From the outset it was the fearless Tigers, attacking at will with plenty of ball – getting their first touchdown within minutes, by guess who – Lote Tiquiri. The returning Union star has become a human headline in recent weeks and it shows no signs of stopping after his efforts tonight.
But it wasn’t all easy for Wests.
Despite plenty of early ball, they could only manage 4 points. With Benji Marshall struggling at times with his conversions, as has been the case for a few years.
When the possession count finally turned around, Manly got a good roll on – with usual suspects Watmough, Glenn Stuart and George Rose rumbling down the middle and tearing the Tigers to shreds.
In what seemed like an instant, Manly had suddenly taken advantage of their possession much more astutely than the Tigers and had quickly notched up a 20-4 lead.
Even with Benji Marshall and Robert Lui combining well, the Tigers weren’t making the metres in the middle-third of the field and struggled to hold the ball during crucial stages. They looked gone for all money until their rapid fire attack got them back in with a shot.
Their tries were trademark Benji selective passing and astute Farah kicking, and even after playing poorly for large periods of the game – the Tigers game themselves a shot at the win with 10 minutes to go.
For Manly, they were solid for the most part, led around the park well by Jamie Lyon – with Foran as expected taking a lesser role in the halves combination.
Lyon was busy in defence, yet still remained extremely potent when attacking close to the line. His ability to attract several defenders and position and outside man is uncanny and he remains crucial to Manly’s chances in 2010.
Brett Stewart was unusually quiet tonight and had some poor touches. While he did pull off some commendable defence, it wasn’t the usual Brett Stewart we come to expect. Although the Tigers were marking the fullback heavily and he was met by multiple defenders whenever he touched the ball.
Sadly for Manly Stewart sustained a leg injury late in the game – with tests to confirm the extent of the problem tomorrow.
While Manly were unlucky not to secure the win, the Wests Tigers although happy to sneak home – will need to polish several aspects of their game, most notably their discipline. Both Bryce Gibbs and Chris Heighnington were making things hard for their teammates with back to back penalties.
Simple errors will happen from time to time, but the Tigers lost focus in the discipline department several times and it nearly cost them.
Wests face the new improved Roosters next week in what should be a good game and Manly travel to Parramatta, hoping they can recover from niggling injuries to face fellow Round 1 losers the Eels in Round 2.