Almanac League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 3 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from the third round of the NRL which saw Melbourne and the Roosters finish the weekend as the only unbeaten sides (3-0) in the competition after wins over Brisbane and Penrith, respectively, and has been followed up by the first coach sacking of the season.

An injury-ravaged Gold Coast Titans (1-2) produced a great effort to defeat Parramatta 26-14 on Friday night at Robina. They failed to complete only two sets in the second period which was a marked improvement in their effort last weekend in Newcastle (when they had a 64% completion rate) and saw them finish with a completion rate of 81% (29/36.) Not afraid to spread the ball early in their sets once they were down 12-0 the Titans were rewarded for their enterprising play. Only the Dragons, 16-10 winners over defending champions Cronulla, produced a better completion rate 83% (29/35) for a winning side this weekend.

Veteran fullback Billy Slater returned as Melbourne (3-0) edged Brisbane 14-12 in the opening game of round three and topped the metres gained in the match for all 34 players in the contest. Despite only playing 52 minutes, Slater ran for 170 metres and was a threat on attack. It wasn’t all perfect as Slater made a few errors and Melbourne were actually held up very well by Brisbane’s strong defence. Craig Bellamy’s side had the bulk of possession with ten more sets (46 compared to 36) than Brisbane with the Broncos only getting their second tackle inside the Storm’s ‘red zone’ with less than ten minutes left in the match so they have plenty to improve despite an unbeaten start to the season.

Newcastle (1-2) were well in the game again on the weekend before ultimately falling 24-18 to Souths but coach Nathan Brown will need more impact from his bench after a poor display in the weekend from an attacking point of view. Newcastle’s poor completion rate (62%) didn’t help all of the Knights but two of the bench players, Sam Stone and Jacob Saifiti, each only made one attacking run – very limited contributions from 30 and 20 minute stints, respectively. Stone and Saifiti’s lack of impact was somewhat off-set by that of fellow interchange forward Jack Stockwell who made 100 metres from 10 runs.

Canberra (1-2) were one of the four teams to win for this first time this campaign as they romped home 46-6 against the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon. Last season Canberra scored an average of just under 29 points per game (688 points in 24 games) during the regular season but 2017 hadn’t started in te same vein with two losses and 16 points scored per game. A large part of their turnaround was the platform laid by their forwards. Kangaroos forward Josh Papalii who averaged only 81 metres across the first two games ramped it up running for 215 metres from 21 runs. Three other players Junior Paulo (100 metres, 10 runs), Iosia Soliola (103 metres, 12 runs), and Clay Priest (137 metres, 16 runs) topped 100 metres. However it should be noted they faced a Tigers side that collectively missed 25 tackles – not the worst on the weekend but a result which saw their coach Jason Taylor relieved of his duties on Monday..

Round three saw three interchange players not feature with outside back Kurt Mann (Dragons), middle forward Rory O’Brien (Eels), and utility Erin Clark (Warriors) not playing in their contests. Two of those sides (Eels and the Warriors) lost. Clark played only six minutes in round two when the Warriors were beaten by the Storm but it was the first occasion each of the three sides saw one of the interchange players take no part in the game so far this season.

This NRL review first appeared on From the sideline of sport

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his ‘spare time’ (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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