Wests Tigers v Bulldogs Preview

Wests Tigers v Bulldogs<br>SFS<br>Friday 7.35pm<br><br>The Wests Tigers head into this clash with the Bulldogs with confidence, having won four of their five 2010 encounters; their only slip against the Roosters in sweltering conditions. Though they suffered a huge blow losing halfback Tim Moltzen for the season last week, there’s plenty of attacking forces elsewhere in the side meaning covering for him shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. <br><br>That said, it’s a big step up for his replacement Blake Lazarus, who has been recruited from NSW Cup side Balmain Ryde; he can expect to be tested by the likes of Ben Hannant and David Stagg all night. (The irony is that 21-year-old Lazarus has played just four Toyota Cup games over the past two years having had a series of serious knee injuries that required reconstruction.)<br><br>The Bulldogs shouldn’t be completely discounted, despite the fact they’ve only recorded one win so far. Last week they were in the match against the Warriors to the last second, just a Luke Patten lapse on full-time handing the New Zealand side victory with a late try. It was a better showing from Canterbury, who have been their own worst enemy in previous weeks, with errors and missed tackles costing them dearly. <br><br>But what will happen this week?<br><br>The Bulldogs have lost their past three encounters at the SFS, the last one being against this very side, who had the audacity to inflict a 34-12 upset and send the JJ Giltinan Shield racing across to Kogarah Oval to see St George Illawarra awarded the 2010 minor premiership. Retribution would be in the back of the Doggies’ heads, as well as saving face for a dismal start to the season.<br><br>Last week’s was a brutal contest between the Wests Tigers and the Cowboys, with Moltzen not the only player to limp from the field. Many expected them to comfortably dispose of North Queensland and at half-time it looked like that might happen, but a second-half fight-back kept the visitors on their toes and forced Robbie Farah to put the game away with his second field goal of the season (and the Tigers’ third). Farah and Benji Marshall have been leading the Tigers’ troops around the park with aplomb and pose the biggest threat to Canterbury, who were often left grasping at – or should that be gasping for? – air against a Warriors side that lead the league in offloads (93). <br><br>While the Tigers don’t pose as much of a threat in second-phase play (55 offloads), they do lead the competition in tries scored (26). And though stopping the Tigers’ attack poses one problem, their defence is another. They’ve missed the least amount of tackles in the Telstra Premiership (123), while the Bulldogs sit third for the most missed (189). It’s been the thorn in their paw for the opening rounds.<br>&nbsp;<br>Kevin Moore has said he expects a better performance from his big men this week, who are yet to completely fill the voids of injured players Michael Hodgson, Mickey Paea and Dene Halatau, and the departed Greg Eastwood.<br><b><br>Watch out Bulldogs:</b> Benji Marshall was once a player who “shouldered” the heavy burden of the ‘injury-prone’ tag. That’s all in the past now, as he stands as one of the most creative and threatening players in the game today. <br><br>At the end of last year he tore the Bulldogs apart with instinctive play, both passing and kicking. He has faith in his outside players and the combination he’s developing with Lote Tuqiri is formidable – the winger often following his five-eighth in support play to cross for tries. <br><br>In the five matches so far, Marshall has scored five tries, made seven try assists, six offloads and three line-breaks. Keeping his influence on the game to a minimum is crucial to the Dogs’ chances of defeating the Tigers. Of the 26 tries Wests Tigers have scored this season, eight have come from 50 or more metres out; Marshall is a threat at any point of the game, at any position on the field and is always on the lookout for a chance to break through the defence.<br><b><br>Watch out Tigers: </b>Losing isn’t something the Bulldogs like to wear and they’ll be fired up this week. Last week their attack showed signs of revival and they have begun to mix up their play when it comes to scoring options. <br><br>Most teams have figured out the strength of the left side of Bryson Goodwin and Josh Morris and the pair are heavily defended when the ball comes their way, but on the other side, Jamal Idris and Steve Turner are starting to work well together. Nine of their 24 tries have come on the right, and with Turner now five games into his tenure at the club, he’s starting to inject himself into the play. <br><br>He has the most territory out of dummy-half in the team (229 metres) and also has four tries and four line-breaks. The Tigers need to be wary of his probing around the ruck.<br><b><br>Where it will be won:</b> It’s not a new concept that games are won in the forwards. But it’s certainly been the case for 2010. <br><br>Forward momentum is proving paramount to gaining the edge and this game will be no different. The Bulldogs have come undone when teams have picked up speed to start rolling off quick play-the-balls and forward running. The names Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah, Liam Fulton and Gareth Ellis have all been mentioned when talking about strong performers, and if they get another roll-on here it will give Marshall the room he needs to work his magic. <br><br>The Bulldogs have looked threatening themselves when they’ve been able to build up the same go-forward; a repeat will get them into this match.<br><br><b>The history:</b> The ledger stands at 10-8 to the ’Dogs and the previous eight games have been evenly split. They’ve pretty much gone tit-for-tat since 2005.<br><br><b>Conclusion:</b> It’s a tough game for the Bulldogs to face when they so desperately need a win, but often these types of games are what’s needed to revive teams. <br><br>The Tigers have shown patience this season and continue attacking to the last second. With Benji Marshall playing, there’s bound to be lots of tries. It won’t be a thumping, but the Tigers are likely to hold on to this one.<br><br>Match officials: Referees: Jared Maxwell &amp; Bernard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Paul Holland &amp; Russell Turner; Video Ref: Paul Simpkins.<br><br>Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.35pm (NSW), delayed 9.30pm (Qld); Fox Sports 2 – Delayed 11pm.<br><br>* Stats: NRL Stats.