A WHIRLWIND, entertaining 80 minutes where the exponents played with not a great regard for bruising defence.
The Roosters raced to a 12-nil lead in even time through a Mitch Aubusson double – the Tigers’ fans’ heads bowed and the bookies rolled out their winning quote to $4.20. But quick tries to Dean Collis and Chris Lawrence bridged the gap to 12-10 – with still 10 minutes left in the first section.
When Braith Anasta worked a lovely decoy play to hit Aubusson who sent the unmarked Shaun Kenny-Dowall down the left flank, the Roosters hit the sheds up 18-10.
But the Tigers grabbed the lead for the first time (22-18) after a superb Taniela Tuiaki try in the 56th minute that just Had To Be Seen To Be Believed.
The Roosters replied with a try in the 59th minute, Craig Fitzgibbon hitting the line and spinning to pass to Sam Perrett who delivered a nice offload to Anasta to score. But that was all they wrote.
The Tigers, though, had plenty left in their tank. They scored three times in the closing 13 minutes, running right away from their breathless opposition to post a seven-tries-to-four win.
It would have been a sad revelation for Roosters fans – the pace of the new age of two-referees rugby league showed their boys up, with the forwards in particular looking like plodding dinosaurs. The signs are not good.
The Game Swung When… At 12-4 after 26 minutes the Roosters still had all the momentum. But then Craig Fitzgibbon lost the ball in a tackle near his 40-metre line. Tigers centre Chris Lawrence pounced, ran through the bemused Roosters defence that appeared to hold off him and crossed for a try.
Referee Tony Archer referred the play upstairs and although there did appear to be a raking motion from a Tigers defender it was given the green light. Marshall’s conversion made it 12-10 and the Tigers were back in the hunt.
Also pivotal was rookie Roosters winger Sonny Tuigamala spilling a 67th-minute bomb with his side clinging to a 24-22 lead; opposite Taniela Tuaki cleaned up the spoils and it was soon 28-24 to the Tigers.
Who Was Hot… Despite some errors, Benji Marshall had his best game in Tigers’ colours for three years. He ran (134 metres, one line breakk), he jinked, he confounded. And his short-kicking game was pinpoint.
Tuiaki showed he is back to his bullocking best, with two tries, two line breaks and 126 metres – and importantly, no errors.
Robbie Farah not individually outstanding but made the most from dummy-half (running nine times), offloading on three occasions and busting the line once.
Props Bryce Gibbs and Keith Galloway (124 metres) were tireless, while centre Chris Lawrence (156 metres, two line breaks) was explosive.
For the Roosters, Mitchell Aubusson scored two tries and was involved in several others. His brother James tried hard, making some damaging tackles and kicking a 40/20.
Wingers Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Sam Perrett were safe and penetrating. Kenny-Dowall provided a great moment when he soared and stole a Mitchell Pearce bomb off Beau Ryan, then offloaded to Mitch Aubusson who scored in the 11th minute.
Who Was Not… Gee, where to start? Just weeks after inking a million-dollar deal at Bondi Mitchell Pearce probably played himself out of State of Origin contention with a panicky, directionless and ill-disciplined game at halfback. He threw a batch of ‘miracle’ balls, none of which found their mark and all of which handed over possession with his side in key position. And his late hit on Marshall after a kick saw the Tigers take two points to trail 18-12 straight after half-time.
Redheaded fullback Ben Jones – normally a halfback – was all at sea at No.1 in Anthony Minichiello’s absence. Letting the high ball bounce is just not on.
Mark O’Meley looked sluggish. So did Willie Mason – but we’ll give big Willie some latitude given he’s not long back from his knee reconstruction.
And Nate Myles remains a shadow of his former representative self.
For the Tigers, no major gaffes – although John Morris’ short kick that missed the in-goal long and wide in the 26th minute was about as bad a last-tackle option as you’ll see a first grader put in.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… With the scores locked at 18-all in the 55th minute, Benji Marshall made a goose-stepping run inside the Roosters’ 30, even running backwards in an attempt to open up space. In the same set the ball was propelled through the backline down the left flank, with Marshall catching and flick-passing out the back in the one motion to fullback Tim Moltzen who drew and passed to winger Tuiaki who scored.
It was vintage Marshall – and perhaps so dazzling that everyone seemed to overlook what appeared to be a pretty obvious forward pass from Moltzen to Tuiaki.
Also, Mitchell Aubusson’s ball strip on Moltzen after the Tigers No.1 had valiantly defused a Pearce bomb in the 5th minute was brilliant; two tackles later the ball made its way to – who else, M Aubusson – and he crossed to open the night’s ledger.
Injuries… Nothing of major concern.
Bad Boys… None.
Refs Watch… So fast was the pace of play officials Archer and Badger were bound to miss some things.
Plenty of crucial passes had the hint of suspicion about them, and the Chris Lawrence try could easily have been called a penalty for a strip on Fitzgibbon.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers): Was the difference between the sides; 2 points – Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers): Was error-free and unstoppable; 1 point – Mitchell Aubusson (Roosters): Tried single-handedly to dismantle the opposition in the opening 10 minutes with a magnificent try double.
Wests Tigers 40 (C Lawrence 2, T Tuiaki 2, T Moltzen, D Collis, R Farah tries; B Marshall 6 goals) def Roosters 24 (M Aubusson 2, B Anasta, S Kenny-Dowall tries; C Fitzgibbon 4 goals) at the SFS. Crowd: 14,426.