Morris in his last in Tigers colours. Got caught with the ball a couple of times when it looked like he could have passed, but overall Morris went alright tonight, doing plenty of work in defence and also came up with a good cut-out pass to send Ayshford in for the first try. Good luck at the Sharks John. 93 metres in attack, kicked for 99 metres, 19 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 1 try assist.

8. Payten – Solid game from Payten although he spent a bit of time on the sidelines after suffering a head cut in the first half. 71 metres in attack and 13 tackles.

9. Farah – A bit mixed again tonight. Put one kick out on the full again and dropped what was a very catchable pass after Ellis broke into the clear in the first half. Otherwise he was busy all night and put Moltzen in for a try in the first half. Hopefully he will earn selection for Australia in the 4 nations tournament. 27 metres in attack, 22 tackles, kicked for 164 metres, 2 errors.

10. Galloway – Very strong game up front tonight and was a handful all night. It was a season of what might have been for KG as he was very close to being selected for NSW in SOO before being struck down with a serious knee injury. Given the way he finished the season, hopefully he’ll gain rep honours for NSW next year. 153 metres in attack, 14 tackles.

11. Ellis – Like Galloway, he was very strong tonight and has had a very strong 2009 for the Tigers, adding some real starch to the team in defence and also proving a handful in attack. 165 metres in attack, 21 tackles and 1 linebreak.

12. Galea – Another Tiger who finished the season with a good game. Galea scored his first try in Tigers colours and ran hard and defended well all night. Currently unsigned for next season after being released by the Tigers, I wish Danny all the best wherever he ends up. 99 metres in attack, 1 try, 18 tackles.

13. Heighington
– Decent game from Heighno tonight as he worked hard as usual. Got stopped in his tracks a couple of times but also had a couple of runs where he proved hard to bring down. This season Chris was certainly down on form compared to last season and several injuries throughout the year didn’t help. Hopefully we’ll see a resurgence from Heighno next year. 102 metres in attack, 26 tackles.

14. Halatau – Not a bad game for Dene to finish his career at the Tigers. He ended up playing in the centres/wing after Hanbury was injured. Scored a try and came up with a couple of decent tackles. Good luck at the Bulldogs next season Dene. 77 metres in attack, 1 try, 10 tackles and 1 error.

15. Payne – Decent effort from Corey tonight as he is also unlikely to be at the Tigers next season after not being re-signed. Got through a bit of work in attack and defended alright. 89 metres in attack and 11 tackles.

16. Schirnack – He’s not a front rower IMO as he’s a bit too small and gets dominated a bit too easy like Heighno at times. More suited to the second row as a result as he’s more of a worker than a genuine go-forward option. He might be a bit different if he was 4-5kg heavier, although it’s hard to know how that will affect his fitness. I’ll be interested to see how he is used next season all the same as he gets in and has a go. 61 metres in attack, 14 tackles.

17. Gower – Played the last 18 minutes and didn’t look out of his depth. Looks to be around 6″3 in height but not as heavy as Ellis. With another couple of kilos on his frame, he could be handy off the bench next year if given a go. Looks pretty fit and capable.

Overall Analysis:

Attack:

Pretty good tonight as the Tigers ran in 6 tries to 2 with Benji Marshall the main piece in the jigsaw puzzle. The Tigers cause was helped by winning the possession easily and also controlling the ball fairly well all night. The backline saw plenty of ball, particularly Lawrence and Ayshford who looked dangerous all night. Marshall was also very dangerous and among the forwards it was Galloway and Ellis who did the damage up the middle with good support from Farah, Payten and Galea.

Defence:

The Tigers held the Bulldogs easily tonight and bar a couple of breaks up the middle of the ruck, the Tigers were rarely threatened. The scramble defence was good and it’s just a pity the Tigers did not defend with the same vigour last week against the Titans.

Kicking game – Pretty good for the most part with only a couple of kicks being rather ordinary, one from Farah out on the full and another from Moltzen which went straight up and down. Marshall kicked well for the most part but from a season’s point of view, the Tigers kicking game needs plenty of work if they are to become a top 4 side next season.

  • Final stats (Bulldogs in brackets):
  • Tackles: 197 (304)
  • All run metres: 1544 (1133)
  • Penalties: 7 (3)
  • Errors: 12 (18)
  • Offloads: 12 (11)
  • Linebreaks: 10 (5)
  • Possession: 62% (38%)

After watching tonights game I can only wonder at how the Tigers managed to miss the finals for the 4th year in a row. A slow start to the season in where the Tigers were competitive in every game but were let down by poor completions and options in attack, the Tigers showed what they were capable of with impressive wins over the Roosters, Storm and Knights. A very cruel run of close losses mid-season to Souths, the Bulldogs, Broncos and Storm certainly came back to haunt them as they made a late season charge where they won 6 games in a row before falling narrowly to a red-hot Eels side, before the Tigers gave up an early 12-0 lead against the Titans to narrowly miss the finals.

Among the negatives for the Tigers were serious injuries to key players such as Chris Lawrence, Chris Heighington, Keith Galloway and Taniela Tuiaki. Poor team selections also cost the side, with conjecture over a couple of positions – namely fullback, half and five-eighth being critical talking points all season. Hopefully we’ll see a more balanced Tigers side in 2010.

There were also plenty of positives though. Taniela Tuiaki proved to be an unstoppable force of nature all season, leading the try-scoring and linebreaks all season until breaking his leg against the Eels a fortnight ago. Tim Moltzen had a very good 2009 and while he spent most of the season at fullback, he showed real promise at halfback and looks to be better suited there in the eyes of many. Blake Ayshford had a very good debut season and will be one player to keep an eye on in 2010. One of the Tigers best all season was English import Gareth Ellis, who had no trouble adapting to the NRL and had an excellent season. At this stage he has proven to be one of the best signings the Tigers have ever made.

With the Tigers Toyota Cup squad finishing in the top 4 and youngesters Robert Lui and Simon Dwyer making their FG debuts, the future looks bright for the Tigers in 2010 with several other players sure to push for selection in 2010. BRET and Wests are also headed towards the finals in the State Cup in another sign of the good depth coming through at the Tigers.

This is my final match report for 2009 and while I’m sure there are some people out there who wonder why I bother, well I like to support the Tigers and the general media always give such crummy, half-hearted reports which leave out the finer details of the games. For those who do read these reports, I hope you find them somewhat useful. They will be back next year but now, this is 2009 signing out.

Round 25: Willow’s Match Report and Player Review

R25: Gold Coast Titans vs Wests Tigers
@ Skilled Park

Round 25 of the NRL saw the Wests Tigers travel to Skilled Stadium to take on the high flying Gold Coast Titans, who were assured of a home final as they could finish no lower than 3rd on the competition table. It was a must-win match for the 10th placed Tigers who entered tonight’s match with an injury ravaged side, including several players who had been in doubt all week. One thing was certain though, and that was the Tigers would give it their all.

Farah outmuscles Prince

Farah outmuscles Prince

1st half:

The Tigers got away to a flyer tonight, scoring after just 4 minutes through Benji Marshall. The try was orchestrated by Robbie Farah on the Tigers 30 metre line as he darted across field before drawing in Nathan Friend and putting Tim Moltzen into a good hole. Moltzen took off down field before drawing Matt Rogers and offloading to Marshall in support who had enough pace to hold off one of the Titans wingers who came across in cover. Marshall converted his try and it was 6-0. The Tigers continued to control field position early as they peppered the GC line and in the 10th minute they were in for their second try, this time through skipper Robbie Farah who snuck out of dummyhalf and managed to squeeze the ball down on the line in a clever piece of play. Marshall again converted and the Tigers were up 12-0 and looking sharp.

