It was a heavy defeat for Wests Tigers in Round 15 as the Canberra Raiders racked up a comprehensive 48-12 win at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Leading 12-4 midway through the first half, the inclusion of Josh Hodgson proved to be the turning point for Canberra as the hooker sparked the visitors to life — running in 44 unanswered points to jump Wests Tigers on the ladder in to ninth spot and keep their hopes at a finals finish alive.
On a night to forget, it's important we take a look at the numbers to come out of the defeat and ensure we improve heading in to next Sunday's clash against the Gold Coast Titans at Leichhardt Oval.
Particularly throughout the second half, it felt like Canberra were just constantly on the attack — and that's because they were simply dominating the possession and field position. Wests Tigers were limited to just 42% possession on the night, which was the lowest number they've recorded all year. What's worth noting here too is the two other lowest totals (43% against the Warriors in Round 9 and 44% against the Panthers in Round 10) were the two other one-sided losses the side has had this year. Every other match in 2018 has gone down to the wire for Wests Tigers, and that's been reflected in the possession totals as a result.
It's not a number that any coach would be happy with, and Coach Cleary certainly won't be pleased with the 61 tackles his team missed on the night — the most they've missed in any game of this year. Not much else needs to be said on this number as it's obvious what the solution is, although it is worth pointing out the efforts of Alex Twal here. Playing in the middle of the field, Twal completed 41 of his 42 tackles on the day for the second highest number of completed tackles by any player. Only Matt Eisenhuth (54 completed, 4 missed) had more tackles to his name in a tough afternoon for Wests Tigers.
On a night bereft of too many positives, the form of Chris Lawrence was certainly pleasing for Ivan Cleary's side — up until the point when the co-captain was helped off with concussion in the second half. Lawrence was causing the Raiders all sorts of problems on the left edge with his bullocking runs, and crossed for his 80th career try in Wests Tigers colours in the first half — taking him past Benji Marshall once more as the club's all-time top try-scorer. The battle between Lawrence and Marshall for that title has been a back-and-forth one this year, and will certainly be fascinating to watch over the back half of 2018.
One final point here and it's a slightly worrying trend for Wests Tigers over the past month with 10 or more errors in each of their last five games. Against Canberra that number was 12, and while the season average is still narrowly under double digits (currently 9.8) it's a number that is rising for Cleary's side. At the start of the year, the discipline the side had with the ball was paving the way for tight victories with just two games in the first seven weeks having more than 10 errors. Since Round 7, though, the team has had just one game with single digit errors — a Round 10 win over the North Queensland Cowboys at Leichhardt.