It could have gone either way. The Wests Tigers put in a courageous effort – probably the best performance of the year – and pushed the minor premiers for the full 80mins. No-one gave Wests any hope, but Sheens came up with a defensive game plan to contain the Dragon’s playmakers and the players executed it brilliantly. Soward was kept under wraps for most of the night, Gasnier was limited and Morris was a non-factor. The entire Wests Tigers forward pack held their own against the Dragons, making big hits in defence and rolling forward with the ball. Against another other opposition the Tigers would have come away with a win – no doubt.
They admirably repelled wave after wave of attacking raids in their own quarter in the first half, yet still had the energy and skill to post two converted tries before half time – something that no other NRL team had managed to do against St George all year. Up until Saturday night, Manly in Round 9 were the only other team to cross the try line twice in the first half against the Dragons (on that occasion they failed to convert one and led 10-6 at the break).
Unfortunately the 12-6 lead at half time was as close as we got. The Dragons wore us down and did just enough to scrape a win. But there are plenty of positives to take out of the game – and the season as a whole. We battled injuries to key players all year – up to and including the final game. We discovered the ability to grind away and win the close games. We staged a number of remarkable second-half comeback wins.
On Saturday night, Lui had his best game in the No. 7 by far. Dwyer and Fifita were very solid and will be better for their experience in this year’s finals. Ellis has established himself as the most damaging second rower in the world, bar none. Fulton and Gibbs fought through the pain and competed to the very end. The senior players, Farah, Marshall, and Heighington, will only walk away from the game stronger and hungrier. With Moltzen and (hopefully) TNT back in the squad for 2011, the Wests Tigers will be primed to build on this year and win the premiership they deserve!
We’ll no doubt look back on the 2010 Finals Series with a tinge of frustration. Had the last 30 seconds of the Qualifying Final gone differently, the entire series would have changed shape. The Roosters would have been knocked out, the Tigers would have earned a week off, and most probably be playing the Dragons in the Grand Final. But over the course of the entire 2010 season, the Wests Tigers players and fans can be proud of their results. To finish equal second on the ladder and make the Grand Final qualifier is no mean feat. This was the most successful premiership campaign for the club in five years and has laid the foundation for more success to follow. Forget the Chinese calendar – 2011 will be the REAL Year of the Tiger!
The Wests Tigers produced one of the most gutsy team performances of the year to overcome the heartbreak, injury, illness, crowd and cold on Friday night to beat Canberra. Regardless of Campo’s injury and Crocker’s miss, the Tigers are exactly were they deserve to be – and they have the momentum and confidence to keep the charge for the 2010 title going!
It’s almost as though the golden point loss to the Roosters could be a blessing in disguise. A bloody cruel disguise, for sure. But the manner in which the Tigers banded together and rebound after that loss to out-enthuse and out-play a red-hot Raiders team will put them in great shape to face the Dragons. They’ll take the field on Saturday night feeling 10-foot tall and bullet proof.
The contrasting styles of both teams will make for a fascinating clash. I think it’s fair to say that with the Dragons conservative style of play and solid defence, when they perform to their best they are just about unbeatable. They give little away, play the percentage football and frustrate their opponents into errors. Of course, they also bore the hell out of viewers. By contrast, the Tiger’s flamboyant and instinctive attacking style is much more entertaining and means that when they perform to their best they can beat anyone. However their all-too-often lapses in concentration and intensity throughout a game means that they are rarely unbeatable. The first two tries Canberra scored down the left defensive flank were very soft.
Points will be at a premium against the Dragons, so defensive lapses such as that will need to be addressed. In all the Dragon’s losses his year they have been restricted to 16 points or less. The week off is unlikely to have an adverse affect on St George’s preparation as they won both their games following a bye during the regular season.
Wests should have a smoother build-up this week with most of the players now clear of serious injuries. The ‘chamber’ is likely to be utilised again by Lui, Ellis and Gibbs to overcome their niggles, but for all intents and purposes we have a full squad fit and available. Sheens has named as extended 6-man bench – presumably as insurance and maybe even just to keep Bennett and co guessing a bit (if that matters).
St George got the better of the Tigers back in Round 16, skipping away with a couple of late tries to win comfortably, but that result has as little relevance to this week as the ’05 preliminary final. The Tigers squad are in career best form and have the game to beat St George if they compete for the full 80. Getting off to a quick start will be essential. The Dragons are short-priced favourites but will hopefully feel the added pressure to perform in order to shake their well-deserved ‘choker’ tag. With a dry pitch and massive crowd forecast, this will be the biggest game of the year by far!!! I can’t wait!!! GO TIGERS!!!
Fortune Teller: Beau Ryan scores the first try and Keith Galloway scores the last try. Wests Tigers win 22-18 and advance to the 2010 Grand Final!
The Other Side: I’m sure most Wests fans will be cheering for Gold Coast on Friday night, After all, the Tigers have a 100% record in Grand Finals against Queensland-based teams! I’m backing the Titans to beat the Roosters 24-14.
