Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 23, 2016


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 23rd round of the NRL. For the second weekend running the Raiders have beaten the competition’s top side seeing off Melbourne having beaten Cronulla the weekend prior. Plus two games were decided by one scoring play, with one of those games in golden point.


Canberra’s 22-8 triumph over the Storm ensured they finished the weekend in third place after the Bulldogs victory over Manly on the Thursday and it was built in a solid defensive effort. Melbourne had a large amount of attacking opportunities spending 18:19 mins in the Canberra 20 metre zone on attack, compared to 12:40 mins for the Raiders. To underline the strong defensive effort of Ricky Stuart’s team it’s worth noting the game was only the second time this season Melbourne have scored just one try in a match. (The other occasion was in round 4 when there were beaten 14-6 by Cronulla who currently lie in second spot.


At Five Metre Gap HQ we have tried not to kick a team when they are down plus writing every week about what’s wrong with the Knights can become tiresome but a complete lack of sensible direction at the end of sets, despite their inexperience, is simply not good enough. This was shown up again at Hunter Stadium as they were beaten 42-6. Nathan Brown’s side conspired to see forwards Mitchell Barnett and Daniel Saifiti end up with the ball as the last tackle option on multiple occasions with their two New South Wales representative halves Jarrod Mullen and Trent Hodkinson failing to ensure they got possession as they team needs to lay on a key attacking play. On two occasions former Raider Barnett was forced to kick away possession causing no serious trouble for Penrith. The Newcastle side is inexperienced, but so are the Panthers who beat them. Anthony Griffin’s side had Nathan Cleary, 18, James Fisher-Harris, 20, Waqa Blake, 21, Bryce Cartwright, 21, and Isaah Yeo, 21, in their squad on Sunday. They are not making those sort of mistakes as often as the Novocastrians.


Without an outside chance of still making the top eight Manly disappointed their fans as they fell 20-16 to the Bulldogs in golden-point extra time after Canterbury playmaker Josh Reynolds twice crossed the line in the bonus period only to have the first try scratched off. Reynolds four-pointer, and an earlier one by teammate Brett Morris in the 27th minute (his second of the evening) beat some feeble Sea Eagles’ defence which highighted the lack of focus in defence from Trent Barrett’s team. Morris’ second try came at a time just after the first run of interchange occurs and your new players should be fresh but Manly lacked cohesion at key times. Given they recently conceded three tries despite beating the Knights perhaps we should not be surprised.


Staying with Manly Kiwi international Martin Taupau was the only forward to cross the 200 metre threshold this weekend running for 269 metres from 20 runs in the four point defeat. It should be noted he did miss four of his 30 tackle attempts but it wasn’t as bad a teammate Api Koroisau who missed seven to see Des Hasler’s side make ground around the ruck very easily. As former Eel Jarryd Hayne secured the win in ‘his house’ when the Titans beat the Tigers 19-18 Wests forward Aaron Woods got as close as possible to the 200-metre mark with 199 metres from 22 runs to go with his 22 tackles.


Finally, the round outlined (yet again) the two worlds in which the NRL exists. That on free-to-air TV (Channel 9) and that on Fox Sports – the pay TV provider. All five of Jarryd Hayne’s possible regular season games will be on Fox Sports as Channel 9 didn’t choose any of their fixtures even though the Titans were well-placed when the final few rounds were allocated dates recently. A further example came Monday night when it was noted the Raiders (who have been a top eight side for some time) will also not feature on free-to-air in the remaining three weeks of the regular season. This will not be the case in the next cycle when the NRL will allocate the days each game is played, and it won’t be a moment too soon.


This review first appeared on From the sideline of sport


Follow Hamish @hamishneal

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.

Leave a Comment