The Titans hit back in the 16th minute through captain, and former Tigers Scott Prince, who backed up a good break made by Preston Campbell. The try resulted from the Tigers failing to put the Titans on the deck, and just like Parramatta did last week, the Titans offloaded and Campbell eventually stepped past Farah before drawing Moltzen in and putting Prince away. Prince made no mistake with the conversion and it was 12-6 to the Tigers.

10 minutes later and the Titans were back on level terms with the Tigers, as they again made the Tigers pay for not putting the player on the deck. It started with backrower Mark Minichello managing to offload with two Tigers players hanging off him, and again Scott Prince found a hole in the Tigers line as he put Campbell through and he had too much pace for the Tigers to combat. Prince again converted and it was 12-12 with the Tigers starting to look tired in the humid conditions.

To their credit though, the Tigers hung in there and managed to come up with an inspirational piece of play after half Robert Lui had broked the Titans out wide and set off downfield before the ball found his foot. The Titans counter-attacked through one of their wingers who took off downfield. Fortunately for the Tigers, Robbie Farah made a sensational cover tackle, putting the Titans winger into touch. Just on the stroke of haltime the Tigers forced a mistake from the Titans and didn’t waste their chance. An offload from Keith Galloway found Gareth Ellis who came up with a nice flick pass of his own to find Tim Moltzen who sliced across field between two Titans defenders before getting his arms free to find Rhys Hanbury unmarked who crossed out wide. Marshall’s conversion was waved away and the Tigers went to halftime with a 16-12 lead.

2nd half:

The second half did not start well for the Tigers as the Titans got away to a flyer this time around. After forcing the Tigers in-goal, the Titans crossed through Scott Prince who put in a grubber kick close to the posts. The ball did not set up well for the Tigers as it bounced off the posts and Prince was able to place a hand on it before Moltzen could. It was a frustrating try to see and Prince kicked the Titans into the lead at 18-16. Six minutes later and the Titans were in again through Luke O’Dwyer as he was put into space 10 metres out from the Tigers line and managed to get across the line despite the valiant attempt to hold him up by Marshall. Prince again landed the conversion and it was now 24-16 with the Tigers looking in serious trouble unless they could secure some possession.

Fortunately for the Tigers, a near moment for the Titans saw the Tigers end up with the ball and make their way downfield. A very helpful penalty 5 metres out from the Titans line saw Robbie Farah take a tap and dart over for his second try of the night. Marshall missed the conversion which was disappointing as it was halfway between the posts and sideline and was a kick he would have expected to land. The Tigers were now back in the game though and this lifted them, as the forwards were running hard and the backline was seeing some ball. In the 61st minute the Tigers were back on level terms with the Titans as Marshall drifted across field before creating an extra man. Benji offloaded to Chris Lawrence who came up with a good catch and pass to find Rhys Hanbury who crossed for his second try of the evening. Benji was having no luck with his goalkicking once again as the sideline conversion missed.

For the next 10 minutes both sides were guilty of dropped ball as fatigue from the humidity took its toll. Unfortunately the Tigers were first to crack. A grubber kick from Campbell 10 metres out from the Tigers line found Mat Rogers who got to the ball before Tim Moltzen could. Prince kept his perfect record with the boot intact as he kicked the Titans clear to a 30-24 lead with 9 minutes remaining.

The Tigers season ended in dramatic fashion in the 72nd minute as Tigers captain Robbie Farah attempted a touch finder from a 20 metre re-start. The ball came off the side of Farah’s foot and failed to find the line. Instead the ball found Mat Rogers who beat the desperate attempted tackle from Farah and then he set off downfield. Rogers found Tagataese in support who had a clear run to the line. Prince missed the kick but the Titans now had a handy 10 point lead with 7 minutes remaining. The Titans played the remainder of the game out comfortably, forcing a couple of line drop outs from the Tigers while Prince kicked a penalty goal after an attempted line drop out touch finder from Marshall landed out on the full.

The Titans recorded a 36-24 win to give them a 11 from 12 win record at home, and most likely end the Tigers season in doing so…

Onto the players:

1. Moltzen – Clearly played injured as he failed to run the ball from the back, preferring to offload to Rhys Hanbury all night. Copped a couple of heavy knocks but bravely battled on. Got stood up well by Campbell for the Titans opening try but also came up with a try saver in the first half on a runaway Titans winger. Positionally he had a difficult night when dealing with the Titans short kicking game on the Tigers line. Hard to blame him for that though. Did well to put Hanbury in for his first try too. 54 metres in attack, 4 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 3 tackle breaks, 4 errors, 1 linebreak and 1 try assist.

2. Hanbury – Not a bad game from Rhys. He was given plenty of ball from Moltzen and came up with 2 tries for his efforts. 134 metres in attack, 2 tries and 2 linebreaks. Good game under the circumstances.

3. Collis – Quiet. Didn’t get much ball and when he did he was easily contained on all bar one occasion. Defence was ok but struggled against Mark Minichello a couple of times. 28 metres in attack, 13 tackles and 2 missed tackles.

4. Lawrence – Tried hard. Defended well and got across the line in the first half only to be held up. Nice catch and pass for Hanbury’s second try but came up with a couple of errors in the second half where he lost the ball in attack. 88 metres in attack, 17 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 2 errors, 1 linebreak assist.

5. Ayshford – Under an injury cloud all week but managed to play. Wing isn’t his spot but he went ok there all the same. Had to do a bit of work coming off the Tigers line in attack and he got hammered a couple of times but overall Ayshford was ok. He’s much better off in the centres though. 68 metres in attack, not much to do in D.

6. Marshall – Good game from Benji. Scored the Tigers opening try and looked dangerous throughout the match. Did well to help set up Hanbury’s second try. Goalkicking let him down again tonight with 3 misses. Otherwise his general kicking game was fine. 59 metres in attack, 6 tackles with 3 missed, kicked for 310 metres.

7. Lui – Still needs to work on his defence but like Lawrence has improved, I’m sure Lui will too. Looked good with the ball a couple of times and came up with one good break. His hands let him down a couple of times though. I think he could have a similar impact in 2010 to what Moltzen has had in 2009. 83 metres in attack, 11 tackles, 3 tackle breaks, kicked for 117 metres.

8. Galloway – Good game from KG. Ran hard as always and hit hard in defence. Forced to do more tonight with the suspension of Gibbs and injury of Skandalis. 113 metres in attack, 19 tackles.

9. Farah – Mostly very good, bar two incidents which were costly. He kicked out on the full in the second half and his attempted touch finder from a 20 metre re-start was costly. Farah’s head dropped when the Titans scored from that play and he knew that was the Tigers season right there. Otherwise he was very good, 2 tries, a try saving tackle and generally a crafty game. 41 metres in attack, 36 tackles, 8 tackle breaks, 1 linebreak assist, 2 linebreaks, 1 error and kicked for 110 metres.

15. Galea – Felt sorry for him having to play in the front row, but he defended well as usual, but hitting it up the middle he tends to struggle as he cannot roll forward like a traditional prop. 61 metres in attack, 23 tackles, 3 missed tackles and 1 error.

