Almanac League: Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 17 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the seventeenth round of the NRL. Cronulla sit alone atop the ladder having won twelve on the spin whilst the other top four sides (the Storm, Cowboys and Bulldogs) were all victorious.

New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has finally selected Tigers fullback, James Tedesco, as the Blues attempt to somewhat redeem themselves in Origin III having already lost the series to Queensland. Tedesco’s abilities were on show again on Saturday night as Wests beat the Panthers 34-26. It was a rare occasion in that he didn’t score a four-pointer himself but he had two try assists and two line breaks as the Tigers rallied from an early 14-2 deficit. Tedesco’s skills were displayed by a try that won’t feature in any of his statistics. Forward Ava Seumanufagai’s 32nd minute four-pointer came with halfback Luke Brooks finding Chris Lawrence with Tedesco ghosting behind Lawrence and drawing the focus of defenders 35 metres or so from the line. Lawrence ran from the left to the right on an angle to receive the ball before finding Seumanufagai in support. Tedesco was backing up but the Wellington-born middle forward was home for the try line himself. A good result for those, including this column, which lobbied for his inclusion.

On a weekend of comebacks Canberra rallying back from 22-0 down to log their ninth win of the term was as gripping as they come. Kiwi-born flyer Jordan Rapana displayed a great lesson in always looking for that try opportunity even if it’s remote. With the sides locked at 25-all, after they traded late field goals in regulation time, Rapana was motoring through on Blake Austin’s failed field goal attempt. The right winger dotted down as the kick was skewed which resulted in the Cook Islands international scoring for Canberra to secure a 29-25 win in golden point extra-time.

Whilst the finish was dramatic in the Canberra suburb of Bruce, Nathan Brown’s tactical tweak with a player who was recently a winger for Australia did come as a surprise. Sione Mata’utia, a part of Australia’s 2014 Four Nations campaign, spent a large chunk of Sunday playing in the back-row. Mata’utia, 20, made 147 metres from 15 runs and 28 tackles. By way of comparison fellow back-rower (and former Raider) Mitchell Barnett made 136 metres from 18 runs plus 29 tackles. Former Dragons mentor Brown really is working on a range of aspects to try to improve the Knights and it will be interesting to see how permanent this move becomes but Brown’s post-match comments indicate the switch is here to stay.

Two international forwards logged over 200 metres for their club this weekend and one Origin player also broke through the mark. A part of the beaten Roosters outfit Sio Siua Taukeiaho ran for 207 metres from 18 runs, also making 27 tackles, as the Bulldogs won 24-20. Captain of the winning Sharks team from Saturday Paul Gallen’s 224 metres came from 26 runs to go with his 32 tackles as Cronulla beat the Eels 34-24. To round out the weekend former NSW Origin utility Jamie Buhrer ran for 216 metres from 10 runs to go with 37 tackles. The 216 metres are made up in a large part from his lung-busting run as he scored the sixth of Manly’s seven tries in their 36-6 triumph over the Dragons breaking through the St George Illawarra line from inside his own half.

Whilst he put in a gallant performance as his team won their 12th straight game an apparent open and shut case of, at minimum, reckless conduct by Sharks skipper Paul Gallen should see him missing his Origin swansong. As picked up by Adam Mobbs of the Daily Telegraph Gallen irresponsibly grabbed grabbed an opposing Eels player around his shoulders and, off the ball, threw him down to the ground. Having a duty of care to your fellow professional and given the danger concussion and head/neck injuries Gallen appears to have a case to answer with the NRL judiciary but has not been charged. Gallen’s teammate, James Maloney, is a member of the Rugby League Players Association board and one wonders what sort of conversation Maloney had with the New South Wales captain after the game. Another puzzling aspect was that the player Gallen threw down, Isaac De Gois, used to play with him at the Sharks. Assuming there is no animosity between the two from when they were colleagues one would think perhaps something earlier in the game spurred Gallen to do what he did. Even if that was the case the Australian forward should have been sanctioned harshly.

This review first appeared on From the sideline of sport

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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.

Comments

  1. Stone Cold Steve Baker says:

    As always, a great wrap of League action, thanks Hammer!

    I saw the incident of Gallen pulling DeGois down. Neither the NRL or the Players Association have the stones to deal with the outcry that would ensue if Gallen was suspended from his Origin swan song by copping his right whack. Ever the cynic, I have no doubt that if it was Sam Burgess, Shaun Kenny-Dowell or Russell Packer, the judiciary would be all over it like stink on the proverbial.

    I still reckon the fix was in at Suncorp. How does a team that lets in four unanswered second-half tries to the Tigers come out and do that the Broncos on their own dunghill? Astounding work from the Storm

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