The Wests Tigers pulled off one of the upsets of the season, beating the South Sydney Rabbitohs 22-6 at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite a promising start, Souths’ dominance was stopped by a Wests Tigers side determined to press for the finals. Off the back of a scintillating run from halfback Luke Brooks, the Tigers’ first try came down the right side to an agile Esan Marsters, courtesy of a sublime short pass from Benji Marshall. Excellent game management and a clever kicking game from the Tigers’ halves in the next 10 minutes laid the platform for their second try. Tough carries from Ben Matulino and Jake Garner helped the Tigers target the Rabbitohs’ left edge defence. After shrugging off Hymel Hunt, Marsters used his footwork to attract winger Robert Jennings before he delivered a spectacular flick pass for winger David Nofoaluma and the Tigers’ second try. The Tigers’ relentless defence restricted any chances the Rabbitohs had of scoring. Two minutes before halftime, they barrelled milestone man John Sutton into touch on the fourth tackle. The Tigers led 10-0 at halftime.
A knock-on from Sutton set the tone for a dismal second half for Souths. The Tigers’ attacking dominance, led by a masterclass from Brooks, had the Rabbitohs’ middle men fatigued and vulnerable. After trapping Rabbitohs winger Campbell Graham in-goal, the Tigers utilised the goal line drop-out to set up their third try. A powerful line-break from backrower Michael Chee-Kam in the 57th minute saw him run over the top of Rabbitohs Cody Walker and Damien Cook, before offloading to fullback Moses Mbye who scored under the posts – extending the Tigers’ lead to 16-0. The Tigers continued their rampage, with Corey Thompson sprinting 70m to score after taking advantage of a dubious pass from Rabbitohs backrower Angus Crichton. With five minutes remaining, the Rabbitohs managed to score, when five-eighth Walker muscled past four Tigers defenders. The Tigers made it two in a row and continued their reign of upsets this season.
In an unexpected performance, the Tigers produced their best attacking and defensive performance of the season. The complete 80 minute knock saw them restrict the best attacking team in the competition to six points. They made 65 more tackles than the Rabbitohs and had just 42% of possession. The new-look spine (Mbye, Marshall, Brooks and Farah), was the spark the Tigers needed. Each player helped create many scoring opportunities and were instrumental in organising their defensive line.
Rabbitohs Unable to Secure 10th Straight Win
This clash was a night that the high-flying Rabbitohs would rather forget. Not only did their nine-game winning streak end, but the milestones for John Sutton (300 games) and Dane Gagai (150) were overshadowed. The 10 incomplete sets, 39 missed tackles and 12 handling errors were telling statistics in this uncharacteristic loss.
Tigers Down but not Out
By continuously scrambling well in defence, the Tigers appeared to replicate what they did at the start of the season – even with five players taken for a HIA. Their resilience was highlighted when coach Ivan Cleary was required to shift multiple players out of position to accommodate the losses of Chee-Kam, Luke Garner, Elijah Taylor, Nofoaluma and Robbie Farah during their HIA assessments. Now sitting in ninth place, they are well and truly in finals contention.
Rabbitohs’ Minor Premiership Hopes take a Hit
With the Rabbitohs now sitting just two points clear of the Melbourne Storm, the chances of them securing the minor premiership have slightly decreased. This 16-point loss has had an impact on their for-and-against, reducing their points differential to 124. It’s vital that the Rabbitohs regain their consistency and win their next six matches by considerable margins.
Wests Tigers 22
Tries: Esan Marsters, David Nofoaluma, Moses Mbye, Corey Thompson
Goals: Esan Marsters 3
South Sydney Rabbitohs 6
Tries: Cody Walker
Goals: Adam Reynolds
Wests Tigers: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Corey Thompson, 6 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer (c), 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Michael Chee-Kam, 12 Josh Aloiai, 13 Elijah Taylor. Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Sauaso Sue, 16 Luke Garner, 17 Matthew Eisenhuth.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Hymel Hunt, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess (c). Interchange: 14 Adam Doueihi, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola.