Rugby League

Panthers 0 Tigers 30
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All over before half-time as stars regain stripes with solid effort

It remains to be seen whether this result will be a season-turning one for Wests Tigers, but it was history-making. In the 12 years of the merger, never had they held a team scoreless. Until yesterday, that is, when they eased the pressure on themselves while piling some more onto their opponents.


Penrith, almost as remarkably, have not scored a point in three hours of football; this was their second consecutive scoreless scoresheet - they lost by the same scoreline, to Manly, last week.

One team going from zero to hero; the other from zero to zero.

How quickly fortunes can turn. Five straight losses for the Tigers were not quite forgotten, but certainly cast aside for a while as they produced a consistent performance, and a defensively sound one. That said, it was something bordering on a miracle that the Panthers did not score a point, having given themselves a number of sound opportunities to do so, but the Tigers' defence should be credited too.

''We've been losing games on our own terms, not by the other teams,'' Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall said.


That is largely true. Sometimes, having wounded troops is cancelled out by having wounded pride. The Tigers, without Gareth Ellis and Chris Heighington - and captain Robbie Farah for most of yesterday's match - have been stung by criticism of their form, which had been poor over the competition's opening six rounds.

They were expected to win yesterday, but that was largely irrelevant - they have been expected to win most of their matches this season. But on this occasion, the Tigers started well and gained confidence, in complete contrast to Penrith. They started poorly, and were unable to find their own missing confidence.

For the Tigers, the passes that had previously been going awry began to stick. Marshall's short ball gave his fellow New Zealander Adam Blair a fifth-minute try. The Tigers lost Farah not long after; the skipper went into a tackle on Penrith prop Dayne Weston awkwardly, and his head collided with the hip of his opponent.

But while the Tigers had struggled previously in the two matches they were without their skipper, they had gained enough momentum and confidence in the opening minutes not to fall away again.

Aaron Woods's offload after 21 minutes was a case in point. Elsewhere this season Woods's ball would have fallen to the grass, but Joel Reddy stormed onto it, ultimately giving fullback Tim Moltzen a try. Moltzen, more than anyone in the Tigers' outfit, needed a shot of confidence, having struggled under the high ball against Brisbane last round.

It was a 12-point turnaround too. Fullback Lachlan Coote was denied a try by video referee Russell Smith moments earlier, having put little more than a toenail on the dead-ball line as he grounded the ball.

The Tigers effectively put the game to bed just before the half-hour mark, when Marshall produced a carbon-copy of the play that gave them their first try; a Marshall short ball to Ray Cashmere.

The Tigers roped Cashmere in from the Illawarra Cutters as their young forwards struggled to cope without some senior players around them. His contribution was hardly game-breaking but it was still an effective one.

The Tigers had similar contributions across the park, which was telling for them. Few players stood out. No one was exceptional, but importantly, no one was dreadful.

Halfback Tom Humble was another solid performer. He put the result beyond doubt, during a rather forgettable second half, with a try. Once again, it came not long after the Panthers almost scored themselves. Had Blake Austin pinned his ears back, he would surely have scored, but he attempted to step Moltzen, and his left foot dug into the turf.

The hole wasn't big enough for him to crawl into. Humble scored soon after.

A team which has been humbled so far this season has suddenly woken up.

WESTS TIGERS 30 (T Moltzen 2 A Blair R Cashmere T Humble tries B Marshall 5 goals) bt PENRITH 0 at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Tony Archer, Chris James. Crowd: 15,759.