12. Payten – Solid game from Todd and he tried hard all night. Defended well and did his best with the ball in hand. 100 metres in attack, 14 tackles.

11. Ellis – Didn’t make as many metres tonight, but geez he was everywhere in defence and he hit like a sledgehammer all night. Really gave it his all but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get the Tigers home. 62 metres in attack, 30 tackles with 4 missed.

13. Heighington – Down a little in attack but he tried hard and went alright despite playing with a crook knee. Finished the game in the front row which says something about the team selection tonight. 72 metres in attack, 23 tackles with 3 missed.

14. Morris – Got about 22 minutes gametime in the second half. Tried hard but had limited impact. Defended well around the ruck. 25 metres in attack and 16 tackles.

16. Payne – Tried hard as usual but limited impact in attack. Defended well. 51 metres in attack, 14 tackles

17. Skandalis – Hindsight is a wonderful thing as the big fella should not have taken the field. He rolled the dice though and it came up bad, with Skando re-injuring his corked leg from the look of it.

18. Halatau – Played the last 24 minutes and went ok, ran straight and hard and busy in defence and could have been used earlier IMO. 36 metres in attack with 7 tackles.

Overall Analysis:

Attack:

Not as fluent as last week but the Tigers tried hard and came up with a few good pieces of play. The forwards tried hard but lacked some size and grunt with Gibbs suspended and Skando not lasting long. The backline saw a bit of ball but the Titans were quick and numbered up well for the most part. Benji didn’t take the line on as much as I would have thought and Lui looked ok a couple of times but it’s obviously still a learning curve from him and he needs a full off-season with the top squad.

Defence:

At times it was very good, with the forwards aiming up and hitting the Titans hard, particularly Ellis who thumped anything that moved. Ultimately though the Tigers were very poor at defusing short kicks defending their line and the Titans scored 2 tries from the Tigers failing to stop the offload.

Kicking game:

Better than last week although it still wasn’t good enough to trouble the Titans. Benji forced one line drop out and found open space a few times, Farah’s kicking game wasn’t as good and he shanked one out on the full as well as failing to find the line with his 20 metre re-start. The Tigers kicking game needs work if they are to make a serious impression in 2010.

With the game in the balance with 10 minutes remaining, it was frustrating to see the Tigers lose their way and ultimately their season. Mathematically they can make the finals but they need results to go their way next weekend, as well as winning themselves. After struggling for much of the season which included a few close losses to teams such as the Broncos, Bulldogs, Storm, and Souths, the Tigers could have found themselves in the Titans position had these games resulted in wins. They didn’t however and again, we as Tigers fans are left to lament another season where the Tigers have got themselves into a position where they could make the finals only to fall short at the final hurdle again.

Next week sees the Tigers take on the Bulldogs. I’m not optimistic the Tigers can make the 8 as it’s never a good situation in having to rely on other results, but the Tigers will turn up and hopefully get a win. Whether it’s enough to make the finals, only time will tell.

Round 24: Willow’s Match Report and Player Review

R24: Wests Tigers vs Parramatta Eels
@ SFS

Round 24 of the NRL saw the Wests Tigers return to the SFS for one of the most anticipated clashes of the season as they were aiming for 7 straight wins and the chance to put Parramatta out of the running in the race to the finals. This would be no easy task though as the Eels were also in excellent form, just 1 competition point behind the Tigers and gunning for 6 straight wins. The Eels were boosted by the late inclusion of Feleti Mateo on the bench while the Tigers also received a boost of their own in the late naming of John Skandalis on the bench after he had earlier been ruled out with a nasty corked thigh.

Bryce Gibbs showing his usual stupidity

Bryce Gibbs showing his usual stupidity

1st half:

The game began at a fast pace with both sides keen to settle down and assert some ascendancy. The Tigers got numbers in tackles early and were effective in shutting down the Eels pack with some solid hits in defence and putting the Eels on their backs. The Tigers came up with a poor play on the last tackle after 11 minutes when Lui threw a pass to no one. Marshall was able to clean up but the kick went nowhere and the Tigers were then caught offside, giving the Eels a good chance to attack the Tigers line. The Tigers responded well though and forced a mistake from the Eels.

In attack both sides looked conservative, content to complete their sets and get to their kick. The Eels started to look dangerous in attack in the 15th minute but a pass went to ground and was swooped up by Todd Payten. The Tigers received a penalty to further help their cause. The Tigers went close to scoring but the Eels line held. Things suddenly turned dark for the Tigers in the 17th minute when the season’s leading tryscorer, Taniela Tuiaki landed awkwardly in a tackle and appeared to sustain a lower leg injury. Tuiaki was unfortunately carried from the field. This forced John Morris onto the field with Blake Ayshford shifting to the wing.

In the 19th minute the Tigers prop Todd Payten forced a mistake from the Eels close to their own line. Moments later and Benji Marshall came up with a play that will go down as one of the greatest of the season if not this decade as he dummied on two separate occasions before stepping his way through the Eels line. For a split second it looked as if Marshall might go all the way but with a sleight of hand not seen by anyone else, he came up with a brilliant flick pass to Blake Ayshford who scored in the corner. Marshall’s sideline conversion was waved away and the Tigers were up 4-0.

The Tigers then went back to back, this time scoring through opposite winger Beau Ryan. The try resulted after a great bust made by Tigers centre Chris Lawrence who set off downfield before offloading to Ayshford who was caught just short of the line. The ball was then spread wide before ending up in Marshall’s hands again. Benji set off across field as the Eels were caught short and he offloaded to Ryan who did very well to cross in the corner but sustaining a leg injury in the process. He stayed on the field though as Marshall’s conversion was again waved away.

The Tigers then coughed up the ball on the next set giving the Eels a good chance to attack the Tigers line. Again they made a mistake late in the tackle count as the Tigers looked vulnerable. A poor last tackle kick from Marshall gave Hayne a good run at the Tigers and on the next play they received a penalty as Gibbs would not let go of Grothe. The Tigers line again held though. The Tigers game started to unravel though, as a last tackle kick from Farah went out on the full, again giving the Eels good field position. This time the Eels made the Tigers pay as they crossed out wide through Luke Burt, who also appeared to cop a knee in the back from Bryce Gibbs. Gibbs was put on report and the Eels were awarded an 8 point try which they converted.

All of a sudden it was the Eels who had their sail up as they muscled up in defence to halt the Tigers momentum. Some poor discipline undid their good work as Benji Marshall took a quick tap and set off downfield before offloading to Corey Payne. Payne offloaded to Morris but the pass was ruled forward in a very dubious decision. Beau Ryan was also replaced due to a knee injury. Just prior to halftime Jarryd Hayne managed to land a 40/20, giving the Eels one final shot at the Tigers. The Tigers managed to hold on, again forcing a mistake as Robert Lui set off downfield before being reeled in beyond the halfway line as the halftime siren sounded.

Tigers had 56% possession and made 5 linebreaks to 1 however they missed 17 tackles to the Eels 9 in the first half in some key stats. The Tigers had completed 16/21 sets too. The Eels had also held back Feleti Mateo in the first half. Mark Geyer also reckoned the Tigers were gone and the Eels would run over them in the second half…

2nd half:

Unfortunately the Tigers were first to crack in the second half as the Eels crossed through Krisnan Inu after the Eels received a penalty which they did well to milk and then were allowed to get away with a forward pass by Jarryd Hayne. Inu converted from the sideline and the Eels now lead 14-8 after 46 minutes. The Tigers now started to look a little rattled as the Eels began to lift. Danny Galea was caught on the last tackle a couple of minutes later however the Tigers defence was up to the task as the Eels made a mistake.

