Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 15, 2017


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 15 of the NRL. With half the teams on the bye the four fixtures on the weekend were won by South Sydney, Melbourne, Cronulla and Parramatta. The Rabbitohs won by 16 points with the Storm getting home by a point, the Sharks by two and the Eels triumphed by 14.

It was an intriguing evening on Saturday for back-up hookers as first Melbourne and then Cronulla got home in tight contests with a major influence from their replacement rakes. Firstly in the Victorian capital Slade Griffin started at nine for the Storm with Cameron Smith away on Origin duty and he provided the crisp pass, despite interference at the ruck, which gave Brodie Croft time and space to knock over the winning field goal. Griffin rotated with Brandon Smith, who scored a try in the match, but the more experienced Griffin was (significantly) sent back onto the field during the golden-point period after he passed a Head Injury Assessment. Storm mentor Craig Bellamy no doubt wanted Griffin’s experience with the Glen Innes-born player having first played top grade in 2013 compared to Junior Kiwi representative Smith, 21, who only debuted in the top grade this season. It worked and the Storm prevailed 23-22 over the Cowboys.

Daniel Mortimer’s career as a Sharks player (he joined from the Titans in the off-season) has seen him play more at Henson Park compared to Shark Park but the former Eel was crucial when he entered the fray with 32 minutes to go on Saturday night for Cronulla with the home side 16-4 down. Rookie hooker Jayden Brailey was partially at fault when his opposite Jacob Liddle darted over early in the second period. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was ropeable and Mortimer was on the field within moments. Brailey played nearly the whole game last weekend against Melbourne. Whilst it was a change to see Mortimer feature in the second half, and  it may have been pre-planned, it perhaps wasn’t going to be as soon as it did. Mortimer’s first key attack helped to set-up the first of four second half tries before his kick in behind the Tigers defence saw Jason Bukuya score two minutes from time as the Premiers overhauled Ivan Cleary’s team 24-22.

South Sydney rode their luck to stay in the game on Friday night as they completed only nine sets in the first half of their 36-20 win over the Gold Coast and were down 14-0 after 19 minutes. Michael Maguire’s side turned things around to complete 16 sets in the second stanza which saw them notch five tries and keep the Titans scoreless after they were 20-10 down at the interval. Souths’ defence is still problematic so they have done well to keep a side out for 40 minutes and may have something to build on. Round 10 in the ‘Robbie Farah revenge game’ when they won 28-8 over the Tigers is the only occasion this season Souths have held an opposing side to under double figures.

Dragons centre Tim Lafai has had a terrific season to date for St George Illawarra notching up five tries but the Samoan international had a day to forget as Parramatta ran out winners at ANZ Stadium on Sunday. Despite four tackle busts and a line break Lafai made five errors as Paul McGregor’s side missed a chance to move into fourth spot. Lafai’s five tries are already two more than last season for the 26-year-old, so he will he hoping to turn things around against the Knights next Sunday.

With Origin two on Wednesday night seeing Queensland needing a win to square the series, the Maroons ‘shock’ selection of Tim Glasby perhaps shouldn’t have been seen as that. This column is about giving you some insight into the play, and from @league_analyst on it was Twitter which noted that Glasby is fifth in the NRL overall in ‘On-field plus minus per 80 minutes’. This figure measures points margin for each minute on the park and is then averaged out over 80 minutes. Glasby is second in his club side the Melbourne Storm for that stat and the veteran of three finals campaigns will have had Queensland skipper Cameron Smith, in particular, in his corner given Glasby’s effective role as a middle forward for the Victorian side. The Storm go well when Glasby is on the field which is what matters to his Storm, and Queensland, teammates. It is worth noting ‘on-field plus minus’ is perhaps not as significant compared to a sport like basketball where a team only has five players on the court at any one time compared to 13 in rugby league – but if teams are tracking the figure they are doing so for a reason.

This rugby league wrap 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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