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 18 of the NRL. With Origin game three to be played on July 12 there were only four games. The Roosters (third) and Parramatta (eighth) cemented spots in the top eight with wins, plus we take a look at an historic rugby league fixture played in Canada.


An uncharacteristic seven second half errors cruelled the Storm’s chance of a comeback at home on Saturday as they fell 22-6 to the Eels. Jahrome Hughes scored the only try for Craig Bellamy’s side four minutes before the break so they were some hope of mounting a comeback only 16-6 down at the interval but their mistakes coupled with the Eels 18/19 completions meant the visitors from Sydney did a favour for the sides near the top with the Storm only on top by two points on 28, although Melbourne will get a further two after their bye in round 19.


The Roosters benefitted from the Eel’s triumph after they themselves won 14-12 on Friday evening. With their Origin players missing, including halfback Mitchell Pearce, the Tricolours got home thanks in part to the addition of Mitch Cornish who was elevated from the bench at the expense of Connor Watson. Cornish (who played 15 NRL games for his former side the Raiders across two seasons) provided a more than adequate kicking game including on attack and played with a fluidity which belied his inexperienced partnership with Luke Keary.


A superb effort of the bench from Tongan international Leilani Latu was a key element to Penrith’s 16-8 victory over Manly on Saturday. Latu made 136 metres from his 42 minutes on the field and this was only bettered in the Panthers pack by Australian forward Trent Merrin who ran for 154 metres, but Merrin played 63 minutes. Latu’s 86 metres in the second half was bettered by only Manly’s Shaun Lane (104 metres.) Latu also made 20 tackles, wasn’t penalised and didn’t make any errors. The Penrith win did come after Manly had played in the wet in Perth last weekend so the triumph should be treated with caution as a predictor to their top eight hopes with Anthony Griffin’s side sitting in ninth, but four points behind the Eels who get two points from the bye this weekend.


Origin-winning halfback Trent Hodkinson went missing late at Belmore on Sunday as the Knights blew an 18-8 lead to see Canterbury edge home 20-18. Hodkinson, who helped steer New South Wales to a 2-1 series triumph in 2014, twice bottled chances to take control of the game and fellow half Brock Lamb bore the brunt of the decision. 18-gamer Lamb ended up kicking the ball in the 79th minute only to see it charged down by Moses Mbye who raced away to score before Kerrod Holland’s conversion gave the home side the lead. With eight seconds to go the short kick-off landed the Knights a penalty when departing Bulldog Josh Reynolds was penalised. Then Lamb, 20, and not Hodkinson (a veteran of seven years in the NRL) took the shot at goal. Lamb has actually kicked well this season (23/27) up until the kick he shanked which would have sent the game into extra-time. It would be surprising if Knights coach Nathan Brown retained Hodkinson for the Knights next game, and it would not be surprising if Brown found a way to get Hodkinson off the books for next season.


Away from Australia and New Zealand’s professional competition and at a time when the NRL and those who cover it are, generally, falling over themselves about which clubs to axe, move, rebirth an historical fixture took place at Lamport Stadium in Toronto on Saturday. The home side Toronto Wolfpack, in their debut season of semi-pro rugby league, sealed their 14th win of the National League One (two tiers below the Superleague) campaign beating the Cheltenham-based University of Gloucestershire All Golds 62-10. The ‘Pack (who were birthed in the off-season by Canadian entrepreneur Eriz Perez) stayed unbeaten against the outfit supported by the University of Gloucestershire who themselves only came into existence in 2013. Gloucestershire, in England’s south-west, is not a rugby league stronghold but the All Golds have a great tie to the game’s history as they are named after the touring New Zealand side from 1908 who beat the Northern Union 8-5 at the Athletic Ground in Cheltenham in ‘the great match of the Edwardian period’ to claim the first ever international rugby league series. The All Golds have done extraordinarily well in four years in helping expand pathways for the players in that part of England and further develop the game in the university system. A fixture not imagined four years ago was won in front of 7,139 fans in a new market whilst those that ‘love rugby league’ (read love the NRL) continue to bicker and look inward.


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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