The Eels tore the Tigers apart up the middle through Jarryd Hayne but Bryce Gibbs somehow managed to get across in cover to tackle him just as the Tigers looked doomed. He gave away a penalty in the process but again the Tigers managed to force a mistake from the Eels. They then counter attacked through Ayshford and soon after Benji Marshall managed to force a line dropout. The Tigers managed to hit back through John Morris on the last tackle as the Tigers spread the ball from one side of the field to the other as the ball went through the hands of Farah, Lui, Marshall, and then to Lawrence who came up with a brilliant flick pass to find Morris in the unusual position on the wing. Benji’s kick was again waved away to leave the Tigers trailing 14-12 after 56 minutes.

The Tigers looked to be in more trouble in the 61st minute when Benji Marshall went down injured. Luckily he managed to get back to his feet and play on. The Eels then split the Tigers through Jarryd Hayne once again but the Eels again lost the ball to let the Tigers off the hook. The Eels made the Tigers pay a couple of minutes later as the Tigers failed to get their kick away. It all started with an offload from Mateo which then sparked the rest of the Eels into offloading before Robson crossed near the posts. Inu converted to extend the Eels lead to 20-12 with 14 minutes remaining.

The Eels then began to break tackles with ease as the Tigers looked to be on the ropes but just when they looked gone, they hit back through Beau Ryan in the 70th minute as he took a bullet pass from Robbie Farah to set sail down the sideline and score in the corner. Marshall was tasked with his 4th sideline conversion of the night which he finally landed to narrow the score to 20-18 with 8 minutes remaining.

The Tigers were then dealt a very cruel decision when John Morris was put into open space only for Marshall’s pass to be called forward. The replay looked like the Tigers were hard done by. Jarryd Hayne then sealed the game for the Eels in the 77th minute as he chipped and chased on the last, regathered and made it to the line with ease. Inu converted to make the score 26-18 and that’s the way it stayed until fulltime.

In the end it was a heartbreaking loss for the Tigers who gave their all but were crueled by injuries and the brilliance of Jarryd Hayne who seemed to be stunned himself as he left the field with some of the plays he managed to come up with.

1. Moltzen – Fairly well contained tonight. He wasn’t poor but the Eels kicked and chased well and Moltzen wasn’t given much room to move. He did chime in the backline and came up with some good passes. Only tested once under the high ball which he held well. 74 metres in attack, 2 tackles, 2 missed tackles and 1 linebreak assist.

2. Tuiaki – Unfortunately for TNT, the human wrecking ball finally came to a halt midway through the first half as his leg was caught under an Eels player in a tackle. It resulted in Tuiaki being carried from the field with a suspected broken ankle. He had made 50 metres in attack up to this point.

3. Ayshford – Good game from Blake and he held his own against Inu IMO and also had to shift to the wing at one point when Ryan came off. Looked good with the ball on a couple of occasions and did well to score the Tigers opening try after Marshall’s brilliance leading up to it. Made 116 metres in attack, made 9 tackles, 4 tackle busts, 1 linebreak and 1 error in a solid game.

4. Lawrence – Very good game from Lawrence tonight. Finally got put into open space and was handful in attack and defended solidly. Made 121 metres in attack, 21 tackles, 3 missed tackles, 2 tackle breaks, 1 error, 1 linebreak and 1 try assist.

5. Ryan – Continued his solid form with a good game tonight after being injured in the first half. Scored 2 good tries, copped a leg injury and left the field but returned in the second half to score a good try from an excellent pass by Farah. 3 missed tackles were the main blemish on his game, but he came up with a couple of good saves in the second half when the Tigers were on the ropes. 97 metres in attack, 2 tries, 2 linebreaks.

6. Marshall – The Tigers best tonight. His flick pass to Ayshford for the opening try was so quick you had to look twice to see what he actually did. Sparked the Tigers on several occasions and also defended pretty well. Made 63 metres in attack, kicked for 336 metres, came up with a linebreak and 2 try assists. Goalkicking was the only thing that let him down, with only 1 from 4 due to all the Tigers tries being scored in the corners. Even if he landed them all we lose by 2 points though.

7. Lui – Had an ok first half with one poor pass being his lowlight and a good break made on halftime his highlight. Very hit and miss in defence. Came up with some decent tackles but really struggled in D when Mateo came on and started bumping him off. Lui looks to have a cool head out there though and will only benefit from games like this down the track. 95 metres in attack, 4 tackle breaks, 13 tackles, 4 missed tackles, 1 linebreak.

8. Gibbs – Just like the classic Clint Eastwood film – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…Ran hard and went forward but all of this was undone by incredibly poor discipline in giving away numerous penalties and being put on report for kneeing Luke Burt. Came up with a trysaver on Hayne in the second half only to give away another penalty. He was all over the place tonight and usually in the thick of it. Did more harm than good tonight though and will probably be watching next week’s match from home as I daresay he’ll get suspended. 108 metres in attack, 23 tackles. 4 penalties against him tonight which really let Bryce and the team down.

9. Farah – Tackled himself to a standstill tonight with 51 tackles in a gutsy performance. His running from dummyhalf was well handled by the Eels but Robbie still came up with a good try assist for Ryan in the second half. Ran for 30 metres but that stat is probably wrong. 1 try assist and kicked for 144 metres. 3 errors let him down, including a kick out on the full.

10. Payten – Decent game from Todd. Ran ok and defended well. Not an impact player though which is sometimes his downfall as he doesn’t go forward as much as a prop should. He was solid though. Ran for 89 metres, made 25 tackles.

11. Ellis – Another good solid game from Ellis. Ran hard all night and hit hard in defence. Took care of Moi Moi on more than one occasion and along with Galloway, he was the cornerstone of the Tigers pack again tonight. Made 109 metres in attack, 35 tackles.

12. Galea – Defended very well once again and played most of the game on the fringe of the ruck which suits him. 64 metres in attack, 18 tackles.

13. Heighington – Had his best game since returning from injury tonight. Ran better than recent weeks and defended well. Still being given a rest which helps him IMO. Made 89 metres in attack and 19 tackles.

14. Morris – Forced to play on the wing tonight as TNT was injured. Did reasonably well out there although I doubt we’ll see him start there next week. Scored a nice try off an excellent flick pass from Lawrence and defended well. 58 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 5 tackles.

15. Payne – His first run was a beauty as he was put into open space. He was bumped off a few tackles in D though. Came up with a couple of errors but didn’t play too badly. 84 metres in attack, 14 tackles with 2 or 3 missed tackles.

17. Galloway – Leading metre muncher for the forwards tonight. Galloway was strong and didn’t take a backward step despite playing injured. Came up with some good hits in D too. 13 tackles and 129 metres in attack. 4 missed tackles let him down though.

19. Skandalis
– Solid off the bench with 16 tackles and 94 metres in attack. Mistake free and tried his hardest as usual.

