Needing the win to keep their finals hopes alive, the plucky Wests Tigers eventually made the most of first half possession, running in 3 tries and kicking a penalty goal to jump out 18 nil.
A win for the Manly side would have seen them scoot to 26 points on the ladder and make things harder for the likes of the Tigers, Souths and Parramatta in the weeks ahead.
What would have pleased coach Tim Sheens was the stout defence showed by the Tigers in the first 40 minutes and the early period of the second stanza. Several times the Wests side held up Manly attackers over the try-line and their overall line speed was impressive as they raced up and shut down the Sea Eagles attack.
Chris Lawrence was a standout in defence, making the correct decisions on most occasions and inspiring his team-mates without the ball.
It seems the recent turnaround with Wests has come about since the movement of Tim Moltzen into the halfback spot. Veteran utility John Morris while solid, never really had the thrust or organisation skills to help the Tigers or more importantly take the pressure of key man Benji Marshall.
The confident Moltzen has slotted in nicely, takes the line on regularly which keeps his opponents guessing and his role is ideal to take some of the heat from Benji – who is now allowed to get involved when he chooses, rather than having to come up with the big play on every attacking set.
The only worry for Sheens’ men seems to be their fitness. Certainly in the backend of games Wests tend to lose touch, as their petrol runs out, so does their focus and the door opens for opponents. They do however, have a handy run home – facing the lowly Roosters this week and the hapless Sharks after that.
For Manly, the loss was obviously a real concern for them. Coach Des Hasler was doing his best to avoid the big questions at the press conference – but he knows, the Eagles have really lacked direction in the halves in 2009. Their forwards at times have dominated, but Matty Orford isn’t in the best form and the veteran half has had little help from various pivot partners.
Jamie Lyon spent most of the game at pivot, but failed to have an impact. Lyon’s kicking game was average and he failed to dominate like he sometimes can.
It’s interesting to see Brent Kite continues to come off the bench for Manly, with Hasler only injecting the representative forward halfway through the first stanza. Kite seems a little flat on the field and is no where near his 2008 best, a year that saw him take out the Clive Churchill medal.
And what about Wolfman? The guy has yet to recover from Origin woes, but realistically, Williams has had problems before Origin. Injuries and direct pressure from opponents has seen this guy literally tumble from huge heights in 2008 to be a jittery mess!
Why did he shave the beard? Some people say it wasn’t only for charity, but potentially to take some of the spotlight off him on the field. Several times last night, Williams fumbled and bumbled his was along. Dropping at crucial times and lacking that x-factor he had in previous times.
Manly might have a home game against the Bunnies this weekend, but they will need to improve out of sight – as on current form, the strength and physical impact of Souths will really flatten them and the likes of Sutton, Sandow and Simpson could terrorise the Sea Eagles all day.
It’s 5 weeks and counting folks, and what a ride we’re all in for!