It was a gutsy team performance from Wests Tigers on Sunday that saw Ivan Cleary’s side come from behind in the second half to emerge with an 18-12 win.
Kevin Naiqama and Luke Brooks finished as the heroes after combining in the last four minutes for the match-winning try, but after a week of off-field speculation, it was a full 17-man effort that got the job done for Coach Ivan Cleary in his third game in charge of the team.
We take a look at all the big storylines and facts to come out of the Round 8 win!
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NOFOALUMA A STANDOUT AGAIN
Arguably Wests Tigers’ best player through the opening eight rounds of the year, David Nofoaluma again showed why the Club was so keen to re-sign him on a four-year deal during the week — charging his way for a game-high 255 metres in the win. With another try and another linebreak, Nofoaluma’s tally was his highest of the year, and the highest individual total from any Wests Tigers player so far this season. With his second try in the last three weeks, Nofoaluma has now taken his career total to 39 tries — putting him past Brett Hodgson into the Top 10 for total tries scored for Wests Tigers.
BACK FIVE CONTINUE TO THRIVE
Nofoaluma wasn’t the only outside back to shine for Wests Tigers, with the entire back five again continuing their impressive start to the season when carrying the ball. Few back fives in the competition average more metres per game than Wests Tigers, who averaged 153.4 metres each on Sunday. In total, they accounted for 767 metres — much more than the Bulldogs back five, which ran for just 565 metres in total.
WOODS STANDS TALL
It’s important to also recognise the efforts of captain Aaron Woods on the day, who was awarded with the ANZAC Medal for his Man of the Match effort. In clearly his best game of the season, the captain ran for a season high in metres (215m), well above his season-average of 159m and well-above his previous season best of 188m v Storm in Round 4. On the defensive end, it was Elijah Taylor who led the way with a clean 50 tackles made.
COMPLETIONS UP, KICKS UP, ERRORS DOWN
Completion percentage has been a problem for Wests Tigers in 2017, and they delivered their highest completion rate in a victory this week with 73% completed. This was only marginally higher than the percentage in the previous two wins this year (both 72%) but interestingly lower than two defeats, 80% in Round 4 and 84% in Round 5. The return of Luke Brooks also gave Wests Tigers a great advantage when kicking the ball, with he and Mitchell Moses combining for their highest kick metres total of the year — 524m, and well-above the team’s season average of 408.5 metres per game. And while we’re on statistics, the nine errors in the match is the second-fewest by the side all year, with the eight errors against the Storm in Round 4 remaining the lowest total of 2017.
MEN FOR THE OCCASION
In Wests Tigers two big milestone games — Chris Lawrence’s 200th and Joel Edwards’ 100th games — the team has walked away with victories on both occasions. For the record, the next impending milestone looks to be that of Ava Seumanufagai, who is on track to play his 100th NRL game against the Sydney Roosters in Round 14. It’s also worth highlighting the performance of Kevin Naiqama on ANZAC Round. In 2015, he produced one of the greatest ever try-assists by flicking the ball back from over the dead ball line — leaving him with the Man of the Match honours in the end. And while he didn’t get the award this time, he was certainly still the man of the moment for his side after collecting Luke Brooks’ kick to score the match-winning try after 75 minutes.
OTHER RANDOM STATISTICS
Wests Tigers ended a losing streak of their past five Sunday afternoon games, while also winning six of their last nine games played at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Their next game at the venue is against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Round 10 (Friday, May 12).
Game Leaders: Round 8 v Bulldogs
Most Metres — Nofoaluma (255m), Woods (215m), Tedesco (176m), Naiqama (136m)
Most Tackles — Taylor (50), Edwards (31), McIlwrick (29), Lawrence (28), Woods (26)