If you were after a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, you could have done no better than a trip to Leichardt Oval to join 19428 others in watching the West Tigers and Canberra launch themselves through eighty minutes of pulsating and thoroughly entertaining rugby league.
It may not have been error free football from either side, but, regardless, they both provided a plethora of line breaks, as well a steady supply of big hits.
It was end to end fare from both sides from the beginning, with neither being able to manoeuvre their way to a significant lead. Just as it looked like one side would gain an advantage, the last pass of a movement would go to ground. Not great for the coaches blood pressure, but, still, entertainment plus.
It was a titanic struggle and it wasn’t until the 75th minute that the Tigers were able to gain the ascendency and head off into the sunset with an 18-8 victory. In fact, until then, the only time they looked in control of the match was in the opening fifteen minutes.
It was not a particuly auspicious start for Canberra as they kicked the ball out on the full from the opening whistle. From the ensuing penalty, the Tigers pounced as they put winger Beau Ryan over in the right side corner. With a superb sideline conversion from Benji Marshall, the Tigers had made a splendid start in their mission to secure third spot on the NRL ladder.
Despite not being able to add to their tally over the next fifteen minutes, it looked like they were about to put Canberra to the sword as they totally dominated possession and field position. Having completed thirteen of their first fourteen sets, they were looking formidable. But Canberra hung in and slowly the momentum started to swing Canberra’s way.
Once Canberra did start to get some possession of their own, it didn’t take long for them to use it efficiently. For in the 23rd minute Joel Monaghan went over in their left corner as Canberra sent their attack down the Tigers right side defence. In what was a mighty effort from centre Jarrad Croker, he managed to get a pass away- despite the hostile intentions of three would be tacklers- to an auxiliary unit in the form of Joel Monaghan to score. With the conversion the scores were levelled up and it was game on.
But neither side could get on top of the other because of a constant stream of errors. The Tigers on numerous occasions were able to create space down their opposition’s right side causing significant lesions to the Canberra defence. Somehow, though, each time Canberra was able to plaster over the trouble spots and force the Tigers into a mistake on the last pass.
It wasn’t until the 62nd minute when the scoreboard was again troubled. With the stalemate that was struggling to be broken, it came as no surprise that the next scoring opportunity came from a penalty. And it was Canberra who benefitted with a valuable two points to go 8-6 ahead.
They looked like they were heading for an upset win too, as the Tigers couldn’t find a way through a determined Canberra outfit. Until the 75th minute, that is. Once again it was Beau Ryan, who with little room to move, put in a grubber kick and regathered to score in the right corner. Marshall once again had his kicking boots on to give his side a four point margin.
If Canberra had notions of snatching a last minute win, they were soon dispersed as Daniel Fitzhenry provided the coup de grace for his side as he wended his way from a scrum through a thin line of defence and forged forth with great haste on a sixty metre diagonal dash to touchdown under the crossbar and gain the Tigers a ten point win.
While this wasn’t the perfect display of football from either side, the Tigers have shown that they can win tight matches. In reality they struggled from the 20th through until the 70th minutes. And yet they still found a way to win.
Must be why they are third on the points table.