Double win for Tigers as everything falls in place
Understated Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary says all he was looking for in a round one clash against the heavily-fancied Roosters was a confidence boost and "hopefully a win" to go with it. He got both.
The thrilling 10-8 win came in a game in which Cleary's troops matched the vaunted Roosters pack in the middle and did a great job shutting down former Tiger James Tedesco, prodigal son Benji Marshall seemingly wrote his own scripts and low-key signing Corey Thompson justified his coach's decision to leave star winger David Nofoaluma in reserve grade.
Cleary praised the way Marshall guided the team around in a clutch 10-minute period where halfback Luke Brooks was sin-binned in the second half and the Tigers kept their opponents try-less – and score-less other than a penalty goal taken from the initial infringement.
"The main things [we wanted] were, hopefully get a win but just try and get some confidence out of the game. Luckily we got both," Cleary said after the game.
"It was a pretty tough performance, pretty scrappy. We've got a fair way to go but in terms of absorbing pressure I thought we did that really well.
"As that first half went on we got better. That comes from confidence so I think we can leave today feeling like we definitely got a bit of confidence out of our defence and how we managed the game."
Marshall's ability to kick long to corners and wind the clock down during the sin-bin stage was "very important", Cleary added.
"It was obviously a very tight first half, the boys were gassed in that first half, right at the start of the second half to cop that [sin bin] was going to be interesting to see how we handled it. I don't think we could have done better really," he said.
"It just shows experience. You need those kind of guys in key positions to manage us through those periods."
Skipper Chris Lawrence seconded the coach's assessment of how the returning Tiger handled things.
"To lose a player two minutes in [to the second half] put us under the pump but in attack he really steered the ship, slowed the game down and managed that 10 minutes well," Lawrence said.
"It probably spurred us on a bit, got the rest of the side talking defensively and really gave us a kick once Brooksy got back on."
Cleary was happy with how the team handled the threat of Tedesco and Lawrence said having played with the Origin custodian before may have provided them with an advantage. Although Tedesco finished with six tackle busts he only just cleared 100 run metres with no tries or assists.
"We probably had an advantage in that we know his game a bit," Lawrence said.
"He's the type of guy that can break a tackle on one side of the field and skip across to the other. I know the guys were aware at any stage he can skip across. Every time he had the ball everyone was aware and making sure we weren't being lazy."