NSW Cup: Both the Western Suburbs Magpies and Balmain-Ryde-Eastwood Tigers have made it to the preliminary finals on opposite sides of the draw. Both games will be played in a double-header at Leichhardt on Sunday. The possibility of a Magpies vs Tigers Grand Final remains! Well done lads!
Here is your chance to get behind the Wests Tigers as we charge towards the 2010 NRL grand final!
All negative thoughts of refereeing injustices, McIntyre systems flaws and what-if scenarios are now behind us. The Wests Tigers are two wins away from the Grand Final and all energy is now focussed on getting past the elimination clash with the Canberra Raiders on Friday night. We’ve beaten them twice so far this season, including the last four straight, and finished well on top of them over the course of 26 weeks. Our coaching staff are one of the best and most experienced in the league. In summary, there are plenty more reasons why Furner and the Canberra team should be wary of facing the Tigers than the other way around.
Sheens has named just about all of the remaining fit members of the top grade squad – and then some – in this week’s line-up to cover the uncertainty of several key positions. Injury and illness aside, the real battle for the team will be overcoming fatigue, turning up with the right attitude and playing positive, open football from the first whistle.
Canberra Stadium has sold out and the Raiders will be shooting for a season-best 7 straight wins. I guess with every win you get closer to your next loss. The way the Green Machine are playing it’s going to take a huge team effort and a bit of luck to stop their charge. But like <^TigerBrad^> quoted, anything is possible! No-one else is giving us a chance this week but we shouldn’t care. The Wests Tigers never-say-die spirit has overcome adversity a number of times throughout this long year so far. This is just another 17-on-17 game. Cmon Tigers!!!
Fortune Teller: Campese scores the first try and the Raiders lead at half time. Tuqiri scores the final try and Wests hold on to win 20-18. You can bet on it!
Finally, it’s here! Only a few more sleeps until the start of the finals! With a pair of tickets for Bay 16 in hand (thanks to the missus for an early birthday present), I’m like a kid before Christmas. Can’t wait!!!
The full dress rehearsal for finals football at Skilled Park last Friday night was a good quality hit-out for both teams. The Titans jumped out of the blocks with all guns blazing, while the Tiger’s usually free-flowing attack was hampered by a terrible bout of the dropsies. At half time everyone wearing white-black-and-orange drew a collective sigh of relief that it was only 13-0. But the second half fight back by the Tigers was very entertaining and will give the players and fans plenty of confidence heading into the Qualifying Final.
A bit of controversy has been stirred up by some ‘fans’ during the week claiming that the Wests Tigers are giving up home field advantage by playing at the SFS. Nothing could be further from the truth. The players will be fired-up no matter where they play this weekend. Nuff said.
Both teams welcome back players from injury for this game. For the Tigers, Fulton and Daniela are fully fit and back in the side. Gibbs and McKinnon were named but their status is doubtful. Gibbs won’t test out his knee until Friday but is hopeful he’ll pull through and take his place on the bench. McKinnon is reported to be an unlikely starter. For the Roosters, Minichiello and Friend are back in the team, but with a six-man bench named, Smith is keeping his options open.
Watching the key playmakers from each side, in particular Marshall and Carney, will be worth the price of admission alone. The backlines are fairly evenly matched, but it’s the forward pack and bench where the Tigers appear to have a slight edge. The back row trio of Ellis, Fulton and Heighington are extremely dangerous in the red-zone when running angles off Farah, Lui and Marshall. Dwyer and Fifita have game-breaking potential coming off the bench, and could well be the x-factor that separates the mighty Tigers from their opponents in the latter weeks of the finals.
As an unbiased and impartial analyst, I can’t see how Wests can lose! It’s gonna be HUGE!
Fortune-Teller: Blake Ayshford opens the scoring the Tigers. Sam Perret scores the final try but Wests advance to the next round of the finals with a thrilling 28-24 win. You can bet on it!
As an unbiased and impartial observer at Skilled Park last Friday, it was shocking to the see the Wests Tigers U20 team robbed in their final game of the season against the Titans. From my vantage point in the nose-bleed section behind the southern goal posts and watching the game over the rim of a therapeutic mid-strength, it was blatantly clear that the Tigers were denied a legitimate try in the second half. Then, in the final minute with the scores deadlocked, the Titans were awarded a dubious length-of-the-field match-winning try when a tackled player was allowed to continue instead of being ordered to play-the-ball. A 50-odd metre line break. Kicked ahead. Re-gathered. The home team scored under the posts to leap-frog the Tigers and advance to the finals.
Just quietly, it would not be a surprise to see this game included in the match-fixing investigations currently under way. As an unbiased and impartial observer, I’d be more than willing to submit my version of events to the authorities. And even though the Titans just scrapped into the finals they have now been awarded a “home final” against minor premiers South Sydney this Friday. Go figure.
In more positive news, the NSW Cup competition sees both Balmain-Ryde Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies advanced to the finals. Balmain finished 2nd on equal points with minor premiers Canterbury, while the Magpies finished 5th. It has been announced that these two clubs will merge in the NSW Cup. While unpopular with most fans, the move will streamline the operations and provide a stronger and more cost-effective feeder into the NRL team. This was bound to happen one day, and would be great to see these two proud clubs advance through to the Grand Final in their last year. Watch this space.