Almanac Rugby League: Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 16, 2017



Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from Round 16 of the NRL. Adelaide hosted the Roosters and Melbourne with the Moore Park-based outfit edging home in golden point 25-24 whilst on Sunday Manly beat Cronulla 35-18 to leapfrog the Sharks into fourth on points difference. There were seven games with Souths and Parramatta on the bye.


Brisbane’s tenth win of the season saw them finish round 16 in third after they beat the Raiders 30-20 on Saturday night in Canberra. 2018 Dragons halfback Ben Hunt was crucial to the victory when he entered the game in the first half in place of Kodi Nikorima and combined with veteran pivot Benji Marshall. After Marshall laid on two tries in the first stanza which saw Brisbane trailing 16-14 entering the break Hunt clicked into gear in the second 40 minutes with two tries assists of his own. However it was an astute kicking game that was critical as Brisbane held onto their lead once Matt Gillett scored with 30 minutes to go. Hunt managed to force four dropouts in the second half which saw the Raiders have to defend an extra five sets, tiring them out as they attempted to regain the lead before eventually falling to their ninth defeat of the campaign – already three more than they lost in the regular season last year.


South Australia’s Saturday night game might have been a defeat for Melbourne but it continued to be the coming of age for Felisa Kaufusi. The Tongan international has made the right edge spot his own since Kevin Proctor’s departure to the Gold Coast in the off-season. Kaufusi, who has scored seven tries this season, ran for 161 metres (the most of any Storm forward on Saturday night) and held the ball up well for Brodie Croft who raced away to score 12 minutes before the break. Despite the defeat Melbourne have further evidence their right edge spot has a solid, if not better, contributor in the coming seasons.


Much has, rightly, been made of the effort of the Storm in Adelaide on Saturday night. Shorn of their three mostly influential players they almost held out the Roosters only to be denied by the ‘home’ side after a late flurry which was capped by Mitchell Pearce’s one-pointer. Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy sent out an inexperienced outfit with an average age of 24 years and two days with only 853 games between them but as statistician David Middleton noted on Twitter they weren’t the least experienced side this weekend. The Newcastle Knights named side averaged 23 years and 235 days with a total of 695 games between them (this would have dropped further with Josh King starting in place of Josh Starling.) The challenge facing the Knights most weekends is highlighted by such a comparison. Jarrod Mullen’s drugs ban and Trent Hodkinson’s continued exclusion from playing first grade due to form reasons has had a huge impact in this regard. After a stunning first half which saw them lead 28-10 Nathan Brown’s side conceded 22 unanswered points as the Dragons moved into sixth place.


A disciplined Warriors effort has pushed them up to ninth on the ladder as they beat the Bulldogs 21-14 despite the absence of Bulldogs-bound 5/8 Kieran Foran on Friday. The Warriors conceded an early penalty goal but after Ken Maumalo scored in the 16th minute Stephen Kearney’s side never relinquished the lead. Now with seven wins this season the Auckland-based outfit seem to be adjusting to the conservative game plan of the former Eels mentor. Heading into the weekend the Warriors had produced 41 fewer offloads compared to last season. This had them with the third lowest of all sides in the competition (Only Newcastle and the Cowboys have less.) This is part of an overall trend in the competition this season as noted by Roy Masters with 59 less offloads overall this season to date compared to 2016. When and where sides offload is important as related to the statistic but it shows the Warriors are not the side they are often perceived to be in regards to offloads.


It might come back to haunt them but the decision by the Gold Coast Titans to use their bench sparingly on Friday night when they beat the Tigers 26-14 in Campbelltown was surprising. Despite Neil Henry wanting to get Nathan Peats, who played in the second game of the Origin series two nights earlier, off the rake played the full 80 minutes. This meant bench hooker Pat Politoni went un-used. Bench back John Olive played 15 minutes replacing Anthony Don but Max King’s 54 minutes was the least time on the field for any starting player – a high number with many sides using props for only 40/45 minutes in total during a game. 26-8 leaders until the Tigers crossed late in the contest it’s a surprise Henry wasn’t more keen to spread the load among his players. Especially considering three Peats, Jarrod Wallace and Jarryd Hayne were both coming off Origin and expected to feature in game three. The Titans host the Dragons on Friday night in Round 17.


This NRL 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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