Overall Analysis:

Attack:

The Tigers had several chances tonight and all 4 tries were very well executed, none better than Ayshford’s first which Marshall setup. The Tigers were also pulled back on a couple of passes which looked good to me, and the channel 9 commentary team and had they been allowed to play on…well we’ll never know. The Tigers went ok up the middle against the Eels but lacked a bit of pace out wide with Ayshford and Morris both having to play fair portions of the game on the wing. Marshall was excellent in attack, Lui looks ok in attack but is taking the line on more than he is trying to set up plays. Farah was well handled for the most part as he tackled himself to a standstill.

Defence:

For the majority it was very good but there were small lapses, mainly in the second half where the Eels were able to offload and they showed just how dangerous they are when their second phase play takes over, scoring a brilliant try through Robson. Inu was a handful for the Tigers at times, as was Mateo when he targeted Lui in D. Hayne was the key though. The Tigers hit him hard on several occasions but such is his form at the moment that when the Tigers came up in a staggered line or fell off a tackle, he was there to pounce and he didn’t waste his opportunities. The Tigers handled the Eels pack fairly well though. Had they been able to nullify the Eels second phase play, they would have won. The scramble defence was good.

Kicking game:

Average. Farah came up with some poor kicks tonight which was unusual for him. Benji forced one line drop out while Lui put one bomb straight down Hayne’s throat and he then raced 60 metres downfield to be collared by Gibbs of all people. Overall the Tigers did not seem to handle the windy conditions well, as Hayne managed to produce two 40/20 kicks in contrast to the Tigers.

Overall Stats:

  • Possession: 50% each
  • Completions: 27 each
  • Tackles: 272 to the Tigers, 300 to the Eels
  • Metres gained: 1472 to the Tigers, 1347 to the Eels
  • Errors: 9 to the Tigers, 13 to the Eels
  • Penalties: 3 to the Tigers, 5 to the Eels (4 from Gibbs)

To conclude, it was a very good game of football, it had everything – brilliant attacking play from Marshall and Hayne, solid hits up the middle and some brain explosions by Bryce Gibbs which will earn him the wrath of Tigers coaching staff as well as a spell on the sideline I assume. Both sides were good, with the key turning points being Gibbs giving the Eels an 8 point try and the Tigers unable to shut down the 5 offloads the Eels came up for the Robson try. The Tigers also came out of the game in bad shape in terms of injuries. Tuiaki looks like his season is over as it is suspected he has broken his ankle or a bone in his lower leg. Ryan was also injured but managed to return to the field.

Next week the Tigers will have a reshuffled side due to injuries and the loss of Gibbs to suspension one would think. The Tigers now need to win both remaining games as the Broncos accounted for the Dragons in Wollongong tonight. This will be a big ask but hopefully it’s a challenge the Tigers can respond to.

It was a tough loss tonight but the Tigers were by no means disgraced.

Round 23: Willow’s Match Report and Player Review

R23:  Cronulla Sharks vs Wests Tigers
@ Toyota Park

Round 23 of the NRL Telstra Premiership saw the Wests Tigers travel to Shark Park to take on the toothless and luckless Sharks in a bid to win their 6th successive game. The Sharks were coming off yet another belting, a Monday night loss to the Broncos and their side had been further decimated by injury, with at least half the Sharks squad made up of players promoted from the Toyota Cup or State Cup. The Tigers meanwhile were coming off a hard fought win against the Roosters where they were very flat. They would no doubt be looking for a more energetic performance today.

Tuiaki Scores against the Sharks.

Tuiaki Scores against hapless Sharks.

1st half:

The Sharks received the ball and started well, making it over the halfway line on their first set as they looked enthusiastic and hit the Tigers on the edges. They also got off their line very quickly in defence and had the Tigers going nowhere for the first 5 minutes. The fact that the Tigers gave away an early penalty didn’t help their cause in getting out of their own half. The Tigers defence held though as Cronulla made some early handling errors while attacking the Tigers line.

It wasn’t too long before the Tigers took control of the game though, in the 11th minute Robbie Farah scooted from dummy-half after getting a quick play the ball and he put Tim Moltzen away who drew the fullback before offloading to Marshall who raced away to score a well structured try. Benji converted from in front and it was 6-0 to the Tigers after 12 minutes. 5 minutes later the Tigers were in again, this time through Blake Ayshford after debutante Robert Lui put in a short grubber kick out wide which was spilled by the Sharks winger. Ayshford scooped the ball up and carried 2 defenders across the line. Benji’s conversion was waved away as the Tigers now lead 10-0 after 17 minutes.

At this stage of the match the Tigers forward pack had taken control of the ruck and they were making good yardage, while the backline was looking nice and structured and playing with depth. In the 25th minute the Tigers went further ahead through Beau Ryan who crossed out wide after being put on the end of a brilliant cut-out pass from Farah. It was all about the lead-up to this try though, as first Gareth Ellis broke through and managed to offload to John Skandalis who found himself in space before charging downfield only to be caught 10 metres short of the line. Marshall converted and it was now 16-0 to the Tigers.

It started to turn ugly for the Sharks as they had a try disallowed a few minutes later as Taulapapa put his foot on the sideline as he received a pass which put him on the outside of Beau Ryan. No sooner had the try been disallowed and back in the hands of the Tigers when Robbie Farah ran from dummy-half and brushed between a couple of lazy defenders to find himself in open space and heading downfield. Farah in turn found Taniela Tuiaki who came flying through in support and proceeded to run 60 metres to score next to the posts. Marshall made no mistake with the conversion and it was 22-0.

Just before half-time the Tigers went further in front as Farah shifted the ball to the Tigers rightside to find Blake Ayshford with room to move. Ayshford in turn offloaded to Ryan, although the pass was not great, thankfully Ryan on this occasion remembered how to transform into Dr Zoidberg and crabbed his way across the field, stepping defenders before linking up with Benji Marshall who had space on the left side of the field and he threw a nice ball to Tuiaki who had little work to do to score his second try of the afternoon on the stroke of halftime. Benji converted the try and the Tigers went to the sheds with a commanding 28-0 lead.

The Tigers played a simple game in the first half and were simply too skilful and too quick for the Sharks to handle. Possession favoured the Tigers and they completed 20/23 sets which really set up proceedings. The one downside was the loss of veteran prop John Skandalis who appeared to suffer a nasty cork around the knee.

2nd half:

The Tigers began the second half as they ended the first – full of running. The Sharks first set resulted in Anthony Tupou offloading a ball which found Keith Galloway of all Tigers players. Sauce promptly offloaded to Tigers fullback Tim Moltzen who saw a gap in the line and he put on a jinking sidestep and found clear space in front of him. 80 metres later the Tigers lead by 34-0 as Benji landed the simple conversion from in front.

The Sharks while totally outclassed refused to give up though and they finally managed to get on the board in the 55th minute through Tigers-bound centre Mitch Brown as he put in a grubber kick for himself and managed to regather before Tim Moltzen could get across to clean the ball up. Covell missed the conversion and it was 34-4. The Tigers response was almost immediate though as they crossed in the 58th minute through Beau Ryan as the Tigers ran the ball on the last tackle through Robbie Farah. Farah put in an awkward looking grubber kick which bounced horribly for the Sharks but perfectly for the chasing Ryan who crashed over in the corner. Marshall missed the sideline conversion and it was now 38-4 with 22 minutes remaining.

