Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 18, 2017

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 19 of the NRL. It was the final bye-affected round with four teams (Canterbury, Melbourne, Parramatta, and Sydney) getting the two points from the week off. The Sea Eagles (third), Broncos (fourth) and Cowboys (sixth) all moved to 26 points with wins as reigning premiers Cronulla, fifth and also on 26 points, were beaten by the Titans.


Tenth-placed Canberra picked up their seventh win of the season as they edged home 18-14 over the St George Illawarra Dragons on Friday night and it was a tale of two kicking games. The Raiders got the scoring underway early via Nic Cotric inside six minutes but they didn’t score again until the 58thminute via Aidan Sezer. Trailing 12-6, Sezer dotted down for his second try of 2017 and the Raiders levelled up. Sezer and Austin had a poor start to the game each kicking some balls dead and giving the visitors the advantage of a seven-tackle set in on those occasions. However it was Sezer’s late 40/20 kick in golden point which set up the field position for Ricky Stuart’s side before Elliott Whitehead scored the winning try. Sezer hadn’t even kicked a 40/20 last season and only has one for 2017 so it was a surprise but an improved kicking game made a big difference and is a positive ahead of Melbourne’s trip to the capital on Saturday.


Sixth-placed North Queensland won 23-10 in Cairns on Sunday over South Sydney and former Raider Shaun Fensom produced a strong effort off the bench. Playing 46 minutes Fensom ran for 143 metres from 14 runs plus made 23 tackles. From Saturday Another impressive bench effort, this time playing 31 minutes came from Titan Agnatius Paasi who ran for 139 metres from 14 runs which was a great effort considering the conditions that game was played in at Robina as the home side won 30-10.


It was a much needed win for the Gold Coast which saw them move to 12th on 18 points (four points outside the top eight) and on the back of an impressive 85% completion rate prevailed over Cronulla in the atrocious conditions on Saturday. Halfback Ash Taylor scored two tries, laid on two others and guided his side with a solid kicking game. Taylor, 22, is another Queensland-eligible player and after the game three triumph in Origin on Wednesday it’s heartening for Maroons fans that if their current top three options at halfback go down for next year the Titans’ play-maker would do a tremendous job.


For New South Wales halves options are limited looking towards 2018 and particularly at ‘7’ with Mitchell Pearce (now 0-5 in game three deciders) expected to retain the role but calls for Penrith’s Nathan Cleary have gained momentum. Cleary himself plus former NSW Origin boss Phi Gould, now the Panthers General Manager of Football, have said the 19-year-old isn’t ready for that level of the game. However Cleary, again showing calm beyond his years, helped steer Penrith to a 34-22 win over New Zealand in Auckland. With Matt Moylan a late withdrawal on Friday Cleary noted afterwards he took an active role to guide debutant Tyrone May in the come-from-behind triumph. Cleary is about 17 months older than May and if the young half can already see what needs to be done for a new player who is older than him that is a level of maturity which will serve him well in Origin, and he should be the NSW 7 if he is the form halfback in 10 months time.


Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea co-host the Rugby League World Cup which kicks off on October 27 in Melbourne when the Kangaroos play England with the women’s tournament (to be played solely in Sydney bar the final in Brisbane) starting on November 16, However before the main tournaments this weekend saw the Festival of World Cups played in western Sydney. Australian won their sixth Universities men’s title after a 30-12 victory over the Pacific Universities team in Penrith. The effort to get to the final for the beaten PI side is all the more impressive as the team, coached by former Panthers player and international Tony Puletua, only came into the tournament when New Zealand had to withdraw. Also at Pepper Stadium on Sunday Fiji emerged victors in the Defence Forces final winning 44-12 over Australia after leading 22-6 at the interval. On Friday Australia beat New Zealand in the women’s Defence Forces final 16-12.


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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