Benji Marshall was in classic form in Wests Tigers’ 30-20 NRL win over Parramatta on Monday.The Wests Tigers have overcome the toughest early-season draw in the competition to be in the NRL’s top four after the first month – something they haven’t accomplished since April 2014.
Dealt last year’s top-four finishers in the opening four rounds, the Tigers took their record to 3-1 after they comfortably knocked off the winless Parramatta 30-20 at ANZ Stadium on Monday.
Defensively sound over the opening month, the Tigers attack finally clicked as they almost tripled their season’s try tally to go fourth and into the club’s highest post-March position since round eight, 2014.
“I wouldn’t have said I expected it,” coach Ivan Cleary said of his team’s start to the year.
“It was more about trying to combinations and get some confidence, especially when we looked at the draw and how it was going to pan out early in the season.
“We looked at it as a bit of a positive. It was a really good chance if we could start the year well regardless of results to get some confidence.”
The Tigers have now knocked off Melbourne, the Sydney Roosters and Eels. Their only loss came via a controversial golden-point penalty to Brisbane that even referees boss Bernard Sutton admitted was wrong.
They face the Storm again next week in Melbourne but do so with a Benji Marshall who has turned back the clock and an ever-maturing Luke Brooks alongside him.
Marshall had an involvement in three tries for the Tigers on Monday, twice via his famous step and another via a long cut-out pass for Kevin Naiqama as he helped set up a 30-6 lead before the Eels rallied late.
It came after he battled an ankle injury before the clash, while Cleary also confirmed he was likely to hold on to the No.6 jersey next week, with Josh Reynolds expected to be another round away.
“It’s just great to see a guy who loves the club and has done so much for the club as a player in the past want to come back and really add to it,” Cleary said.
“It’s pretty cool that for so many boys in the team Benji was their hero when they were kids.
“He’s certainly doing a good job and I think there is more in him from the playing perspective.”
The result kept Parramatta in last place. It’s the first time since 2012 they’ve gone winless in the opening month.
“We’re not giving ourselves a chance in any of the games,” coach Brad Arthur said.
“We’re giving away penalties … Until we address or fix that we’re going to have problems.”