The Tigers scored arguably their most impressive try of the day in the 62 minute as Tim Moltzen fielded a Cronulla kick before passing to Tuiaki and then swiftly running around behind him to create an extra man. TNT offloaded to Moltzen who quickly passed to Marshall who had also dropped back. Marshall then hit the accelerator before standing up Stapleton and streaking away to score his second try of the day under the posts. Marshall made no mistake with the conversion and it was now 44-4 to the Tigers. That wasn’t the last of the Tigers for the day though as they went in 3 minutes later through Blake Ayshford who also picked up a double. It all started with Marshall though as he put Tim Moltzen through a gap who in turn found Robert Lui in support. Lui hit the deck but the tackle was not complete, so he got to his feet and went again before being almost wrapped up by 2 Sharks cover defenders, Lui managed to pop a one handed offload to another Tigers player before Ayshford crashed over out wide. Benji converted and it was now 50-4 to the Tigers.

The Sharks managed to cross in the 69th minute through Matthew Wright as the Sharks caught out the Tigers with an inside ball. Wright found space as Gareth Ellis failed to shift across in time and he had too much pace for Moltzen who seemed to stick in the turf for some reason and didn’t really get close to him. Covell converted and it was 50-10. The Tigers crossed for one last try in the 78th minute through Tuiaki as they scored from yet another scrum based move. Heighington broke from the scrum down the blindside before passing to Lawrence who cleverly drew in Covell before putting Tuiaki away down the sideline for his hat-trick. Marshall converted and the ful-ltime score ended up 56-10.

Onto the players:

1. Moltzen – Good game from Moltzen. Got crunched early in the first half while standing his ground in trying to defuse a Sharks bomb and while he looked to be beaten all ends up by Wright in the second half, he did come up with a try saver on a Sharks forward and he showed a clean pair of heels in racing 80 metres to score. He was also very good in putting Marshall away for his second try and he nearly put the Tigers in for another try in the second half in one jinking run. Made 187 metres in attack, 1 error, 4 linebreaks, 1 linebreak assist, 4 tackle breaks, 2 try assists and 1 try.

2. Tuiaki – Now the leading tryscorer in the competition as he bagged a hat-trick today in a powerful performance. Proved a handful all afternoon, as to be expected and didn’t let his team mates down. 3 tries, 209 metres in attack, 2 errors, 2 linebreaks, 4 tackle breaks.

3. Ayshford – Decent game today as he bagged a double although a couple of his passes did not go where he intended in the first half. It was academic though as Blake continues to impress and looks comfortable in the centres. Had his hands full marking Tupou though. 2 tries and 30 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 13 tackles, 2 missed tackles.

4. Lawrence – Glad to have him back from injury today, although unfortunately he was never put into space today which was a shame. Looked to be moving fairly freely and hopefully he pulled up well. We’ll need him against the Eels for sure. 86 metres in attack, 1 linebreak assist, 7 tackles, 2 missed tackles and 1 try assist.

5. Ryan – Went alright today. Got caught out in defence in the first half but the try was disallowed to the Sharks. Scored a double and nearly had a hat-trick himself. Otherwise he was mistake free and solid. 2 tries, 78 metres in attack, 1 linebreak, 3 tackle breaks, 5 tackles.

6. Marshall – His one main blemish was pass which went over the sideline in the second half. Otherwise Benji was all class in attack and he also defended well. 24 points which consisted of 2 tries and 8 goals, 165 metres in attack, 2 errors, 188 kick metres, 12 tackles, 2 linebreaks, 3 tackle breaks, 2 try assists.

7. Lui – Good debut IMO. Came up with some good tackles and while he dropped off a couple, he had Gallen running at him a bit. Conceded a penalty and came up with 1 error when Payne threw him a ball he probably shouldn’t have. He nearly broke through the Sharks line a couple of times though and certainly didn’t look out of place. 58 metres in attack, 12 tackles, 1 try assist and a nice offload which led to Ayshford’s second try.

8. Gibbs – Gave away an early penalty which had me shaking my head but Bryce picked his game up and played big minutes today. Defended well and kept up his good work in attack. 115 metres in attack, 24 tackles, 1 penalty conceded, 1 offload.

9. Farah – Looked very dangerous until being placed in cotton wool at the 60th minute. Made 79 metres in attack, kicked for 179 metres, 1 linebreak, 2 offloads, 23 tackles, 3 try assists.

10. Galloway – Strong today, ran hard and came up with some good tackles. Led the way well up front IMO. 135 metres in attack, 23 tackles.

11. Ellis – Very good game from the big Englishman today, hit hard in defence, flattening several Sharks players and was also a handful in attack. Received a caution for sticking his foot out again but hopefully he’s not cited for it, we need him badly for the Eels match. 125 metres in attack, 26 tackles, 3 missed tackles and 1 linebreak assist.

12. Payten – Not a bad game from Todd again today. Defended well and ran the ball up ok again. 84 metres in attack, 18 tackles.

13. Heighington – Got a decent break today, and needed it because he looks down on match fitness still, although he’s still working hard out on the field. Not a bad game and still building his game towards the end of the season and hopefully finals. 69 metres in attack, 19 tackles and 1 offload.

14. Morris – Played the last 20 minutes and went ok. Did his job and tackled well as usual. 39 metres in attack, 7 tackles.

15. Galea – His attack was stunted today coming off the bench but he defended well with 16 tackles. I think he’d be better served starting with Payten coming off the bench though to be honest.

16. Payne – Went down with a knee injury in the second half. Don’t know how serious it is yet. Ran ok for 58 metres off 7 runs and 12 tackles.

17. Skandalis – He was going well before coming off with a nasty cork in the first half. Picked up 83 metres in attack and 6 tackles. Hopefully he isn’t out for more than a match.

Overall Analysis:

Attack:

Needless to say it was very good. Cronulla were undermanned but the Tigers didn’t get excited today and try too many miracle plays. They went forward up the middle and played with good depth and space out wide. Farah, Marshall and Lui all played with good vision, Farah and Marshall the chief playmakers with Lui injecting himself on occasion and looking comfortable out there. Moltzen, Tuiaki and Ellis were also strong in attack.

Defence:

Good again. The Tigers gave up a couple of linebreaks but once again scrambled well. They will need to watch the inside passes though and also the offloads, Cronulla bent them back a few times with offloads and the Eels are very good at this so the Tigers will once again need to focus on their defence if they are to beat the Eels next Friday.

Kicking game:

Average today. Too many kicks went dead in the first half as Sharks Park was very dry and the ball just kept bouncing. The kicking game improved in the second half but the Tigers did not threaten the Sharks with their kicking game today. It will need to be at it’s best in 5 days time though.

Final stats:

  • Try assists – 9
    Offloads – 5
    Linebreaks – 11
    Line break assists – 7
    Tackles – 227
    Kicks – 17 (485 metres)
    Possession – 53%
    Errors – 10
    Penalties conceded – 7

Today was a good win for the Tigers, but it came at a cost with Skandalis and Payne both injured, Ellis cautioned and Payten put on report, although I think the latter two players should be right to face the Eels. The Tigers were clinical in attack and pretty good in defence although they will need to step it up against the Eels on Friday. The kicking game was off today although the way the game was played, it didn’t prove to be a concern.

Next Friday at the SFS will be a blockbuster though with both the Tigers and Eels entering the match in excellent form.

Round 22:Willow’s Match Report and Player Review

R22:  Sydney Roosters vs Wests Tigers
@ SFS

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.

