It was a disappointing performance by Wests Tigers on Saturday as they missed the chance to close the gap on the top eight with a 20-10 defeat to St. George-Illawarra.
On the precipice of their first finals appearance since 2011, Ivan Cleary's side could have moved to within two points of both the Broncos and Warriors with two games remaining — instead, they now find themselves four points adrift and needing a number of results to fall their way to finish in the top eight.
With a packed Leichhardt Oval crowd cheering them on, it might not have been the result everyone wanted on the night, but there were still several key numbers to come from it thanks to Income Tax Professionals...
An incredible crowd at Leichhardt Oval and while it might not have been a performance to remember, it was certainly a crowd worth jotting down in the history books. The sold-out attendance is the biggest at the venue since the club's Round 26 game of the 2016 season against Canberra (also a night to remember) and just the second time in the last five years that over 18,000 people have packed in to the suburban venue.
Veteran back-rower Chris Lawrence won't come off the bench often in his career, but in his return from injury, the Life Member found himself injected in to the game after 20-25 minutes of action. And while he couldn't get his side the win, Lawrence certainly showed he had overcome both his hand and hamstring issues as he scored a crash ball off Luke Brooks just seconds in to the second half. Incredibly, Lawrence has now come off the bench just 10 times in his 13-year career; in those 10 games he has seven tries.
In what will likely be his final Leichhardt Oval game before heading over to English Super League on a long-term deal, Kevin Naiqama kept his incredible try-scoring run at the suburban ground going with a four-pointer in the final moments of the game. The Fijian captain has now scored 11 tries in his last 12 games at the venue — one of the more remarkable long-term scoring runs at a single ground in the NRL.
The offload was a major part of Wests Tigers' attack in the opening rounds of the season, and while there's been some sort of an evolution in that across the year, it was good to see it return on Saturday night — albeit when the home side were chasing the game. Ivan Cleary's side racked up 19 offloads in the end, the most in a game since chalking up 23 in a win over the Bulldogs, and it's just the fourth time this season that they've posted more than 13 offloads in a game. It's also the most offloads they've had in a game and lost this year, and it'll be interesting to see whether the offload is here to stay for the final few games of 2018.