THE only problem for players who are able to send no-look passes is they don't get to see them. The fortune was left for everyone else, including Manly, who could only watch as Benji Marshall's magic ended their winning streak at three matches.
Having missed a crucial conversion that would have tied the scores after the Tigers had trailed 12-0 at half-time, Marshall knew he needed to do something to make up for it. So, just a few minutes after his regulation conversion slid past the left-hand post, following Blake Ayshford's 61st minute try, he broke through the Manly defence and sent a no-looker to Chris Lawrence, who did the rest.
Chris Lawrence dives over for a try. Photo: Wolter Peeters
And so Marshall had won the game with his sleight of hand, after almost losing it with his slide of foot. But win it he did. The Tigers have now won three straight, and the Sea Eagles represent their biggest scalp of the season. They face another of the big guns, St George Illawarra, next Friday night.
The Tigers' defence, having been broken easily in the first half, held firm in the second. All the suggestions had been that this would be a fiery affair, with old scores to settle, and the match looked like it was heading that way in the early stages. Tigers back-rower Gareth Ellis knocked the stuffing out of Manly prop Jason King, while tempers frayed rather than flared on the sidelines when a heavy collision resulted in Anthony Watmough - who could find a stink in a vacuum - getting involved.
When Beau Ryan's attempt at a try was denied by video referee Sean Hampstead, who ruled that the winger did not have control of a Robbie Farah grubber, it was the Tigers who appeared to have the stuffing knocked out of them.
Four minutes later, Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans did remarkably well to find Brett Stewart as Farah and Chris Heighington cuddled him. Stewart found the line, proving he can still score at the Sea Eagles' home away from Brookvale.
The Tigers had been rattled - even after Stewart was tackled in goal after slipping from the restart, halfback Robert Lui knocked on. They should have scored, mind you, when Marshall crept down the left-hand touchline. He could have scored himself had he pinned his ears back but his ball inside went to ground. It turned out the support man Farah did as well, having been tackled without the ball by Jamie Lyon.
The officials told Farah the only reason Lyon was not sin-binned was because Marshall's ball was not going to Farah's hand.
The Tigers were their typical selves, inconsistent and infuriating. They showed their best and worst within minutes. First their fullback Tim Moltzen dragged down Manly forward Shane Rodney just short of the line, but then a few minutes later their defence was torn apart by a smart but still quite simple dart from dummy-half by Sea Eagles hooker Matt Ballin.
It took the Tigers 56 minutes to find their mojo, and not surprisingly, they did it through Marshall, who had tried hard but had previously failed to deliver. With the match slipping away, he sent a wonderful ball to Lui, who found his own grip on the ball and the proceedings to drag the Tigers back into the contest. They should have scored again when Marshall put Chris Lawrence through a hole, and the centre went himself with Farah unmarked.
No matter though, Farah made up for it a few minutes later, splitting the Manly left-side defence and sending Blake Ayshford away for a try. Farah couldn't resist a cheeky taunt Steve Matai's way; the Manly centre had accused him of diving in the corresponding clash last year - which is at the heart of much of the recent fire between the two clubs.
Enter Marshall again. The five-eighth produced a magical piece of play just two minutes later, cutting a hole through Manly, somehow remaining on his feet as he seemingly staggered away, then sent a no-look pass to Lawrence. There would be no stopping Lawrence this time. He had the perfect view for Marshall's magic, even if the man himself couldn't see it.
WESTS TIGERS 14 (B Ayshford C Lawrence R Lui tries B Marshall goal) bt MANLY 12 (M Ballin B Stewart tries J Lyon 2 goals) at Bluetongue Stadium. Referee: Jason Robinson, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 20,059.
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