Souths coach Jason Taylor headed into this game hoping an improved performance would stop fuelling the rumours surrounding his position at the club – but after such a disappointing display, they’re threatening to burn out of control.
Souths barely turned up for this match. They were lazy and uncommitted, while the Tigers took every opportunity to exploit their undisciplined defence. This was a game the Tigers desperately needed to perform well in to keep their diminishing finals hopes alive. And they delivered.
Despite battling a virus for most of the week, and unceremoniously throwing up in the dressing room toilets just before the game, Benji Marshall’s return to five-eighth was a highlight.
But there could only be one star of this game: hooker Robbie Farah. Out to prove himself after such a disappointing second Origin appearance, Farah was outstanding.
A trio of tries to fullback Luke Capewell was the only minor bright point for Souths.
The Game Swung When… A lucky bounce turned the momentum back in the Tigers’ favour. After dominating the first half, the Wests Tigers let Souths back in the game just a couple of minutes before half-time. That crucial blow before the break can often signal a team’s resolve in getting back into the game after half-time.
The Tigers’ lead was cut to just 12 and the ease with which Colin Best evaded the defence showed the Rabbitohs might just look to exploit more opportunities down that left side in the second half.
However, just when Taylor’s woes appeared to subside, a freakish bounce killed all hope. On the kick-off Souths made the unforgiveable error of not catching the ball on the full, letting it bounce straight into the arms of centre Blake Ayshford, who passed to Moltzen. Making his way through a shocked and broken Souths defensive line, Moltzen easily scored to put the game out of the Rabbitohs’ reach at 26-10.
Who Was Hot… Out of the Tigers’ 10 tries, Farah had a hand in about eight of them, and finished the game with six official try assists. He was so dominant it was hard to gauge the new halves combination of Marshall back at five-eighth and Moltzen at halfback.
Farah created space out of dummy-half, but was also effective when he jumped out to first receiver, which resulted in a perfectly constructed try to Beau Ryan.
The man who mostly benefited from Farah though was on the wing – bulldozing back Taniela Tuiaki. The big Tongan is reaching rare form and was unstoppable from his first try in the third minute when he plucked a perfectly placed Farah bomb to score.
His other two tries showed his worth as a finisher, able to cross the line when team-mates created the space for him.
The Tigers’ forwards were also tireless. Returned club legend John Skandalis received the biggest cheer of the night when he scored his maiden try since his comeback.
Who was Not: When your team is struggling, it is the captain who is expected to set the example. But for Souths, Roy Asotasi was one of the worst players on the field. In his 56 minutes Asotasi made four errors, often at crucial points of the game.
He also failed to contribute to Souths’ go-forward, returning a paltry 48 metres.
Chris Sandow and John Sutton are a halves combination in desperate need of an overhaul after both were hooked at some stage during the game by Taylor. Craig Wing is the answer – he set up their second try with a beautiful pass.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed: Nothing can beat the Wests Tigers try scored from the freakish kick-off bounce.
Elsewhere Shannon Gallant’s exhibition of speed was also exciting. His try was almost unfair, in that it came from a mistake by Michael Crocker, who was the only Rabbitoh to put in a good performance for the entire game. However, Gallant’s 80-metre sprint was a delight to watch for those who appreciate the players in the game with natural and unbeatable speed.
Injuries: The Wests Tigers are still suffering from a virus which ripped through the club. Bench player Dene Halatau injured his leg in the second half and only played 18 minutes.
Bad Boys… Benji Marshall was charged with making unnecessary contact with an attacker’s head but will escape suspension with an early guilty plea.
Refs Watch: Apart from getting tangled in Shannon Gallant’s legs as Nathan Merritt scored, the refs kept their noses out of trouble in a lopsided game.
NRL.com Best & Fairest…
3 points – Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers): Deserves all six points from this game in a totally dominant performance with six try assists; 2 points – Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers): The Tongan Express rolled over the top of the Bunnies all night and scored a hat-trick in just half an hour; 1 point – Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers): One of the buys of the season, Ellis is the Tigers’ most consistent performer. He contributed 94 metres, 28 tackles and three tackle breaks to this victory.
Wests Tigers 54 (T Tuiaki 3, B Ayshford 2, J Skandalis, C Payne, T Moltzen, S Gallant, B Ryan tries; B Marshall 7 goals) def Rabbitohs 20 (L Capewell 3, N Merritt tries; C Sandow 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 14,586.