Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 17, 2017



Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 17 of the NRL. After a game in South Australia last weekend Perth hosted a fixture as the Sea Eagles beat the Warriors to move onto 24 points and a share for second (but third on points difference) and the Storm extended their lead by four points after their 13th triumph of the season. The sides for game three of Origin were announced on Monday with the series-decider match on July 12 in Brisbane.


After guiding his side to a 26-22 victory on Saturday in Perth Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans looked like he had done enough to gain a call up for Queensland to replace injured talisman Johnathan Thurston however Monday afternoon came and that wasn’t the case with recently dumped Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt getting the vacant halves spot. Cherry-Evans has nine more try assists to his credit this season (15 – enough to top that count in the NRL with Warrior Shaun Johnson) compared to Hunt (six) whilst they have both crossed the line for two tries. However Hunt has played five less games (10) due to injury and selection so it brings the average of try assists back in Hunt’s favour – although still behind Cherry-Evans. The presence of two of Hunt’s Brisbane teammates (plus forward Jarrod Wallace who was a Bronco last season) may have swayed the selection choice in his favour given there are no Manly players in the Maroons but Brisbane has won only three times when Hunt started at halfback this season (as expanded upon by Nick Tedeschi in the Guardian.)


New South Wales appear to have a few injury issues with a new rib injury for Dragons forward Tyson Frizell reportedly the worst. Frizell’s Dragons’ teammate Jack De Belin has been called in as cover and the Country Origin representative is also covering in case skipper Body Cordner is ruled out. De Belin is a good outlet for second phase play with 31 offloads this season (compared to Frizell 17 and Cordner four) so if New South Wales do get behind he could be a key player in feeding attacking opportunities for support player. De Belin has also made 45 tackle breaks to Frizell’s 36 and Cordner’s 34 this season.


Queensland interchange player for the first two games on the Origin series Michael Morgan (who is versatile enough to play in the halves, off the bench or in the centres in game three of Origin) helped guide the Cowboys to another victory on the weekend in the absence of Thurston as he crossed twice in the second half in Canberra as North Queensland beat the Raiders 31-18 to end the weekend in sixth spot. After supplying the kick that saw Kyle Feldt score in round 16 as the Cowboys beat the Panthers 14-12 Morgan picked up his fourth try assist in two games as the home side was humbled in the ACT.


A flawless first half possession-wise with 20 from 20 completions helped lay the platform for Cronulla as they dispatched the Roosters 44-12 in Gosford on Saturday. Despite only leading 20-12 at the interval Sosaia Feki’s try three minutes from the break was the first of five unanswered four-pointers as Shane Flanagan’s side won for the 11th time this season. Having to defend for nine more sets compared to the Sharks in the first half after they made six errors to the Sharks nil Trent Robinson’s side were not only weary in attack but couldn’t gain much in the second half with Cronulla making 1177 metres in the second half to the Roosters 905 metres.


Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary took an interesting approach to engaging his new charges on the weekend sitting on the sideline during the contest in Newcastle on Sunday as the visitors ran out 33-12 victors. Similar to Raiders coach Ricky Stuart who has adopted that spot during games in recent seasons Cleary was on the sidelines and also took the chance to address interchange players such as skipper Aaron Woods before he went back on for his second stint in the forwards. The victory was only the Tigers’ fourth for the season and it was against the lowly Knights but it’s interesting to see Cleary taking a different, and direct, approach to addressing players during compared to the majority of NRL coaches. I wonder if the trend will continue as mid-season recruits including Tuimoala Lolohea and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak continue to learn with their teammates across the last nine weeks of the regular season in the hope of a better campaign after a full pre-season with Cleary at the helm in 2018.


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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