NRL Round 25, 2007
Newcastle Knights 26 def Wests Tigers 24
Tim Sheens described it as great entertainment for the fans, but it’s costing coaches and players their sanity. The unpredictable results of the NRL these days is simply amazing; the totally down and out Newcastle Knights somehow conjuring up a late charge to run down the Wests Tigers and derail the Tigers finals hopes. Possibly another candidate for upset of the year.
In reality it was a game of poor standards, dropped balls, penalties and limited free-flowing play. While the Wests Tigers held a 12 point lead with only 7 minutes to go, they never looked confident – missing a crucial field goal attempt and surrendering field position at critical times late in the game.
Benji Marshall was a hero and villain at the same time tonight for the Tigers – sparking some nice attacking raids, pinching a solo kick and chase try; but also leaking plenty of points down his ride side. Newcastle channeling plenty of traffic the way of Marshall and getting late success.
Newcastle were slugged heavily in the penalty count, at one stage the penalties running 2/1 against them. They also received some horror calls and did well to simply keep themselves in the contest.
The Tigers simply lacked the killer punch, they didn’t seem desperate enough in the dying stages and let the game slip away – with the toiling Knights fighting hard to avoid the wooden spoon.
With the scores locked and only seconds to go, a penalty against the Tigers gifted the Knights a shot at goal and a chance to win the game. The scenes of jubilation looking more like a team finals bound rather than a team hovering in the NRL cellar – weeks of controversy, tears and headlines all being forgotten as the players and coaching staff celebrated as one. The almost always super serious Brian Smith cracking a big smile as he embraced the players and forgotten man Kirk Reynoldson also joining in the celebrations as the Knights belted out their team song.
The Tigers will need to do some serious soul searching during the off-season. The talent of Benji Marshall is unquestioned, but without major improvements to his defence the Tigers will consistently leak points. The Tigers also see Ben Galea and Paul Whatuira move on to the UK Super League in 2008 and Wests will need to reinforce their shaky line. After reaching the heights of 2005, sadly the former premiers are yet to see NRL finals football again.