1st half:

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.

2nd 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 Beau Ryan 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.

Overall Analysis:

Attack:

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.

Defence:

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.

Kicking game:

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.

Round 21: Willows Match Report and Player Review

R21: Wests Tigers vs Manly Sea Eagles
@ SFS

Round 21 of the NRL saw the Wests Tigers head to the SFS for a home game against the defending premiers, the Manly Sea Eagles. With the Manly in very good form looking to break their way into the top 4 and the resurgent Tigers looking to force their way into the top 8, this match shaped up as a cracker, and one that could define the Tigers season if they were to win. For the Tigers, they were given a much needed boost on the eve of tonights match with the return of Keith Galloway and Chris Heighington to the forward pack. So the scene was set…Which side would come out on top?

1st half:

The Tigers began strongly as they showed very good line speed in defence from the kick off, and were given a great attacking opportunity as Benji Marshall landed an excellent 40/20. The Sea Eagles soon gave away a penalty as Corey Payne attempted to dive over from dummyhalf, but the number 1 grub for Manly, Anthony Watmough was ruled offside. The Tigers took the shot at goal and Benji made no mistake in adding the extras and giving the Tigers an early 2-0 lead.

The next 10 minutes was pretty much all the Tigers as Manly continued to give away penalties and allowing the Tigers to get out of their own half quite easily. Early on Gibbs, Payten and Payne were all strong with the ball in hand. Around the 16th minute both sides started to make mistakes, first the Tigers, then Manly. Manly’s extra size in the forwards soon started to show as they bent the Tigers back around the ruck, as their big men rolled forward and the Tigers started bouncing off tackles. Things started to look ominous from where I was sitting and I thought it was just a matter of time before the Tigers cracked.

To the Tigers credit though, they held on and scrambled well. You could see the desperation in their defensive line as they repelled Manly when they were within striking range. Galea, Ellis, Lawrence and Gibbs were all strong in defence and came up with important tackles. In the 26th minute just when another Manly attacking raid looked threatening, a last play short kick found the waiting arms of Benji Marshall who proceeded to race 95 metres downfield and score out wide as the Gigantasaur known as George Rose gave chase. It was a great counter attacking move which was sure to frustrate Manly who were looking on top at that stage. Marshall landed the kick from out wide and the Tigers now lead by 8-0.

The Tigers continued to complete their sets while Manly again looked dangerous up the middle of the field everytime Watmough ran the ball. Another last tackle play by Manly went horribly wrong in the 30th minute as the kick found Tim Moltzen’s foot who then proceeded to kick the ball downfield and held off Watmough to regather. He then did well to stand and look for support which he found in the rangy Blake Ayshford who was caught soon after about 30 metres out from the Manly line. A couple of plays later and Manly had still not recovered as the ball found Robbie Farah who summed up the situation perfectly and placed a clever grubber kick behind the Manly defence. Tony Williams was nowhere to be found as the ball bounced up perfectly for Beau Ryan was raced around to improve his position and make the score 12-0 after 31 minutes. Marshall again made no mistake with the kick and the score was now 14-0.

Just as the Tigers were able to do last week against Canberra, they showed they have the best counter-attack in the game. If anyone had any doubts about this, the Tigers well and truly showed what they can do with their next try. Again it resulted from a Manly break as Glenn Stewart went through a hole and had support on his inside. As Shannon Gallant held back and the Tigers cover scrambled back, Stewart decided to kick. The ball was plucked straight out of the air by Gallant who went across field to beat the Manly support and then he set off downfield, working his way back toward the centre. He was brought down by Watmough but now the Tigers had the momentum and proceeded to bend Manly back. They soon found Manly short of numbers on the left as the ball went through the hands of Payten, Marshall and Lawrence who then put Tuiaki away down the sideline with only Robertson beat. It was David vs Goliath as TNT decided to throw a bit of a sidestep in and he went over with ease to score his 17th try of the season. Benji’s attempted conversion hit the upright but the Tigers now held a handy 18-0 lead, with all their tries coming from against the run of play.

The Tigers had one late chance right on halftime as an attempted field goal from Farah was wide of the mark and collected by David Williams. Williams must have thought he was playing Rugby Union as he proceeded to kick the ball from 5 metres out and it went straight to Marshall who stodd him up easily. Benji put in a grubber kick for Gallant but Robertson ran the ball dead in goal as the halftime siren sounded.

2nd half:

The second 40 minutes could well define the Tigers season as Manly were sure to throw everything at them. The Tigers continued to play percentage football though as they worked their way to the halfway line and turned Manly around with kicks either into touch or into the corners where the Eagles were forced to work the ball out from their own end. For the first few minutes of the second half, this tactic worked well for the Tigers, but when some over enthusiastic Tigers defence swept across field to round up Matai in the 53rd minute, he turned the ball inside to the biggest man on the field in Tony Williams who set off downfield as a huge hole opened up. The Tigers turned to give chase but Williams was unstoppable as he trampled Farah and Gallant on his way to the tryline. Orford landed the conversion and suddenly it was game on at 18-6.

Keith Galloway came up with a big play from the re-start as he forced the ball loose in a good tackle. The Tigers were unable to score off the scrum win but they did manage to get a repeat set of 6 and keep Manly pinned. Another Tigers raid in the 63rd minute looked set to go without result as Blake Ayshford went close but was dragged down short of the line. As the ball spread back to the left Robbie Farah saw his opportunity and calmly slotted a field goal to make the score 19-6. This now meant Manly had to score 3 times if they were to take the lead. The Tigers made it to the end of their next set but Manly’s response was swift. As the Tigers up and in defence rushed and left the line staggered, a Matt Orford pass found the grub Watmough who streaked through a hole. Watmough then showed how quick he is by then standing up Shannon Gallant who gave chase but was unable to bring Watmough down. He scored under the posts and Orford converted to make the score 19-12.

Now the game was really alive as Manly got their second wind and started making all sorts of inroads to the Tigers defence, while the Tigers started look fatigued and were scrambling for their season. The Tigers managed to hold Manly but not without several close calls. A last play kick by Manly was touched by Marshall which gave the Eagles 6 more tackles and when big George Rose went straight and hard 20 out from the line, it looked like he might go all the way. A desperate play by Blake Ayshford saw him strip the ball from Rose and save the Tigers skin on this occasion. Manly were not done however as again Anthony Watmough went straight through the Tigers, beating several players to score under the posts for his second try in the 75th minute. Orford converted and it was now 19-18 with 4 to go.

Manly again broke the Tigers defence from the re-start and headed off downfield. Matt Orford went for a long range field goal from 35 out but the ball narrowly missed the posts as the Tigers desperately held on. The Tigers played out their set of 6 but Manly counter-attacked once again, playing like their season depended on it while the Tigers came from all directions to try and shut the play down. In the 79th minute Manly were set straight in front of the posts 20 metres out from the Tigers line when Orford had his second shot at a field goal. It was charged down by Todd Payten in another huge play for the Tigers. Manly regathered however and launched one final raid on the Tigers line. It looked like a hole might appear at any second as the Tigers were out of their feet and as Manly went wide, I’m sure every Tigers fan had their heart in their mouth. Orford overplayed his hand this time, showing the ball one too many times before being brought to ground and as he was falling he threw a desperate pass in the direction of Tony Williams. The pass was wide of the mark though and went over the sideline. The Tigers players and fans cheered as one as the Tigers won the scrum and the fulltime siren sounded seconds later.

