Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary insists his side are capable of playing September football — provided they can continue their giant-killing run over the final six games of the season.
Less than a week after knocking St George Illawarra off top spot, the Tigers stayed within touch of the top eight with an impressive 22-6 win over new ladder leaders South Sydney on Saturday. They victory lifted the Tigers to ninth spot on 20 points, four points adrift of eighth-placed Warriors. Cleary believes his team have now found the form that could challenge in the finals.
“Absolutely. The challenge for us is to improve on that next week,” Cleary said. “Finals are a long way away. We’re not worrying too much about that. We’re worrying about preparing for the Bulldogs next week.”
Veteran Robbie Farah, who celebrated his 250th game for the club with a win, said the challenge was to maintain their form against teams below them on the ladder.
Over their final six fixtures, the Tigers meet the Bulldogs (A), Newcastle (A), Canberra (A), Dragons (H), Manly (H) and the Rabbitohs again (A).
“We’ve just beaten the Dragons and Bunnies. It doesn’t get any bigger than that at the moment, the two best teams in the competition,” Farah said. “The challenge for us to go into games over the next couple of weeks I dare say we’re expected to win, but they’re the ones that you’ve got to be up for.
“It’s easy to get up for the games against the top teams in the competition, and now we’ve just got to build on what we’ve done in the last two weeks and keep that momentum rolling.”
Meanwhile, South Sydney captain Sam Burgess has been cleared by the NRL match review committee for his shot on Farah, escaping what would have been his third suspension of the season.
Burgess was put on report for a tackle that laid out former teammate Farah on Saturday at ANZ Stadium. However, the match review committee declined to charge Burgess, freeing him for Saturday’s clash with last-placed Parramatta.
Burgess was penalised after he collected Farah around the shoulders midway through the first half of what was the Bunnies’ first loss in 10 matches. The Tigers dummy-half stayed down for several moments, prompting Burgess to volley a string of expletives at his former teammate.
The Englishman later declined to comment. Farah came out in support of Burgess, saying the incident didn’t warrant a suspension.
However, the rejuvenated No 9 denied claims he stayed down in an attempt to milk a penalty.
“That was when Sam hit me in the first half,” Farah said referring to his cut lip. “He was carrying on like he didn’t get me, when I was laying down. But he got me on the mouth. I thought he knocked out a couple of teeth there, but it’s all good.”
Burgess missed four games in the space of five weeks earlier in the season after being suspended for two weeks for an elbow lift on Josh Morris and another two for a careless high tackle on Aidan Sezer.