Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 2, 2017



Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from the second round of the NRL which saw defending champions Cronulla beat the Raiders in Canberra for their first win of 2017 and Newcastle snapped an 11-month winless run.


Thursday night saw a late rally from the Bulldogs but the Roosters ultimately prevailed 28-24 to remain unbeaten. Whilst much continues to be made of the Bulldogs lack of dynamism in attack (Des Hasler’s side got out to an early lead mainly on the back of errors from the Roosters) it was the Roosters kicking game which really set the teams apart. Mitchell Pearce, who nearly kicked a 40/20, and Jake Friend, who did kick one, both made those influential kicks which lead to points for the Roosters from well inside their own half. Friend’s play lead the Roosters to their first points when Boyd Cordner scored in the subsequent period of possession whilst Pearce’s kicking game was also highlighted by his attacking kick in the second half which resulted in Blake Ferguson’s four-pointer after Shaun Kenny-Dowall caught the ball then offloaded to Ferguson. Moses Mbye missing three attempts at goal from his five shots also didn’t help the Bulldogs even though Michael Gordon missed two shots at goal for Trent Robinson’s side.


For the second week running of winning their game the Roosters didn’t use one of their interchange players. This time Chris Smith, who was only a late addition to the bench when Kane Evans was injured in the warm-up, was the player to log zero minutes with the Darwin-born former Panthers backrower watching from the sidelines. This was a slight strategy change for Robinson who used his forwards last weekend but not his utility/back (Connor Watson.) Cronulla forward Joseph Paulo (nine minutes) and Warriors utility Erin Clark (six minutes) did feature for their sides, with Paulo playing a role in a try for Sharks, but were the bench players used most sparingly in round two.


Despite racing out to a 12-0 lead inside 14 minutes Manly were blown off the park for the remaining 66 minutes of the game as South Sydney piled on 38 points and the Sea Eagles crossed the strip only once more. Trent Barrett’s side dropped away with their completions in the second period with only 8/13 sets completed (62%) but it was the lack of forward assistance which really harmed their prospects. Whilst plenty of their backs took some runs early in sets when needed, the forwards let them down with only Josh Starling making more than eight runs (12 runs for 130 metres.) Vice-captain Jake Trobjevic’s eight runs were the next best with limited bench impact.


In Newcastle the Titans injury problems were well documented after their 34-26 defeat at the hands of Nathan Brown’s Knights but their lack of ability to hold the ball in the second half was the primary reason for their defeat. From their 14 second half sets they completed only six (for a 43% completion rate.) They were ahead in part of this period, and only behind by four points with eleven minutes to go, so an element of risk-free football, in a match which saw them finish with 64% completions was nowhere to be seen for Neil Henry’s side who fall to 0-2 to open the season.


With Kiwi international Jason Taumololo (20 runs for 231 metres and 37 tackles) set to miss at least one weekend due to suspension for the Cowboys teammates Coen Hess or John Asiata could come into the starting line-up for North Queensland – who have won both games in golden point to start the season. Hess is the likely candidate after playing 75 minutes due to an injury to Antonio Winterstein and the 20 year-old made 93 metres in his ten runs to go with 42 tackles. Hess also beat off the attention of three defenders to score the Cowboys first try in their 21-20 triumph. However Asiata was quite efficient in his 38 minutes on the park making 22 tackles to go with his nine runs which made 104 metres. Neil Henry has good options at his disposal for the round three game when the 2015 premiers play Manly (0-2).


This NRL review 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.


  1. Of course it’s Brenton Lawrence not Josh Starling with Manly meant and Neil Henry wishes he was still the Cowboys coach.

  2. georgesmith says

    After all his success, could it be – the Lord does not like Wayne Bennett much???

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