It was an impressive start for the home side, Wests coming up in a good frame of mind and looking threatening. There was good thrust from Marshall and Farah, but what really set the Tigers up early was good physical ruck dominance from Gareth Ellis, Keith Galloway and a starting Ben Galea.
It seems this year the Storm lose their aura at times, and this is to be expected with so many departures in recent seasons. Sure, they can look good when a Smith, Slater or Inglis turn it on – but thats not happening anywhere near enough in 2009.
The Tigers kicked smartly to the sidelines and even dead where possible, ensuring Slater was eliminated from broken play and a static restart was the order of the day. The Tigers being able to catch their breath and setup a stationary line.
On the odd occasion where Slater took the ball from a kick he immediately positioned Inglis and danger was there.
Wests while scoring first, did look shaky in defence – their left edge torn up initially with a Marshall miss, then their right edge as Inglis carved through.
But to their credit, they scrambled and did just enough to hang in. Chris Lawrence having a blinder in attack and defence. The stocky centre, saving a handful of certain tries with his heavy hitting defence only metres from the line.
Cameron Smith was unusually quiet tonight, seemingly frustrated by the dominance of Wests at the ruck – the Australian hooker never really able to get going.
The Melbourne forwards too were overpowered for the most part – even with the Tigers only completing 50 percent of their sets in the second half – the Storm struggled to score points.
It seems the Storm will be keen to get Brett Finch involved next week to assist their failing attack or at least get some direction assistance for Cronk to drive the team around.
For Wests it’s obviously a good confidence builder. They are a side that only know one speed, and thats full bore attack. Even in the final periods of the match, and even to the final second for that matter – Benji Marshall was playing for a try.
Tim Sheens might be cautioning Marshall over this kinda stuff, but when it works – there is no team like the Tigers on their day. Very unpredictable and able to score points quickly, certainly given the conditions and a poor completion rate – scoring 16 points was a fair effort.
Wests also looked much better with Bryce Gibbs coming from the bench. With big Keith Galloway in hot form, it allows him to unleash early and Gibbs to come in when the legs of opponents are worn down.
Gibbs tonight making some strong defensive efforts and jutting the ball loose for his team at crucial times.
Gareth Ellis continues to feel his way into the side and the competition. Certainly a strong showing from him, he will be much better in 4-5 weeks time when he fully adjusted.
For the Storm, they probably need to adjust to a slightly varied style. It seems they want to score off every play and in the past they may have been able to, but not now. They need to be more patient and work for the high percentage play.
Several times there was a risky pass, kick or flick that immediately afforded the ball to their opponents.
In saying that, they could be a totally different side with Finch in the picture. We’ll just need to wait until next week.
Both Wests and the Storm have home games next week, the Tigers hosting the Knights and Melbourne the Warriors in what will be big clashes.