Cowboys 64 Wests Tigers 6
Professional sportsmen don’t need to open their mouths to get their coach sacked.
They just have to play like Wests Tigers did against North Queensland, slumping to one of the club’s worst ever losses and crashing out of finals contention into the bargain.
Despite a fortnight-long soap opera surrounding the support, or otherwise, that Michael Potter enjoys from the joint venture’s players, nothing fails like failure and Saturday night’s 64-6 defeat was one of the most dismal in the franchise’s entire history.
Wests Tigers were badly depleted with a slew of late changes and a heavy defeat would not have been the biggest surprise of the year, even if there had been no internal intrigue in recent times.
But anyone wanting to sack Potter – on the new or old Wests Tigers board – could not have asked for more ammunition than they got last night. The visitors let the kick-off go dead and didn’t really get a look-in.
Wests Tigers lost 64-0 to Melbourne at Docklands in 2001. The Cowboys’ biggest previous winning margin was 52 points.
Bodene Thompson, Pat Richards, Keith Galloway and Luke Brooks pulled out of a side that already lacks Braith Anasta, James Tedesco, David Noafaluma and Liam Fulton. But this was arguably the worst performance of any NRL team this year.
With nine minutes remaining in the first half, Wests Tigers were already halfway to their worst-ever loss at 32-0.
Centre Matthew Wright’s hat-trick inside the first 15 minutes was the fastest such feat in 12 years, since Parramatta’s David Vaealiki bagged three in the first 11 minutes against Penrith in 2002.
First, it was a quick spread to the right with the former Cronulla player making the extra man to cross in the corner after two minutes.
Then, winger Tautai Moga slipped him a pass that evaded the retreating Wests Tigers defence in the 12th minute.
And video referees Chris Ward and Luke Phillips confirmed Wright did not fumble as he caught Johnathan Thurston’s crossfield kick on the quarter-hour.
Things were looking grim for the joint venture side at 14-0. Things got worse.
Tariq Sims galloped over after lead-up from Robert Lui and Michael Morgan as the contest reached it’s quarter-way mark, with captain Thurston making it 20-0.
And second rower Jason Taumalolo stepped like Benji Marshall after being catapulted into the clear at 27 minutes, beating three defenders on the way to the line.
Thankfully, the procession came to a halt after Antonio Winterstein snuck over in the corner at 31 minutes and Johnathan Thurston goaled from the sideline.
One social media wag pointed out that the luckiest Tiger was centre Keith Lulia at this point. He was off with concussion and may have little recollection of the match.
Winterstein resumed normal service by crossing two minutes into the second half, before Michael Morgan flashed over off Thurston’s pass.
When Wests Tigers finally managed to score, the touchdown probably shouldn’t have been given. Prop Aaron Woods enjoyed the benefit of a pretty clear obstruction to crash over between the uprights.
Tautain Moga crashed over afer a Wests Tigers fumble and the rout continues. Not long afterwards, it was Kane Linnett’s turn, with Thurston’s conversion shaving the left upright.
When Curtis Sironen fumbled an Adam Blair pass on his own line five metres from his own line, North Queensland replacement Sam Hoare picked it up and dashed over.
With two minutes left, Moga got his second try. Thurston unsuccessfully attempted a left-foot conversion.