It looked like the Roosters form from last week would continue, with Mitchell Aubusson scoring twice for Sydney inside 10 minutes to give them a 12-0 lead.
Surprisingly the crowd of 15,000 at the Sydney Football Stadium were pro-Tigers – the Roosters locals not turning out despite the away game being in their backyard.
He can be hot and cold, but when he is ‘on’ he is an excitement machine; Benji Marshall having a hand in some brilliant lead up work – highly involved in three tries for the Tigers.
But it was rampaging winger Taniela Tuiaki that again got his side on the roll they needed. The ‘wrecking ball’ as they call him was dynamic on the wing and looks to have hit good form again in 2009 after proving a handful for the Raiders in Round 1.
Developing centre Chris Lawrence too had a good game, he and his outside man Tuiaki both securing doubles for the night.
Behind 18-10 at half-time and looking a little frustrated, few could have predicted how the Tigers would turn it on in the second term. The Roosters, through Braith Anasta looked dangerous in attack an if anything – looked to be comfortably heading for a win.
Big Willie Mason too was getting back into the groove and eating up good metres; plus new fullback Sam Perrett was doing the job well for Sydney.
But everything changed 10 miuntes after half-time.
Wests hooker Robbie Farah after several failed short attacking kicks, decided to run. The creative rake darting and stepping from 5m out to score a solo try and get his side going.
Then it was Marshall’s turn.
The mercurial Kiwi half throwing a classy round-the-back reverse pass at speed to setup Tuiaki in the corner. The try sending Wests to a 22-18 lead. In the lead for the first time, they were going to be hard to stop.
While not totally dominating the Roosters forwards, Wests did it through weight of possession and a superior up-tempo game speed. They increased their off-loads and seemed willing to chance their arm whenever they could. Boy did it pay dividends for them tonight.
Even when the Roosters’ only hope Braith Anasta touched down minutes later – you still got the feeling the Tigers had hit the go button and would score more points. The Roosters try lucky to be scored, after Sam Perrett ignored 2 open team mates to cut back inside – luckily offloading to Anasta for the score.
With Nate Myles knocking on from the restart, the Roosters were back under the pump immediately.
Their worst nightmare, a rampaging Tuiaki coming hurling at them on the edge – to score his second try of the night.
It was a high, swirling bomb from Benji Marshall that put Roosters new boy Sonny Tuigamala under plenty of pressure, the rookie spilling the ball which allowed Lawrence to grab the scraps and setup his winger Tuiaki.
Soon after, new custodian Tim Moltzen put the Tigers result beyond doubt after more success targetting the Roosters right edge defence. This time a high kick from Farah was smartly tapped back in the air by Chris Lawrence to setup Moltzen for the try.
With 6 minutes to go and the result confirmed, the Tigers still wanted more. They threw the ball from edge to edge and with 1 minute remaining they proceeded to ‘run’ to the attacking scrum.
Their enthusiasm paid off.
Lawrence getting a much deserved double, bursting through tired Roosters defence from the scrum.
For the Roosters, it will be concerning that they run out of petrol so early. With a double strike early in the game and a half time lead – they were doing most things right.
Errors at crucial times from half Mitchell Pearce and veteran Craig Fitzgibbon proved telling for the Sydney side. Pearce’s kicking probably a little off tonight and he probably tried to push the pass a little too often when in the attacking zone.
For Fitzy, some dropped ball put his team under pressure and some bad reads in defence will frustrate him no end.
Comparing the games the Roosters have played this year, it does seem they lack focus at times. There is no doubting the ability this side has, they just seem to drift off during periods of the game. It seems they may need to be revved up every week, as it worked when they turned out against Canberra.
For the Wests Tigers, not only was the win positive – it was another 80 minutes for Benji to get used to the halfback role.
“I was a little bit angry with some of the criticism and some of the stuff other people were saying,” Marshall confirmed after the match.
“I just wanted to go out and prove a point tonight.
“I was just in the zone where I wanted the ball and wanted to run it.
“Usually after games I get four or five (text) messages, I checked my phone and I’ve got 30 so I must have done something right.
Even his hardest marker, coach Tim Sheens gave Benji the thumbs up, even going to far to say it may have been the best NRL game Marshall has played. A big call considering his efforts in the 2005 GF.
“Benji probably played the best game he has played for the club,” said Sheens.
“He handled himself pretty well on the field. There was little if any errors in his game.
Seemingly aware of his sides issues, coach Brad Fittler lamented his boys’ lack of mental strength, highlighting the poor handling that made things so hard for them.
“We had a couple of silly errors that really cost us. Dropping the ball after a tackle is completed really hurts you,” shrugged Fittler.
“The manner in which we did them shows where your head is at … it’s a sign of weakness.”
Skipper Braith Anasta looked at things a different way, praising the Wests Tigers and basically feeling they were the reason the Roosters made so many errors.
The win for the Tigers proves their loss in North Queensland wasn’t all one way traffic. Many feeling the Wests side got some unlucky calls in that match, enough to tip the scales to the Cowboys who got a roll on.
In saying that, Wests did leak 24 points tonight and coach Sheens will want to work hard on defence in the coming weeks. However, when you score 40 – most times you will outpoint your opponents and if you cast your mind back to 2005, this is exactly how Wests won the comp.