‘They’re going backwards’: Wests Tigers torn to shreds in NRL nightmare in Dragons thrashing

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A horrific capitulation saw the Wests Tigers suffer their ninth consecutive defeat in a brutal 56-14 loss to the St. George Illawarra Dragons.

A historic haul of 32 points from Dragons winger Zac Lomax, who beat the joint venture’s club record by 10 points, and a try and four-try assist performance from halfback Ben Hunt after both men were back from State of Origin, left the Tigers well behind.

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Most incredibly, the Tigers actually led 14-12 at halftime, meaning the Dragons outscored Wests 44-0 in the second half, scoring seven unanswered tries.

It was a surprising defeat for the Tigers, but this is nothing new for the club, which has won the last two titles and has not been in a final since 2011.

On points difference alone, the Tigers are 16th above South Sydney in 2024 and look set to face another dismal season in their first season under head coach Benji Marshall.

Although the Tigers performed slightly better in 2024, Friday night’s result was a return to the club’s darkest days of recent seasons.

In the Fox League, Michael Ennis pointed out that the Tigers only ran 220 m in a full half. The entire team.

“It was an absolutely devilish second half for the Wests Tigers, who have now lost nine games in a row,” Ennis said.

“They were ahead at halftime,” added James Graham. “It’s really bad – it’s pretty shocking.”

“This will be one of their worst performances in a bad six or seven year period, especially in the second half.”

Graham said that despite some injuries, there can be no excuses for the Tigers.

“How much compassion can you give?” Graham asked. “Not even from people like us – the fans. How much compassion can they give their team?”

Yvonne Sampson replied: “When do you get empathy fatigue?”

“It’s just so far below average,” Ennis said.

Graham argued that this had put Marshall himself under additional scrutiny after he went on holiday to Fiji with his family during his team’s week off.

Marshall faced criticism after the Tigers lost eight games in a row before the off-season, but hit back during the week, revealing: “I preach to the players that family comes first and football comes second, so spend some time with your family this off-season. If that’s what I’m going to say and preach, that’s what I’m going to do.”

But Graham said it raises the question of whether it is a correlation or a causal link after their “worst performance of the season”.

Sampson concluded: “The work break could be the right way to go in the future.”

Although he was not asked about the in-season travel in the press conference, Marshall said the team came back “refreshed” but complained that he “says the same thing every week.”

He added that having only 20 percent possession in the second half and “making mistakes” was unacceptable and that he may have to make personnel changes.

“If the measures do not change, the players will have to change – that is unacceptable,” he said, adding that there was “no excuse”.

Addressing the fans, Marshall said: “I feel sorry for them to see that second-half capitulation. I really do, I feel sorry for them. And I can imagine how frustrating it must be to spend your hard-earned money on that, but at the same time, we are on the road to recovery.”

“Although tonight was terrible, there has definitely been improvement and we are on a path to building our future that we must maintain.”

Marshall said that despite the lack of wins, there has “definitely” been an improvement since the consecutive victories in rounds three and four, and said those victories have raised expectations.

But on Channel 9, NRL legend Paul Gallen said he didn’t think the Tigers were getting any better.

“I think when you’re that young you need to see players step up and play well,” Gallen said. “If you look at their older players, Olam pulled off a shock, Stefano (Utoikamanu) was relatively blind, Koroisau really stepped up but he’s a scrabbler so there’s not much you can do unless you’ve got strikers going forward, Alex Twal who is relatively blind – that’s pretty much all the older players they’ve got.

“The rest of the guys are young people who are just starting their careers. I’m worried about some of them. For me, they’re taking a step backwards.”

“When I look at players like Jahream Bula and Lachie Galvin, I wonder if they mind putting in the effort week in week out. Today they were obviously in good form and had some good moments in the first 15 minutes, they competed really well.

“When they can finish their sets, they give themselves a chance, but when they make mistakes, they just keep piling them up. It’s like they have no backup plan. When something goes wrong for them, it goes really wrong.”

ABC’s Michael Doyle added: “Six weeks ago I would have said the @WestsTigers would be a better team in 2024. After nine straight losses and that performance against the Dragons, I’m starting to think the Tigers may have taken a step backwards.”

While it was a nightmare for the Tigers, it was a brilliant result for the Dragons as they reached the 50-point mark at WIN Stadium for the first time since 2017.

And Lomax beat the club record for most points in a game by 10 points.

The previous record was held by Amos Roberts (2000), Jamie Soward (2007), Gareth Widdop (three times – 2015, 2017, 2018) and Lomax (2021) with just 22 points.

This result puts the Dragons in the top eight for now, but they could slip to twelfth place at the end of the round.

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