Almanac Rugby League – Don’t panic

I’m not a betting man, but if I was I’d say my game would be omen betting.

As tactics go, it’s probably questionable at best, but given my lack of allegiances as I settled in to watch the Tigers take on the Warriors on Friday night I had absolutely nothing else to go on.

I don’t really do ‘form’, for if I did it would have been Tigers, Tigers, Tigers for mine. Surely the Warriors couldn’t recover from the previous weekend’s capitulation and, in any case, the Tiges have been hot-to-trot for a number of weeks.

All logical indications were that this one would go the way of the joint venture as their audacious flag tilt gathered steam.

But there I sat, naive and with no idea, waiting for a bolt from the blue to persuade me one way or t’other.

Luckily it didn’t take long.

Rather than being a visual clue, my omen came courtesy of the doyen of league commentary – Ray Warren.

Within minutes of the opening he called the Warriors’ skipper “Captain Mannering”. For me, that was a deal done.

The spelling may have been different, but the name sounded the same. Something nostalgic stirred within and happy memories of those brave boys of the Walmington-on-Sea home guard in Dad’s Army came flooding back.

Don’t panic, I thought. The Warriors will find a way to get the job done tonight.

In continuing the trend of laying gratuitous faith in omens, the next couple weren’t great given my newfound affection for the boys from across the Tasman.

The Tigers broke the Warriors right-side defence at the first attempt and played faultless football out of the blocks.

Tim Sheens, the veteran general, was calling the shots from the sideline while Warriors’ coach Ivan Cleary sat on high in the grandstand, seemingly removed from the trench warfare being played out at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Benji Marshall was taking some glee from turning the big Warriors backs around with pinpoint kicking and all the while pressure was beginning to build on the underdogs.

And then, when the pressure became too great, Wests prop Keith Galloway bulldozed his way over from short range, scoring his try like props should – by running straight and hard at a smaller man and touching down in an entirely ungraceful manner.

Moments later it was Marshall who took advantage of a retreating and disorganised Warriors line to extend his side’s lead to 10 points. With the conversion it was 12-0 after 22 minutes.

But I could still hear a voice in the back of my head, saying in a calm but comedic voice: “Don’t panic.”

Penalties were mounting against the Warriors and the Tigers were yet to make an error. But their first was deadly.

Warriors fullback Kevin Locke raced into dummy-half a tackle or two after the turnover, split five Tigers forwards who were still lumbering back to defend and passed blind to the call of James Maloney who juggled, gathered and scooted over untouched.

Maloney converted his own try to halve the deficit and breathe life into the contest. Things were beginning to look better.

With the first half entering its final phase, the Tigers could still sniff a kill and they played cavalier football in the search of more points.

While Marshall continued to conduct his orchestra, Krisnan Inu played some crash and bash percussion, making a telling break just by being too big and too strong. What Inu showed was just how dangerous the Warriors can be with ball in hand. Man-on-man defence won’t always be good enough.

Then, though, the Warriors coughed up another six soft points.

A rudely bearded Robbie Farrah took the ball from dummy half to simply finish a length-of-field movement from the Tigers and again show the football world that even a momentary lapse in ruck defence can be deadly.

No soldier should be caught sleeping on picket duty. And if you are, it’s at your peril. Just ask Sam Rapira.

Again, though: “Don’t panic.”

After all of 46 minutes play, the Warriors were awarded their first penalty, courtesy of a careless effort from Gareth Ellis. A stripped ball three tackles later was their second.

Were these the first chinks in the Wests armour?

Well, yes, if only given the immediate result of the piggy-back downfield was a Warriors try.

The visitors worked a packed shortside, beat the compressed defence with sleight of hand and a beautifully delayed pass to the straight running replacement Feleti Mateo who left Robert Lui flapping.

Knowing now that the two drop goals he missed in the dying minutes of the first half may have been very helpful in the wash-up, Marshall had no hesitation in stepping up to a 52nd minute penalty goal when given the order by Farrah.

His kick put the Tigers out by eight points with 24 minutes to play, but the Warriors were far from fallen soldiers at this point.

“Don’t panic.”

Running hard down the centre of the field, the Warriors began to string sets together for the first time all night.

They forced another penalty from a tiring Tigers outfit and this time took full toll.

As the home defenders struggled to get back to their goal line in good time, they were caught out by Lance Hohaia whose converted dart from dummy-half was incredibly similar to Farrah’s first half effort. 20-18 to the Tigers.

But now it was Warriors’ halfback Shaun Johnson putting the probing balls behind the Tigers defence as the underdogs looked more and more likely to sneak in for a game-breaking – and no-doubt thoroughly heart-breaking for Wests fans – try.

And so it was when Johnson bombed for Tuqiri’s corner, giving Inu the chance to fly. He eventually took the ball at ground level, stretched for the line, came up short, stretched again and finally got there.

Or did he?

“Don’t panic!”

A wriggle here, a stretch there… a couple of Tigers players flapping, but more importantly, not tackling.


It was a comeback to reverse the Round 14 result in Auckland and an outcome to send Warriors fans into raptures.

Maloney missed the conversion, but Inu regathered the Tigers’ short kickoff and the Warriors had a minute or so to negotiate.

“Don’t panic.”

The 20-22 scoreline lasted to the bell, sparking rapturous scenes both on field and in the Kiwi corner of the SFS.

There was a quiet fist-pump or two from yours truly and a feeling of absolute faith in omen betting.

But bookies of the world, don’t panic.

I’m far less likely to clean you out on the back of my ‘omens only’ mantra than the Warriors are of upsetting the Melbourne Storm next weekend.

But give me a long enough price and a suitable sign and I might just give it a go.


  1. As another neutral viewer, it didn’t take long for Ray Warren, Phil Gould and co to influence my choice, either, Stu. But for me it was their fawning support for Benji and Galloway that turned me off. The Tigers did play well early, but it’s an 80 minute game; Galloway did look good, but cast your mind back to Origin III and get him in perspective. My feeling was that the gods of football would even up the ledger over the season and that the Tigers were due for a few calls against them. Inu’s try may have been the classic square-up had it occurred at any point during the game, but coming when it did, it was the ultimate piece of karma for the Tigers. And full credit to Captain Mannering and his team for their grit and guts after last week’s drubbing in Brisbane.

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