It was a tough result for Wests Tigers fans on Friday night as their side slumped to a disappointing 14-4 defeat to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
Looking to build on impressive last start wins over the ladder-leading Dragons and Rabbitohs, Ivan Cleary's side were a far cry from the side that stunned many over the past fortnight — failing to generate any real attacking pressure on the Bulldogs despite a number of good opportunities close to the line.
The result sees Wests Tigers remain in ninth position and miss the chance to close the gap on the New Zealand Warriors in eighth spot, but with five games still to play in the regular season, Cleary's side will still fancy their chances of sneaking in to the finals with a strong finish to the season.
As a result, it's important to take the lessons we can out of Friday's defeat and turn them forward in to a positive performance next Friday — here's the numbers to know, thanks to Income Tax Professionals...
While Wests Tigers weren't able to produce a great deal in terms of attacking danger, they were still holding up their end of the deal when it came to completing with the ball. The 91% completion rate is the equal highest number the side have produced this season — incredibly, their other 91% game also ended in defeat with a last-second loss to the Newcastle Knights back in Round 7. As Coach Cleary said after the game, however, it wasn't necessarily about completing sets but doing more with the sets the side did have — something which will certainly be worked on throughout the week ahead at training.
2018 Match Highlights: Rd.20, Bulldogs vs. Wests Tigers
After beginning the season with 19 and 24 offloads respectively in their first two games, Wests Tigers' ability to generate second-phase play has dropped off slowly over the past month with the season average down to 11.42 now. Having not chalked up more than 11 offloads since Round 12, Wests Tigers were held to their lowest number of offloads on Friday with just five recorded in the entire game. They did to a good job in keeping the Bulldogs to just six offloads themselves, but it wasn't enough to get them the win.
It wouldn't have been the result he wanted on the night, but a special word to David Nofoaluma who became just the third winger in club history to reach 100 first-grade games for the club on Friday. After a run of niggling injuries over the past few seasons and a surprise dropping to reserve-grade by Coach Ivan Cleary at the start of the season, Nofoaluma has returned with aplomb and continues to be one of the team's most consistent performers every single week. With 47 tries in his 100 games, Nofoaluma currently sits sixth on the club's all-time top try-scorers list and, with a strong finish to the season, could end the year by passing close friend James Tedesco (50 tries) and potentially even Pat Richards (52 tries) on that list.
A player who will reach the 50-game milestone this week, Michael Chee Kam's last month has been nothing short of superb for the club and certainly isn't going unnoticed by those who matter with another stellar showing against the Bulldogs. Chee Kam chalked up an impressive 166 metres on Friday night (more than any other forward), with over a third of those metres coming after contact. The 26-year-old's role has chalked at times over the past few weeks, but with Josh Aloiai and Chris Lawrence both out for the next few weeks, the opportunity to start consistently in the back row is there for the Mount Wellington Warriors junior and he's seemingly making every post a winner off the back of Friday's strong effort.