The 7th and final Monday night fixture for the season threw up an unexpected chance to bag a vital 4th win in a row and leap into 3rd place on percentages. We just had to ensure we meant business to silence sooky Robbie and his Tiger mates.
Brett Stewart: The Ferrari enjoyed a calm outing never really needing to get out of 2nd gear, but of course was always there when needed, including that blistering run in cover defence to cut off a flying Simona run away try attempt.
Jorge Taufau: Not the average winger our Jorge. Can spill the odd shocker but always makes up for it with those surging runs, none more important than the one from the in goal area deep in the 2nd half to not only diffuse danger but earn a game relieving penalty in the process. At first glance it looked like a bit of lazy defence to not block that Nofoaluma try, but WOW can you believe that slo mo replay? Got to be the most miraculous flying, twisting, mid air one arm put down of the year, and not a single thing Jorge could have done.
Steve Matai: Maybe he should keep kicking it out on the full if he's going to exact revenge like that superb first half try, zipping, twisting and turning the defence inside out to score. Next week? See summary below.
Jamie Lyon: Tigers on the attack in our 20, the ball goes lose, it's kicked sideways and ricochets like a bullet into Jamie's arms on the 10 metre line and suddenly he takes off, running like a teenager housed inside a veteran's body, pouring down the sideline sprinting 40, 50, 60, 70 metres, the Tigers are coming in numbers, Marshall's sprinting across field as hard as his legs will carry him, but at the split second he arrives Jamie takes a giant step inside bamboozling a stranded Marshall, the cunning veteran now surging infield on an arcing run looking for support, the cover converges as he looks for a pass to the flying support of Matty Ballin, but he feigns the pass and takes a 3rd and final surge to the posts, diving full length to score a simply remarkable 90 metre try. Breathless, he calmly slots over the conversion. And just for good measure in the second half, Jamie does it again, backing up Wolfie's runaway 60 metre pick up to collect the final DCE pass and weave past the last line of defence for try no 2. It was that sort of Jamie Lyon night. What a player. What a captain. Man of the match.
David Williams: Our loveable hippie was as alert and dangerous as ever.
Kieran Foran: If you looked at the stats, 1 run, 9 metres and 10 tackles you'd think he was either injured or had a shocker. In fact he was dangerous all night masterly setting up 3/6 tries.
Daly Cherry-Evans: Hampered by an early ankle injury that meant he played no part in our kicking game, only to surprise by battling through the full 80 mins and get a lovely final reward slicing through the defence like a knife though melted butter to score a neat solo try and seal the game, the Tigers so beaten by then that he even managed to romp all away around the in goal to plant it under the sticks.
Glenn Stewart: I'm still frustrated by the stop, turn and run back across field into heavy traffic thing, but the improvement with each game continues, and for that we will be very grateful come finals time.
Justin Horo: Not content to be the 80 min workhorse on the left edge, Horo the hero decides to show us he's as clever as any winger stretching, diving and planting a one hand touchdown in the corner for try no 2. Surely the no name buy of the year.
Anthony Watmough: Another well deserved early mark after racking up 13 runs, 96 metres and 28 tackles.
Brenton Lawrence: No frills though just 39 mins tonight. Not many clubs would boast a front row who've barely missed a game all season. How unbelievably vital have he and Kitey been, especially given the loss of Joe and Kingy and Richie's long absence.
Matt Ballin: The Matty machine continues to defy belief. Snappy dummy half play too and amazingly once again the fastest backing up a runaway play all but collecting the pass from Jamie in that try.
Brent Kite: The Landcruiser was also given a shorter stint tonight with just 40 mins. Smart move Toovs
Richie Fa-aoso: With Toovs smart rotation Richie's 42 mins was the highest of the props tonight, and his contribution was reliably solid, noticeably taking extra care in the tackles as you'd expect he now would.
Jamie Buhrer: Super super-sub game again. Showing just how important he is at this time of the season, whether it's up the middle or again filling in seamlessly in the 2nd half in the centres for Stevie.
George Rose: Not a major role tonight with just 20 mins but the big man never disappoints with those gut busting runs.
David Gower: Not sure why Hasson, or Skinner for that matter, lost the 4th bench spot. Is Toovs simply rotating the fringe guys? Not a bad idea if so, tho not much Gower could show in a 16 min stint tonight.
As Jamie Lyon simply concluded "the 4 wins in a row". After the hellishly tough mid season run with it's extremely misleading 2/8 result, (remember that period contained no less than the rampaging Roosters twice, comp leaders Souths, Melb down there, the super dangerous Warriors over there, and the resurgent Dogs, 5 long weeks of which was without Brett), it was always absolutely vital to maintain belief and go on an unbeaten run. A win at Parra next Sat will rack up a priceless 5/5 and put us on track for a big tilt at this premiership. There's a hell of a lot of good in that.
On top of that our back line is showing that, as Greg Alexander readily agreed, we have the very best 1-7 in the comp.
A bit of a 2nd half lapse letting in 12 points, but nothing to really be concerned about given the Tigers had nothing to lose throwing it around, and we completely controlled the game and stepped up a gear when we needed to.
Again a pleasure to report an empty ugly sheet, even the refs were pretty harmless albeit extremely whistle happy.
The confidence shown in the last month is really starting to impress. Sure the opposition pales compared to the nightmare mid season run of 2/8, but we are doing exactly what's needed to build for the semis. Melb's surprising slump, (origin notwithstanding they've now gone a remarkable 4/5 losses), is not harming us either as we've now snaffled 3rd spot on way better percentages. A revenge semi against the Sonny Bill Roosters would be a delicious prospect, but that's for another day. For now we continue to build each week and slot away the points.
A FINAL PLEA TO TOOV'S:
Dear Toov's. Please, please rest Stevie Matai next week. Why? No, not in case something stupid happens at Parra. The so called 'revenge' against some kiddie Parra prop is a media beat up with absolutely zero importance. Very simply, it's glaringly obvious that Stevie's not only clutching that neck and shoulder each week, but even more worrying is the now bruised and battered hip that's forced him to sit out the 2nd half for two weeks running. The absolute smartest thing would be to give him a full 2 week rest and ensure he's healed and ready for monster games against the dangerously flying Warriors on Sunday week, followed by Souths 5 days later. Not only would it be a very smart move for Stevie, it would be even wiser for the good of the team, and in the process allow the talented Hiku a valuable 80 min run given he will be a very important injury cover in the weeks to come. Toov's take a leaf out of the smart coaching manual. We don't need Stevie to beat useless Ricky's boys, but we sure do need him in one piece for the finals.