There were plenty of key numbers to know for Wests Tigers as Michael Maguire's side notched up their maiden win for 2019 with a dominant victory over the Sea Eagles at Leichhardt Oval.
Held scoreless in the opening half, Wests Tigers turned on the style in the second stanza with 20 unanswered points putting the game beyond doubt before a last-second try to the visitors saw the scoreline finish up in a 20-6 win for the hosts.
Robbie Farah bagged a double in a Man of the Match showing, while new recruits Ryan Matterson, Paul Momirovski and Robert Jennings all impressed first-up.
ROUND ONE STREAK INCREASES TO FIVE
Wests Tigers have now won five consecutive season openers, with their last loss in a Round 1 fixture coming in 2014 against the Dragons. It's a streak that has also fared well at the club's suburban grounds — Wests Tigers tasted Round 1 success at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in 2016 against the Warriors before heading to Leichhardt the following week to knock off Manly. Eerily, after beating Manly at Leichhardt this week, Wests Tigers will now head to Campbelltown to face the Warriors in Round 2, a side they have not lost to at home since 2013.
Match: Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
Round 1 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
MANLY'S SUBURBAN STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Having now lost their last four games against Wests Tigers, Manly will certainly be glad they don't have to head to either Leichhardt or Campbelltown again in 2019 with a horror run of form at the suburban grounds. The Sea Eagles have now lost their last four games at Leichhardt Oval (dating back to 2007) and have just one win at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, which came in the final rounds of season 2013.
2019 Match Highlights: Rd.1, Wests Tigers vs. Sea Eagles
FONUA, THOMPSON DOMINATE KICK RETURNS
One real advantage that Wests Tigers seemed to have all game against Manly was in their kick returns, with the home side producing 227 kick return metres compared to just 58 metres for the visitors. And it's not like there was a huge disparity in total kick metres either, with just 30m separating the two sides on that front — simply Wests Tigers, and in particular Mahe Fonua and Corey Thompson, dominated on their returns. Fonua's 72 metres were more than the entire Manly side, while Thompson also made 45 of his 128 metres on the day returning kicks.
ZERO BOMBS COMES UP TRUMP FOR HOSTS
While we're on kicks, it's worth noting too a peculiar statistic that saw Wests Tigers fail to register a single bomb all afternoon (compared to Manly's three). There were several long kicks from Benji Marshall in particular, but no direct bombs, which didn't happen for the side in a single game at all last year. The kick they did do well, however, was the grubber with 14 compared to just three for the visitors, which certainly was an effective tactic in wet conditions. From those 14 grubbers, Wests Tigers registered six forced dropouts, two of which led to tries in the ensuing set.
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS IN DOMINANT TEAM WIN
Saturday's win was a determined team effort throughout the second half, but it's important to point out a few individual achievements from the win that shouldn't be forgotten either. Man of the Match Robbie Farah scored two tries in a game for the first time since the 2011 Finals Series (against a Warriors side featuring current teammates Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Elijah Taylor ironically enough) while Michael Chee Kam registered his 50th game in Wests Tigers colours. Throw in three club debutants — Paul Momirovski, Robert Jennings and Ryan Matterson — and an NRL debutant in Thomas Mikaele who thoroughly impressed with 106 metres and 24 tackles without missing in just 30 minutes off the bench, and it was a fair day out!
Coach Michael Maguire also had a special first day in charge of Wests Tigers, collecting his ninth win over Des Hasler-coached sides which is more than against any other coach. The game was also Maguire's first at the suburban ground in the Inner West, while Sunday's game will also see him coach his first game at the club's other spiritual ground at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney's South West.
Match: Wests Tigers v Warriors
Round 2 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney