The momentum changed several times in the match but ultimately Ivan Cleary’s side held on to win with Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans missing a 45 metre penalty goal attempt with no time left on the clock.
The Sea Eagles started promisingly with lock Jake Trbojevic setting up Cherry-Evans to score in the 3rd minute.
Both teams were guilty of wasting opportunities, especially the Tigers, although they finally broke through in the 30th minute with winger Kevin Naiqama scoring after centre Mahe Fonua produced a quality right arm offload close to the line.
A Cherry-Evans penalty goal put Manly up 8-6 at halftime. However, it was clear that the Sea Eagles had learned little from last week’s early second-half capitulation to the Titans, as the Tigers playing for their season, put 3 tries on early in the second stanza.
Veteran hooker Robbie Farah’s kick in behind the line was scooped up by second rower Chris Lawrence in the 47th minute. Prop Alex Twal made a superb long-range bust to set up fullback Moses Mbye just a minute later and in the 51st minute, Kevin Naiqama scored again out wide and the Tigers were all of a sudden 22-8 up.
To the Sea Eagles credit, they came back strongly with a Trent Hodkinson dummy half try in the 63rd minute and in the 72nd-minute fullback Tom Trbojevic showed brilliant handling to take a low pass and set up Cherry-Evans to score.
Manly had their opportunities besides Cherry Evans bold long-range penalty attempt but the Wests Tigers held on for a crucial if not convincing 22-20 win.
Here are five things we learned from this game.
1. Benji and Robbie inspiring Tigers
They may not be setting competition alight together like they did back in 2005 but the Wests Tigers are still happy to have the old five eight and hooking duo of Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah back together.
The smart dummy half work of Farah helped the Tigers in their early second half blitz and Marshall’s class and experience has certainly helped the Tigers to be a finals contender in 2018 and he has also taken a lot of pressure of halfback Luke Brooks who has been one of the most improved halfbacks this year. Marshall is 33, while Farah is 34 but Ivan Cleary should be keen to re-sign the pair as they still have plenty to offer the young Tigers squad.
2. Sea Eagles cruelled by another capitulation
It’s been a difficult week for Manly coach Trent Barrett with continued speculation that he is set to leave the club and the week just became tougher after another sudden leakage of points after halftime. The Sea Eagles conceded 3 tries in a 5 minute period with some very soft defence through the ruck again letting them down.
To their credit, they showed more spirit this week by coming back after the capitulation, with the Trbojevic brothers, Daly Cherry-Evans and Addin Fonua-Blake having outstanding games.
Unfortunately for Barrett, the trend of conceding quick tries has happened too often, notably in recent games against Penrith, Sydney Roosters and Gold Coast and it’s one of the reasons why the Sea Eagles are battling to avoid the wooden spoon.
3. ‘Tommy Turbo’ stars again in a losing side
A shining light throughout a disappointing season for Manly has been the stellar form of fullback Tom Trbojevic. ‘Turbo’ made a massive 285 metres at Campbelltown Stadium and displayed the freakish skill that made him one of the New South Wales Blues best performers in the State of Origin series earlier in the year.
Tom Trbojevic was a constant threat with his running and passing skills near the line and his pick up and pass for Cherry-Evans to score was a joy to watch. Tom and brother Jake have never stopped trying all season despite the team’s poor results.
4. Tigers best season since 2011
Whether Wests Tigers make the finals in 2018 or not, it will go down as their most successful season since 2011 with at least 12 wins. Coach Ivan Cleary has taken the club forward, installing a more disciplined style of play and a self-belief which was lacking under previous coaches. The Tigers have defeated Melbourne twice, and the Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs, and St George Illawarra Dragons once each.
The Tigers inability to be consistent in defeating the lower teams looks likely to cost them a place in the top 8, but it’s still a big improvement from the Tigers teams that would regularly concede high scores and only occasionally play to their potential.
5. Tigers fans death-riding Broncos and Warriors
Coach Ivan Cleary will be happy his side managed to hold on for the win at Campbelltown but not so happy they failed to keep the momentum going when leading 22-8 early in the second half. The Tigers were only able to improve their differential to a -42, while the Brisbane Broncos have a +10 and New Zealand Warriors have a -1 difference and are both on 28 points.
Wests Tigers fans can only hope that either the Broncos or Warriors fall in a heap with 2 heavy losses and then somehow the Tigers defeat South Sydney convincingly in Round 25. The Tigers have a good recent record against the Rabbitohs but it’s probably even less likely that the Broncos will lose heavily to both the Roosters and Sea Eagles or the Warriors will lose heavily to both the Panthers and Raiders at home.
Realistically the Tigers won’t be making the finals but as long as they are a mathematical chance Tigers fans will be reaching for their calculators as they cling to slim hopes of sneaking into 8th place.
What did you learn from the Tiger’s narrow win at home over the Sea Eagles? Let us know in the comments beloiw.
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