NRL Tips expert Steve Green previews an important clash between the Tigers and the Cowboys.
With all the controversy over the Ponga sin-binning in the final minute of the Wests v Tigers game, it is easy to forget that the Tigers pulled off an impressive win away from home, against a team higher up then them on the ladder. While Wests defence wasn’t great (44 missed tackles and 22 points conceded), playing against guys like Connor Watson, Kalyn Ponga and Jessie Ramien will cause you to miss tackles and concede points.
As a positive, they made 5-line breaks, scored 28 points and completed at 88%. Their attack benefited from their 13 offloads, with Wests guys like Brooks, Marsters, Nofoaluma and Thompson all capable of standing in the tackle and promoting the ball. This makes them a hard team to defend against…particularly for larger teams. Cowboys, with their humongous forward pack, will be asked to make a lot of tackles if Wests are able to use this strategy again on the weekend.
As for the Cowboys, I thought the score line flattered them against the Sharks. The Sharks dominated the stats, and it was some poor defensive plays that allowed Cowboys to score their tries…rather than fluent attacking moves.
Although Morgan’s return will be a very welcome boost, their second half face outs are becoming a habit and I think it is linked to the size of their forward pack and lack of mobility…plus their horror injury toll out wide. In their last four matches they have lost the second half.
When you look at how many big guys they have across their team, it is easy to see why this is the case. They had Asiata in the halves and Hess in the centres. Opacic is a big guy, as is Feldt. While size has its advantages, the focus on referees promoting fatigue in 2019 has exposed the bigger men in our game and the Cowboys will be vulnerable in the final 20 minutes of this match.
Coach Madge has again named a 4 forward bench, which is sensible in this game…because the risk for the Tigers is that they are steamrolled by the Cowboys up the middle. Besides Clark, who is a genuine big bopper, the rest of the Tigers pack are smaller and more mobile. The key for Wests will therefore be to maintain possession and tire the Cowboys destructive runners like McLean and Taumalolo.
On my ratings, Wests are about 4-6 points better on paper and with the home ground advantage of Leichardt, I would have had Wests at least 10 point favourites here.