WESTS Tigers fans left Leichhardt Oval jaded and frustrated after their side showed they simply don’t have what it takes to get to the finals in 2009.
The men in orange jerseys overplayed their hands all night, failed to build pressure and invited the Michael Jennings-less Panthers back into the competition time after time.
Incredibly the scores were locked at 10-all after 70 minutes – despite the Tigers completing just half their sets with the football. But then fatigue set in, the previously energetic but woefully ineffective and mistake-riddled Tigers slowed to a walk, and the mountain men pounced, scoring three tries in six minutes to race away.
Now with five losses in a row and with games against the Storm and Dragons in coming weeks, Tim Sheens will need to take his coaching to a new level if his side is to figure come September.
Meanwhile Panthers coach Matt Elliott would be heartened at the way his side hung tough for a win that keeps them in touch with the top four.
The Game Swung When … In the 70th minute, Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah put in a pointless deep kick 40 metres out from the Penrith line on tackle four(!) with the scores locked 10-all. The ball ran dead, the Panthers got a breather and a 20-metre restart… and two minutes later they were over in the right corner after Tigers winger Taniela Tuiaki had a blood rush and broke ranks in defence, allowing Brad Tighe an easy passage.
Luke Walsh’s conversion may have missed but everyone at the ground knew that was it for the night.
Who Was Hot… Tough to get warm about too many players given the atrocious completion rates and dreadful application of both sides.
Penrith prop Petero Civoniceva, backing up two nights after Origin duty with Queensland, was typically solid (117 metres, 32 tackles) but did make a bunch of mistakes under fatigue.
Hooker Paul Aiton (eight tackle breaks, four offloads) was accomplished at the ruck and scored a good try when he caught the defenders napping on their line and ran from dummy-half to plunge over under the posts in the 27th minute for a 6-4 lead.
Understated halfback Luke Walsh ran his side around the park with purpose and was rewarded with a late try double, the first in the 75th minute when he beat four lazy defenders in a 12-metre run one-off the ruck.
And Trent Waterhouse ran hard and defended stoutly.
Who Was Not… Benji Marshall bounced around like a puppy but had a dog of an evening. He simply tried too hard and couldn’t tone it down when required: like showing the ball to prop Bryce Gibbs, three or four times staccato-fashion, then popping the pass – which of course Gibbs had no hope of grasping.
He was also guilty of pushing plays one pass too many, early in tackle counts with the Tigers on the break-away, only to see possession exchanged and themselves back under the pump. This attitude infected the whole team, with others, including Tim Moltzen, copying their beloved Benji.
Of course, it’s great when the passes stick, but when they don’t… catastrophe.
Like Marshall, the Tigers always turn to Robbie Farah for inspiration. Two days after an average Origin debut, he wasn’t quite as flat as milk, but even he couldn’t fire up his charges.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Despite their lack of cohesion and obvious propensity for making errors on the night the Tigers continued to flaunt with danger… such as throwing inside/switch passes to forwards one-off the ruck when trying to bring the ball out of their 20-metre zone. Ridiculous stuff. If Tim Sheens said to his side, “boys, go out there and throw it around at every opportunity and back yourselves”, then he’s not the coach we all thought he was. But they couldn’t have been his instructions. Although the immaturity and lack of discipline shown by his players sure made it look that way.
In the 14th minute Frank Pritchard put a monster hit on big Daine Laurie in the 14th minute that left the dreadlocked Lote Tuqiri-lookalike jelly-legged and senseless.
In the 49th minute Panthers winger Shane Elford channelled Leichhardt legend Garry Jack to pull off an inconceivable tackle on a runaway John Morris. Tackle of the year. No question.
On a lighter note, Panther rake Paul Aiton was left barefoot when stripped of his boot and his sock while standing his ground in the 10th minute.
Bad Boys… Daine Laurie worked the neck of a Tiger unnecessarily in the 25th minute and was penalised. He was lucky not to find himself in trouble at the judiciary.
Refs Watch… Video ref Chris Ward awarded the Tigers a vital Benefit-Of-The-Doubt try that gave them a 10-8 lead in the 50th minute. It came after Benji Marshall appeared to have been tackled to ground before popping an offload inside to Farah who crossed.
After more replays than Bill Harrigan’s viewing of Jarryd Hayne’s stepping on the sideline during Origin, Ward pushed the green light. Dubious to the max – especially as Marshall transferred the ball from his non-tackled arm to his tackled arm to offload with a netball-style thrust. But we won’t hear any more about it because it didn’t affect the outcome. Such is rugby league.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Luke Walsh (Panthers): A dominant performance that yielded two tries, a try assist, five tackle breaks and two line breaks; 2 points – Trent Waterhouse (Panthers): Ran for 146 metres and made 41 tackles in a powerhouse 80-minute effort; 1 point – Lachlan Coote (Panthers): Dependable at the back with 156 metres and six tackle breaks.
Panthers 26 (L Walsh 2, G Daniela, B Tighe, P Aiton tries; L Walsh 2, G Cooper goals) def Wests Tigers 10 (R Farah, T Tuiaki tries; B Marshall goal) at Leichhardt Oval. Crowd: 14,100