Almanac League – NRL Round 1: Five Metre Gap

@hamishneal

 

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points, you may have missed from the opening round of the NRL which saw Brisbane beat defending premiers Cronulla and North Queensland edge Canberra in the first golden point match of 2017.

 

Jordan Kahu’s two tries, as the Brisbane outside back opened the scoring for the competition for the second season running, was one of the interesting statistics out of Brisbane’s 26-18 victory over the Sharks. However, what he did after those tries may prove more significant this season. Kahu notched four from four attempts at goal and looks bedded in as the primary goal-kicker after splitting most of the kicking duties with Corey Parker before Parker retired last season. Only six times in 26 NRL games last season did Brisbane go 100% in their attempts at goal in an entire game. One of those, interestingly was their extra-time semi-final defeat at the hands of the Cowboys when Kahu went 4/4 – the same as Thursday night. Kahu kicked at 79% last season which was up from 69% in 2015. With Parker, who knocked them over at only 65% last year the switch to Kahu full time as Brisbane’s goal kicker in 2017 could make a difference in a close competition.

 

Manly recruit Blake Green was targeted by the Eels attack on Sunday as Parramatta secured a 20-12 victory to open their campaign. Green was left lamenting a poor attempted tackle effort as Clint Gutherson crossed early in the second stanza to give the Eels an 18-6 lead. Green is still learning the combinations with his new teammates but the Eels attacking pattern as something other sides will no doubt have picked up on. Interestingly his halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans wasn’t missed having to make 30 tackles (and missing two) compared to Green’s 17 tackles. It wasn’t all bad for Manly, they finished 2016 conceding an average of 34.5 points per game in their last four fixtures in a season they conceded just under 24 points a game. 20 is an improvement on that but it’s only one game.

 

Two winning sides from the weekend (Melbourne and the Roosters) took an interesting approach focusing on using their forward interchange players and not playing one of the bench players at all. Liverwire utility, and star of the Auckland Nine tournament, Connor Watson went unused for the Roosters as they routed the Titans 32-18 on the Gold Coast. The Storm had outside back Young Tonumaipea, who was in line to start at fullback, go without seeing any action as the Victorian outfit won 12-6 over the Bulldogs.

 

Speaking of interchange players, afore-mentioned Melbourne’s approach was even more interesting given they lost a player early in the game. Coach Craig Bellamy will likely elevate one of their forward trio from the bench on Friday night to replace Jesse Bromwich who dislocated his thumb on Friday night at Belmore. Christian Welch ended up playing the most time in Bromwich’s absence with 47 minutes on the park for 32 tackles and seven runs. Tim Glasby, who like Welch played off the bench in last year’s grand final, in a 40-minute effort made nine runs and 31 tackles. The final bench forward, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, for his 30 minutes made 16 tackles for 6 runs. Glasby’s 78 metres gained (the most of the trio) might have him in the box seat to start against the Warriors in Auckland.

 

Three winners from the weekend (the Broncos, Cowboys and Dragons) all reached the ‘thirty-set standard’ or TSS as they prevailed beating Cronulla, the Raiders and Penrith respectively. TSS is the common standard used for sides that complete 30 sets of tackles (no matter they completion rate) generally considered as what is needed to win a game. Of the triumphant trio Wayne Bennett’s Broncos completed at the best rate 79% with 31/39. Defeated by the Tigers on Friday night, South Sydney actually completed the best of any side on the weekend at 84% (27/32) but aside from Bryson Goodwin’s hat-trick and a four-pointer to the hobbled Greg Inglis their attack was ineffectual.

 

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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