It wasn’t the Tigers prettiest win of the season, but it was their most important as they managed to hold out Manly who by and large had every right to win this match as they continually made good ground up the middle of the field. The Tigers were up for it though and played desperate football despite going into their shell in the second half.

Onto the players:

1. Gallant – Excellent first half as he was safe at the back and came up with a try saver on Whatmough. Counter attacked very well in the lead up to the Tuiaki try. Was put under a lot more defensive pressure in the second half as Watmough stood him up twice to score and almost win the match on his own for Manly. It was a mixed night for Gallant in the end. He was very good in some aspects, but defensively he struggled in the second half. Ran for 98 metres and made 5 tackles but missed 7 which let him down. Safe in defusing kicks.

2. Tuiaki – Relatively quiet tonight as the ball didn’t come his way as often as recent weeks. He still went well though, scoring his 17th try of the year and becoming more involved in the second half as Manly lifted. Decent effort as he clearly outshone SOO winger David Williams who was ordinary. Came up with 94 metres and 1 linebreak.

3. Ayshford – Excellent game tonight. Came up with some very good plays including a possible match winner in stripping the ball from Rose late in the game. His rangy frame and running style made him difficult to handle for the Manly defence too. Defended well and justified why Sheens selected him in FG this season IMO. 15 tackles with 4 missed and 89 metres in attack with 5 tackle breaks and 1 linebreak.

4. Lawrence – Solid tonight. Very good game in defence although was heavily marked in attack as usual. 17 tackles including some very important tackles on Glenn Stewart throughout the match. 82 metres in attack which was an improvement over recent weeks. Came up with a line break assist and try assist for TNT too.

5. Ryan – Went well tonight I thought. Scored a try from a clever Farah kick and was safe in defence and was effective out of dummyhalf. Got trampled once by Williams that I noticed but otherwise Ryan was safe again. 6 tackles, 1 error and 78 metres in attack.

6. Marshall – Very good tonight. Came up with an early 40/20 to put the Tigers on the front foot and scored the opening try. Short kicking game was off target on occasions but he came up with a couple of good short kicks in the second half and his long kicking game was good. Passing game was solid and he didn’t overplay his hand in throwing any ridiculous passes. Defended well also. 13 tackles, 1 offload, 6 tackle breaks, 1 try, 3 goals, kicked for 431 metres, 1 linebreak and 108 metres in attack.

7. Moltzen – Went well again tonight and looking more and more comfortable at 7. Working well with Benji too. Again looked dangerous on a couple of occasions against a solid Manly defence. Mixed night in defence. Came up with 11 good tackles but also missed 3, mostly on Tony Williams and Matai from what I saw. 3 tackle breaks, kicked for 165 metres, and ran for 26 metres. Also came up with an important charge down in the first half which lead to the Ryan try.

8. Gibbs – One of his best games this season. Leading metre muncher in the forwards with 120 metres. Had a very strong opening and dent the Manly line which was great to see. Gave away 1 penalty as Manly were on a roll up the middle, but like the Cowboys match, I can cop this one. Only 13 tackles tonight but very good yardage against a strong pack.

9. Farah – Went well and proved decisive in the Tigers win with his field goal and try assist for Ryan. Led the way in defence with 38 tackles and missed 4. Given the way Manly rolled forward in the second half, this is understandable. Kicked for 204 metres and also kicked one out on the full. Ran for 52 metres in a fine captains knock.

10. Payten – Followed up last week with another solid game and finding form at the right time. 16 tackles with 3 missed, came up with a great chargedown on Orford late in the game. Ran for 98 metres and went well IMO.

11. Ellis – Another strong game from the big Englishman. Defended strongly all night and ran hard in attack. A lot to like about his game as he continually plays the 80 minutes and has really strengthened the Tigers forward pack. 17 tackles with 4 missed, ran for 102 metres.

12. Galea – Best game of the season for him in attack and he was very good in defence yet again. Getting some good gametime now too which is a credit to the way he has slowly gone about building his form up. 33 tackles with 3 missed an 5 one-on-one, ran for 80 metres in attack.

13. Payne – Had a good opening to the game with some strong runs but was given a lengthy spell as Heighno came on to replace him. Defended strongly with 25 tackles and 2 missed. Ran for 45 metres.

14. Morris – Got 5 minutes at the end. No rating.

16. Skandalis – Another strong game from Skando as he rolled up his sleeves and went forward well. Came up with some good tackles too. Certainly played his part well tonight. 15 tackles with 5 missed, ran for 103 metres.

21. Galloway – Welcome return to FG and the big fella went well for his first game in 12 weeks. Ran hard and came up with some good tackles too. Definitely helped the Tigers go forward and will be better for the run next week. Made 8 tackles and ran for 65 metres.

22. Heighington – Also a welcome return to FG. Looked short of a run for obvious reasons but also pushed himself as always. Came up with a couple of desperate tackles around the ruck and had several decent runs. I’d bring both him and Galloway off the bench again next week for impact as I thought they made a difference tonight. 12 tackles with 3 missed and ran for 71 metres.

Overall Analysis:

Attack:

A bit quiet overall really. The Tigers were at their most dangerous when they counter attacked tonight, and thankfully they were deadly in this regard. Otherwise linebreaks were non-existent as Manly did defend well in regular play. No Tiger really stood out in attack tonight but Ayshford was a handful on several occasions.

Defence:

It won them the game in the end as Manly came home with a wet sail. The Tigers scrambled brilliantly in the first half and held Manly scoreless, the first time a side has done that this season. The second half the Tigers struggled as Manly’s forward pack through hatmough and Rose made big dents in the Tigers line. The Tigers continued to scramble but they did miss a lot of tackles tonight, but they scrambled ala 2005. The Tigers will need to work on slowing down the ruck and tightening up their defence.

Kicking game:

Superior to Manly’s and in general it was very good. The Tigers forced a line drop out but also conceded 3. Their long kicking game turned Manly around well and apart from one kick on the full from Robbie, it was one of the Tigers better kicking performances I thought.

  • Final Stats: (Manly in brackets)
  • Errors: 11 (15)
    Completions: 33/40 (28/41)
    Penalties: 4 (5)
    Scrums: 9(6)
    Tackles: 246 (312)
    1 on 1 tackles: 27 (22)
    Missed tackles: 46 (32)
    Line breaks: 3 (6)
    Offloads: 5 (22)
    Run metres: 1316 (1178)
    Try assists: 2 (1)
    40/20: 1 (0)
    Line droputs: 1 (3)

So there you have it, the Tigers came away with the narrowest of wins in a very hard fought game. The Tigers still didn’t look at their best IMO. They played within themselves in attack while I don’t know if Manly had much more improvement in them. Watmough had a whinge after the game on Fox Sports saying his team didn’t get the bounce of the ball etc. but the Tigers made their own luck tonight and scrambled well enough to just hold Manly out. Completions were the key and the Tigers won this stat which helped prove decisive.

Next Sunday the Tigers return to the SFS to take on the Roosters in another must win game. The Tigers can ill afford to let up now as they are still not in the 8 and have plenty of work left in front of them. Tonight was a vital win and will no doubt give the team a massive boost in confidence and self-belief. The Tigers will need to call upon this in the coming weeks as they are still not at their best IMO.