Koroisau kick gets Tigers’ unofficial Marshall era off to winning start

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About 40 minutes before kick-off, Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis held court during a pre-game function at CommBank Stadium.

Midway through his address in the stadium’s Chairman’s Lounge, the subject of Benji Marshall was broached.

“What you also see is a rookie coach possessed of great experience as a player who is adept at transitioning into one of the most successful coaches in the history of the game,” Hagipantelis told the gathering.

“Benji Marshall has never failed at anything that he has applied himself to in the game of rugby league and we can’t see him achieving anything different as a head coach.”

At the end of a dramatic week – is there any other type in Tigertown? – we had a taste of the Marshall effect. After 10 consecutive losses, the wooden spooners finally cracked it for a 24-23 victory over the Dolphins.

Apisai Koroisau, burdened not only with the Wests Tigers No.7 jersey but also the kicking duties, nailed a sideline penalty to steal the game. With his side trailing, the skipper regained possession with a clever, short restart and then nailed the clutch kick shortly thereafter.

The Tigers celebrate ending a 10-game losing streak.Credit: NRL Photos/Anthony Kourembanas

For dramatic effect, the winning kick hit the crossbar before bouncing over. Drought broken.

Ostensibly, this was Marshall’s first game in charge. The record books, however, won’t mark it down as his first win as a head coach; both the club and the league statistician David Middleton confirming the result will be added to the ledger of Tim Sheens.

This despite Marshall conducting the pre- and post-game interviews, as well as jotting down most of the X’s and O’s on the whiteboard during the week.

“It’s not about me, to be honest,” Marshall said.

Benji Marshall and Api Koroisau celebrate a job well done.Credit: NRL Photos/Anthony Kourembanas

“It was a crazy finish. To just see the boys get rewarded for effort after being amongst it this year with only three wins, we needed that.

“When you are fighting at the bottom of the table, it’s easy to go and just throw the ball around and have no cares.

“But we want to do it a little bit different; play a little bit tougher and try to complete high and play a style that, in the big moments, is gonna hold up.

“The last five or six weeks we’ve done that and today we got rewarded for that.”

Departing halfback Luke Brooks checks out what’s under the hood for the Benji Marshall era.Credit: NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous

This on a day when Koroisau shifted into the halfback position to cover for the departing Luke Brooks, at a ground that the Parramatta Eels call home. Just about everything is fluid at the joint venture outfit.

In another twist of fate, Marshall’s first game – albeit unofficially – in charge was against his mentor Wayne Bennett. On the eve of the game, Bennett urged the Tigers to stop “turning coaches over like they’re confetti” and stick with Marshall. Patience is a virtue displayed by their long-suffering fans, less so a trigger-happy board.

The Tigers, for the first time in forever, started the game as favourites. That was due as much to the injury status of the opposition as the type of football played by the Sheens-Marshall (or is it Marshall-Sheens?) side.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Tom Gilbert, Jeremy Marshall-King, Ken Bromwich, Brenko Lee, Ray Stone and Connelly Lemuelu were all unavailable. They could be without another next week after Sean O’Sullivan was cited for an alleged hip-drop tackle.

Debutant Trai Fuller could have been forgiven for thinking he had contributed to the Dolphins’ first-ever win in Sydney.Credit: Getty

Despite the absences, the underdogs showed plenty of cheek and will feel unlucky to finish without a Sydney win in their inaugural season.

Dolphins debutant Trai Fuller crossed for a late solo try and then the Tigers gave away a penalty – while in possession, no less – to level up the scores. Such moments are enough to drive a coach into premature retirement.

Then, seemingly, the dagger blow; Jamayne Isaako kicking a field goal with just over five minutes to go to break the deadlock.

Instead, Koroisau produced magic and the Marshall era, even if it hasn’t officially begun, got off to a winning start.

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