Almanac League: Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 24 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 24th round of the NRL. The Panthers and Titans won to stay in the top eight whilst Cronulla fell to Souths on Monday evening which hands Canberra a chance to finish in the top two.

The Raiders now have a chance for a home final during the early stages of the playoffs after they beat the Eels 28-18 on Sunday afternoon, coming back from 16-0 down at one stage. Canberra coach Ricky Stuart ensured his side didn’t panic which they could have from that far behind. Despite completing 14 of 16 sets in the first half it was the finishing touches that were missing for the Raiders until they crossed in the 23rd minute for the first of their six tries. Focusing on the process the tide turned and the Raiders returned to their dynamic best in the last hour of the match to win convincingly. Yes they did target a vulnerable right-side Eels defence but you can only beat what is put in front of you.

Cronulla’s lack of form heading into the finals has now reached concerning levels. Shane Flanagan’s side has not won in four matches (three defeats and a draw) and their complete lack of ideas when they had a huge weight of possession (25 minutes in Souths half during the first period) must be a concern for the previously free-scoring team. Even allowing for the wet conditions, and the absence of Paul Gallen, the 12-6 defeat and apparent lack of a plan B in attack could bring the Sharks undone early next month.

From the six-point on Monday night win there were positive signs for Souths looking towards next season – one of which has to be hooker Damien Cook. Recently elevated to the starting spot at the expense of Cameron McInnes the former Bulldog’s well-timed runs out of dummy half helped to set the Rabbitohs up for good field position, particularly in the first half. Cook, 25, also offers a reliable option as a back-up goal-kicker to Adam Reynolds. With the cardinal and myrtle reportedly in the market for want away Tiger Robbie Farah, 32, it appears Cook (who was only signed last season) is finally getting a deserved chance. This could present Souths officials with an interesting conundrum as they consider recruiting the NSW Origin rake.

Warriors debutant Ata Hingano was one of the rare shining lights for the Auckland franchise as they were thrashed 34-6 by the Cowboys on Saturday evening. The rookie ran five times for 67 metres and was not afraid to take the line on during his 63 minutes on the park in Townsville. The ex-Pakuranga College student helped lay on the only try for Andrew McFadden’s team on the evening popping a short ball to Ryan Hoffman after he was feed by veteran Simon Mannering. Contrast this with play-maker Shaun Johnson who ran once in the contest and it’s a stark comparison in effort for a side which now needs to win out to have any hope of making the finals.

In the fixture in Townsville saw Kiwi international Jason Taumololo run for 223 metres and was one of two forwards to break 200 metres over the course of the round. The other was Monday night. In a beaten side Shark Andrew Fifita made 238 metres from 24 runs. Taumololo, 23, made 21 runs for his gain to go with 17 tackles plus three tackle busts, whilst Fifita made a big 34 tackles and two tackle busts. Souths’ Sam Burgess (197 metres) and Melbourne’s Dale Finucane (188 metres) were the next closest to breaking the 200-metre threshold in round 24.

This 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.

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