The Roar
The Roar


ANALYSIS: Souths go top with routine win - and there's plenty of green shoots for the Wests Tigers

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
13th May, 2023
3361 Reads

Souths have continued their red hot streak, despatching the Wests Tigers 20-0 with consummate ease to go top of the NRL for the first time in five years.

It’s six wins on the spin, a duck egg for the opposition and another line under their name on the list of Premiership favourites. On the back of the draining, run they have had, Jason Demetriou will take that every day of the week.

Though they were well-below their sparkling best, the Bunnies had far too much for the Wests Tigers, with a double from Taane Milne and a late Latrell Mitchell effort more than enough to take the points.

“It’s a game over the last couple of years we would probably drop,” said Demetriou. “We would find a way not to be resilient and stick to what we know works for us. But we didn’t, were really composed and got the job done.”

The Tigers came out with nothing, both on the ladder and on the scoreboard, but will not be disheartened by this.

Their attack remains a concern – they were lucky to get nil here, such was the lack of threat – but the manner in which they competed for 70 minutes, keeping the score within manageable reach, will please Tim Sheens.

If Wests play like this for the rest of the year, they will win more than a few games. Staying in the contest against South Sydney has proven beyond much better teams than the Tigers in recent weeks.

For long periods, the Tigers blunted the Bunnies’ lethal attack. Jahream Bula continued his excellent start in first grade and the pack turned up. It wasn’t fan-friendly, but neither is getting thumped.

“I don’t think we played like a 20-0 team,” said the coach. “We had our moments, they had theirs; they nailed theirs, we didn’t. We have some work to do there.”


“First things first you need to be in the game, you need to be respected.

‘We’ve had five weeks of staying in the game, being close. Really working hard for each other and gaining respect from the opposition in that regard. 

“Obviously, only the two wins that’s the problem and we need to win more games. Everyone knows that.”


The Tigers give themselves a puncher’s chance

There has been a breakout of sensible thinking at the Wests Tigers in recent weeks, and it continued today. For the first quarter, they went set for set with Souths, a conscious effort to get into the proverbial arm wrestle. 

It was a strange tactic to pull out this week. Souths aren’t really bothered about the grind – certainly, it wouldn’t be their plan A – but they’ve just come off the back of consecutive wins over the Panthers, Storm, Broncos and Dolphins, who are probably the best four teams in the comp at that style of footy. 


Wests did keep it up pretty well. Luke Brooks put a kick into touch on purpose after 12 minutes, with the halfback realising that his team needed a breather. When they were tested defensively the first time, they passed with flying colours.

The Tigers were perfect through 14 sets, but the cracks had begun to show well before the errors came. Though the completion rate was 100%, the threat level was zero.

At no point did they ever look like scoring and, when it came to the last tackle, it was as if the Tigers were surprised to be there. The play 5 options were terrible.

Souths weren’t trying to complete sets, but largely were anyway. They constantly spread the ball and moved the Tigers line around. There were more errors, but also far more chances to score, one of which was eventually taken by Taane Milne to open the scoring.

It’s not necessarily a criticism of the Tigers that they chose this route, because it has proven successful in the recent past.

Two weeks ago, they played this way against the Panthers, copped a spot of positive variance amid a monsoon and pulled off an upset. Last weekend, they won a bludger over the Dragons by being marginally more competent than their opponents. 

Playing high completion footy, generally, is what turns terrible teams into average ones, with the intention of adding flash as confidence grows. Given that the score was 6-0 at half time, they were in with a puncher’s chance for much longer than they might have been had they been more expansively.


Never in doubt for Souths

This was far from the Souths we have seen in the last month, but perhaps that was to be expected. 

On the back of a road trip to Queensland that saw them face the Broncos and Storm, plus the emotional high of the last second victory over Penrith, a drop-off was always on the cards, and the Wests Tigers at home in a 3pm Saturday game had comedown written all over it. 

The Bunnies have a very solid systematic base to everything that they do, but these are the days where that helps the least. Systems are there for the toughest moments – as seen in the victory over the Panthers – where they can be leaned on under pressure. 

When you’re highly favoured, the system can often result in a side going through the motions and expecting it to work. Demetriou will be happy that his side stuck to their task, even with an opponent that seemed more intent on stopping Souths than playing themselves.

The Bunnies faced adversity in losing their pack leader, Tom Burgess, in the warm-up and then two players to head knocks during the game. To control the game like this, with no doubt that they wouldn’t win, is impressive in its own way.


It wasn’t pretty, but they can’t all be.