In what can only be described as a miracle, the Wests Tigers managed to claw out a come-back win, beating the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, 34 to 32.
In all my time watching Rugby League, I’ve never seen a game where a team got dominated in so many statistical areas but still managed to win.
Credit must go to the team for putting a terrible half of footy behind them and digging in to get the win.
Here is my reaction to the game:
I honestly can’t believe we won
After watching the game, I’m god smacked about how the Tigers managed to come away with the victory.
They had 35 percent possession in that second half which evened out to 58%- 42% in Manly’s favor and the game finished with an 8 to one penalty count.
Manly also had an additional 9 more sets that the Tigers throughout the game.
The first half was shocking and the team was lucky to only be losing by 8 points going into the second half. Manly were offloading at will and the Tigers couldn’t do anything to stop them.
However, the minute that the Manly starting front-row pairing of Taupau and Fonua-Blake were interchanged, a change in the momentum of the game could be felt.
Manly wasn’t pushing through the Tigers line as easily looked far less potent attacking the goal-line.
From this and some poor defense from Manly, the Tigers were able to claw back.
It just goes to show you that going up by 6 rather 4 makes such a difference to winning a game because you could feel the energy lifting the team whenever a sideline conversion was nailed by Adam Doueihi.
Sick and tired of constantly being on the wrong side of the whistle
In what seems like a common theme for this season, Tigers fans always seem to be talking about being on the wrong end of referring decisions.
Although I don’t like to complain about the quality of the referring performance, there were just so many 50/50 decisions that went against the Tigers.
Whether it was a 6 again call after a grubber or Adam Fonua-Blake lying all over the play the ball, Manly just seemed to get the rub of the green all night and it was extremely frustrating to watch.
The penalty count was also 8 to 1 in the Sea Eagles favor so I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions about that.
Grant, Doueihi, and Nofoaluma should all receive a standing ovation
I thought there was some really special performance, especially in the second half to get the team home that is worth mentioning.
Jeez, Harry Grant is a special player. As a fan, when the Tigers finally got some momentum, it was clear to see that Grant was the one calling the shots in attack and got the team on the front foot a couple of times.
It’s looking overwhelmingly likely that Grant will be going back to the Storm next year and I can’t help but worry that this will heavily restrict the Tiger’s ability to be successful in 2021 with such a special player leaving.
Jacob Liddle has been solid this year but Harry Grant is just on another level as a player and a leader.
Tigers fans should all come together and pray that Cam Smith plays on in Melbourne next year because we need a miracle.
Adam Doueihi delivered by far his best performance for the Wests Tigers on the weekend showing that his future lies in the frontline.
The Lebanese international was electric at centre, scoring two tries and kicking an amazing 5 from 6 conversion goals. Doueihi also recorded an impressive 6 tackle breaks and just under 100 metres.
The match-winning try was incredible but what was even more of a miracle was the fact that a Tigers player kicked 5 from 6 goals that all took place close to the side-line.
All of the kicks were high pressure and could have ensured a Manly victory if the centre missed but credit to Doueihi who looks to have improved his kicking technique substantially.
I still have hope that Doueihi could transition into a great Five-Eight but the centres looks to be his best position.
David Nofoaluma is the heartbeat of this Tigers team. Whenever the Winger is running the ball well, the Tigers seem to be a chance of winning.
It’s incredible to think that 12 months ago, some Tigers fans were calling for Nofoaluma to exit the club and now leads the NRL in tries scored with 3 rounds to go.
A hat-trick tonight along with a crucial 164 running metres, 2 line breaks and 10 tackle breaks surely place Nofoaluma as the in-form winger of the competition.
I’m usually quite dismissive of Tigers players and Origin selection but NSW would be silly not to consider Nofoaluma considering the form he’s in and I couldn’t be happier for him.
One of the few next-generation players that stayed loyal to the club, David Nofoaluma to me demonstrates the kind of player that Tigers players should aspire to be like and I hope the Samoan international gets more recognition and success in the near future.
The thought of having both Nofoaluma and Josh Addo-Carr in the team for next year will help me get through another year without finals footy
The team needs major improvement in the middle
Now on to the ugly part of the game. The Tigers forward pack was absolutely dominated for the most part.
A lopsided possession rate makes it hard to judge attacking stats but no Tigers forward ran for more than 100 metres which is a really poor effort.
Taupau and Fonua-Blake schooled the Tigers pack in the collision, with post-contact metres and offloads which seemed to come at will.
How Manly kept these two players off for so long is something I’ll never know.
The Tigers getting dominated in the middle isn’t new especially in the second half of the season. Josh Aloiai is usually efficient but needs more help, Thomas Mikaele has shown that he’s nowhere near ready to start games at Prop and Alex Twal is a bit undersized as a Prop.
Sam McIntyre was impressive again, but I’m not a fan of him at Prop. I think that McIntyre will excel playing alongside two big props that can create go forward for him to play off the back of because the young forward has been shown to have some skill with the ball in hand.
I would be very supportive of moving Twal back to Prop and promoting McIntyre to 13 because I think he was more to offer in terms of ball skills. I would also be surprised if Matthew Eisenhuth and Elijah Taylor were kept on past this year which means the Tigers need to recruit at least one more middle forward or two.
After some thought, although it’s not a sexy signing, I’m a fan of bringing someone like James Tamou to the club because of the presence and leadership he brings.
For all the Tigers fans complaining, Tamou is currently averaging 145 running metres per game which is more than other Wests Tigers forward, just ahead of Josh Aloiai who is averaging 143 metres per game. Tamou has also recorded a 95.7%tackle efficiency rate which can only help the Tigers struggling middle defense.
A two-year deal for the big forward would solve a lot of problems for the team which is why I support the play.
After the two years, Tigers fans would be expecting the younger forwards to be coming into their prime which is why it’s so important to bring in a solid veteran who can show them what success in at Prop looks like.
Luke Brooks really stepped up in the last 15 minutes
Credit goes to Luke Brooks for coming alive in the final quarter of the game and for coming up with the match-winning kick to Doueihi.
Brooks was much better in regard to facilitating for others and also picked the moments to run the ball much more efficiently against Manly. Luke Brooks also seemed to be playing on both sides of the ruck which was great to see.
Fingers crossed that Luke Brooks can bounce back for the remainder of the season and get some confidence going into 2021.
Aj Kepaoa showed his potential
After a rough debut, I thought Aj Kepaoa showed some real promise in his second game of first grade.
One of the only Tigers to have a good first half, Kepaoa made a really nice line-break when Manly were on top and was very reliable all night.
The ball didn’t really come to the rookie in the second half but Kepaoa looked much more comfortable against Manly.
Although he played on the wing, I could see the young outside back transition into the centres due to his size, footwork and offloading ability.
Moses Mbye looked more at home in the Fullback jersey
With his first game back in the number one jersey, Moses Mbye looked very comfortable. Although he had his regular drop under the high ball, I thought he looked very solid from the back.
Mybe’s positional play was a bit rusty which caused a try from a grubber kick but the Queensland rep chimed into the backline well setting up a try for Doueihi and crossing over himself after a great pass from Luke Brooks.
I would however still be chasing hard for a player like Charlie Staines to play at Fullback next season but it’s good to know that Mbye can fill the role if the Tigers miss out on the Penrith outside back.
Image: Wests Tigers