Both Wests Tigers and Manly Sea Eagles bring winning form to Gosford this Friday. The Tigers were impressive and could have dominated Easts more on the score board had they capitalised on all their chances. Manly on the other hand did just enough, nothing more nothing less, to beat a determined but predictable Penrith. Manly’s defence was very solid last week, so Benji and the boys will have a challenging time finding ways to break that down.
The Sea Eagles have won 9 of their last 10 games and are flying high at second on the ladder. The Tigers are in seventh with a 9-9 record, one win and 48 for-against points behind the sixth place Warriors. All the teams below the Tigers have a negative points differential, which at the moment bodes well for our finals hopes. We are sitting on 18 points with +15 differential; Knights are one the same points but with a -5 differential. Panthers and Dogs are back on 16 points with -8 and -64 differential, respectively. To get in the Top 6 with a good chance of a second bite of the cherry, we will likely need to win two more games than the Warriors from our remaining six. At least one win over the next two weeks (Manly then St George) will go a long way to achieving that goal.
The Tigers have lost Tuqiri again due to injury, so Utai returns to the starting side. Sheens named an extended five-man bench featuring two backs. Although two backs on the bench worked against the Roosters (with Brown making only a very limited appearence late in the match), I think most fans agree that a player like Groat on the bench will add more value against the size and strength of Manly. Anthony Watmough and Michael Robertson return this week for the Sea Eagles, but Hasler will need to trim two players from their six-man bench before kick-off.
One thing that stood out to me last week was how good Wests were at driving through tackles after the initial impact and gaining an extra metre or so. Utai is the master of this, but it was noticeable that Fulton, Heighno, Gibbs and Galloway were also driving the defence backwards during the tackle. Our powerful left edge attack will be up against one of the stronger aspects of the Sea Eagles defence in Glenn Stewart and Jamie Lyon. On the other side of the field, Ayshford and Utai will face-off against Steve Matai. Against Penrith he was caught offside a few times, so look for quick dummy half runs down that edge, especially when coming out of our half.
The likes of the hard running backrowers Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart will demand plenty of attention from our defence. In the halves, Foran and Cherry-Evens have struck an impressive combination in their first season together, with Glenn Stewart chiming-in at pivot. The composure and confidence that Cherry-Evens plays with is quite remarkable for a rookie. But last week the Tigers defence did a great job of moving quickly off the line to shut down Pearce, Carney and their outside backs. That same tactic will be necessary to prevent the big Eagle backs from gaining momentum.
The Tigers have a reasonably good record at Bluetoungue Stadium and are showing good signs of improvement. They’ll need to take it up another notch to down Manly but they are more than capable. And there’s certainly no better way to start the weekend than beating Manly!
FTS: Manly have compelling form as first try scorer, so Brett Stewart gets the nod this week.
HT/FT: Sea Eagles/Tigers
Margin: Tigers by 2.
There were some massive scores in Dreamteam this week, with 12 players scoring 55 or above and Parker leading the way with an impressive 82. As a result, the OneEyedTigers cracked the 900-barrier for the first time with a league-high 923 (the highest score overall was a record breaking 998). There are a few more high profile injuries to deal with this week, most notably Stagg, Coote and Gallen. Soward has the flu but is expected to suit up.
This week’s key matchups in the BWTF Printing Well Cup include: Horsehead Bookends (5th) vs 89Heros (3rd), FlannoFan (4th) vs OneEyedTigers (2nd) and mini tigers (6th) vs Frothing Donkeys (7th). No Chance and Mongrel Magpies are two points outside the Top 8 with two games to play in the regular season. Good luck everyone!
<^One Eyed Tiger^>