Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 25 and Challenge Cup Final 2016


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 25th round of the NRL. The Sharks are currently in second place and meet top team Melbourne on Saturday night to decide the minor premiership. Should Cronulla slip up to hand the Storm top spot they could also miss out on second if the Raiders win the next day.

Melbourne conceded three tries in the opening 40 minutes for the first time this season in falling 26-16 at home to Brisbane. The 26 points was also the most Craig Bellamy’s side had conceded in a single game this campaign. The latter statistic could be taken as a positive for fans of the Victorian side in that they would appear unlikely to concede more points in single game remaining this season based on their record this term. Bellamy admitted afterwards it was ‘poor reads’ which cost his side in defence, particularly in the first half, hence the reason the Storm’s missed tackle count of 25 might not be an important a statistic in this case – Brisbane actually conceded more (31) in winning the contest.

North Queensland forward Jason Taumololo has featured a lot recently as we have tracked forwards running for over 200 metres. However we got a further insight into how much he is valued by his team, and what other stats he tops, when the Cowboys’ performance analyst Steve Burman featured on the NRL Boom Rookies podcast. In addition to the metres gained Burman noted that the Kiwi international is highly regarded for the metres made after first contact (a good figure is 100 metres made after first contact if your match total is over 200 metres gained) plus tacklers committed per run and the ensuing speed of the play of the ball. Speaking about the Cowboys broadly Burman also noted Taumololo has played some 40 minute first halves recently, which Burman says “is a maturation for his game.” He also points out that “it’s not a conscious decision (by the coaching staff) to up the minutes” of big name players in the finals but sometimes occurs. However Burman stated the strength of your bench goes a long way as to working out when your first forward interchange is made. For anyone who is interested in advanced statistics in rugby league I would highly recommend checking out the interview which starts about 50 minutes into the podcast. Well done to Mitch Doyle, Dale Roots, and Matt Bungard who produce an excellent podcast, now I just need a way to access the data each week to add ‘metres made after first contact’ as our new favourite statistic at Five Metre Gap

Naturally, Taumololo topped the 200 metre mark running again this weekend making 201 metres as the Cowboys won 24-16 at Belmore with Kiwi Martin Taupau again topping that stat with 204 metres amongst forwards this weekend; but his side Manly were beaten 44-30 by Canberra. As the Sharks humbled the Roosters 37-12 on Saturday night skipper Paul Gallen ran for 211 metres; but Gallen does tend to take a lot of runs from the kick off which can be easier metres to gain first up compared to edge forwards like Taumololo who don’t receive the ball from kick-off returns.

The relatively recent innovation of the 40/20 kick produced two crucial results this weekend in rugby league – keeping the Wests Tigers’ NRL finals hopes alive and helping to secure one club rugby league’s greatest knockout prize. