South Sydney hit back from a horror Round 9 loss to Manly with a professional and dominant win over a disappointing Wests Tigers outfit. Here are five talking points from their 28-8 victory.
Origin time for Farah?
Long-serving Blues rake Robbie Farah's spot as NSW No.9 has been the subject of speculation recently given the former Tiger's indifferent form and lack of minutes. But boosted by a return to the run-on side, Farah showed exactly why he has been a walk-up start for NSW for years with a dominant display against his former club. A nice short ball for Sam Burgess's first-half try – with a carbon copy in the second half – plus some precision deep kicks to the corners from dummy half and wonderful service in the lead up to Angus Crichton's try were among the eye-catching moments as the 31-year-old put in a timely reminder to Blues coach Laurie Daley of his all-round value.
Ava'a brain explosion compounded by Tigers errors
A punch thrown at the back of Farah's head early in the first half left the referees no choice but to send Sharks-bound prop Ava Seumanufagai to the bin for 10 minutes. Souths failed to capitalise in the minutes after the binning largely through their own poor execution and the Tigers smartly opted for a penalty goal to wind down some of the clock as Seumanufagai got closer to a return. But a dropped ball from the restart was compounded by a late-set penalty created the pressure for Farah and Burgess to crack their line and suddenly they were under the pump almost entirely through their own doing.
Red-hot Walker can do no wrong
Not that Souths winger Alex Johnston would have held a grudge against teammate Cody Walker for pipping him out of the fullback jersey, but if he did, those would have evaporated after the in-form 27-year-old sent Johnston over for a brace of tries as part of a match-winning performance.
Walker was a revelation at fullback last year in his time there, despite barely having played there since his teen years. Followed some poor team performances, coach Michael Maguire decided to ring the changes. One involved pushing Johnston back out to the wing with Walker taking over at the back and, after being arguably the team's best all year at five-eighth, he maintained that effort from fullback with two try assists, eight tackle busts and 166 metres.
Tigers lose the physical battle
More than anything else, it was the football basics of "run hard, tackle hard" that Souths did so much better than the Tigers.
The missed tackle count – 58 to 15 against Wests – was the killer stat for Ivan Cleary's men with Mitch Moses contributing nine of those misses. Elijah Taylor missed seven but could be forgiven given his 62 made. Chris Lawrence (six), Jacob Liddle (five) and James Tedesco (four, in an unusually poor outing by his standards) also struggled.
The run metres – 1,678 for Souths and just 1,241 for the Tigers – also highlighted the Bunnies' superior physicality (while a 56 per cent possession count in their favour also helped).
Maguire happy with positional switch up
It wasn't just shuffling Walker to fullback and Farah into the starting side that paid off for Maguire. Bryson Goodwin and Hymel Hunt were returned to their preferred positions in the centres, Johnston in his most effective spot on the wing, Sutton added plenty of experience in the halves, Robbie Rochow back from injury added starch to the starting pack and even winger Aaron Gray was a welcome addition in his first game of the year back from injury.
"The players, if they keep performing the way they performed tonight they stay there, that's the key," Maguire said.