The Wests Tigers put a week of controversy behind them with a hard fought 25 – 12 win of St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon football.
A SIDE ON THE RISE: After a early lack of possession and momentum the Dragons jumped out to an early 8 point lead, in the past this would put the Tigers off their game plan and lead to a difficult afternoon. Yesterday the Tigers showed the growth to this aspect of their play by sticking to their structures and fighting back in the second 20 minutes of the first half to go into the break with a strong lead. This will please coach Jason Taylor to finally see his side growing in their mental approach to the match, the ability to fight back when things are not going your way is an important part of being successful in the NRL.
MISSING INGREDIENT: The problems with the Dragons attack are fairly systemic at this point. Gareth Whiddop was successful at the Strom due to his support cast which allowed him to stick to his strength of consistently guiding a team around a park and executing game management. His sidekick at the Dragons, Benji Marshall, is at the tail end of his career and lacks the explosive speed, power and vision that made him the best player in the world at one point. The Dragons need to attack a top line playmaker to fix their current woes. There is still a place in the side for Whiddop and Marshall, the Dragons just need a new ingredient to spark this side into action.
HOOKING YOUR HOOKER: There may have been a personal sense of vindication for Jason Taylor following yesterdays win, but a larger more glaring problem is still present – if Robbie Farah doesn’t play number 9 then who does? Dene Halatau is not a specialist dummy half and yesterdays winning performance did show up one glaring problem – the Tigers need a specialist hooker to ensure their talented halves can get the ball. This whole saga would be a different kettle of fish if there was a young up and coming hooker given the responsibility of steering the side through matches however this is not the case. Given the cash resources the club are still putting into Robbie surely sense needs to prevail and the club need to find a role for Robbie to best utilise his skills as a player and extensive rugby league experience. As the old saying goes, there is not point cutting your nose off to spite your face.
RUN TO THE FINALS: Following yesterday’s result both the Tigers and Dragons now sit on 20 competition points. With 6 matches remaining these two teams would need to win 4 of their remaining games to make the 8 (assuming 28 points is enough to play finals football in 2016). Given the on field performances yesterday you would be forgiven for thinking that the Tigers are the only squad capable of pulling this off but remarkably it may be the Dragons who have the better chance of playing finals of these two clubs. Of their remaining games St George Illawarra will play their final three games against the Eels, Roosters and Knights, meaning that if they can snag a few wins out of their next three against the out of form Bulldogs and Broncos or an upset in the local derby against the Sharks the Dragons could make a surprise appearance in this year’s final series. The Tigers have a much tougher draw with 5 of their 6 remaining games all against teams currently higher than them on the competition table. Whichever scenario you look at either of these two sides playing finals football in 2016 could be a very long shot.
WESTS TIGERS 25 (David Nofoaluma, Luke Brooks, James Tedesco, Josh Aloiai tries; Jordan Rankin 4 goals; Mitch Moses field goal) DEFEATED ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 12 (Kurt Mann, Adam Quinlan tries; Gareth Widdop 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: Wests Tigers 18-8. Crowd: 15,087.
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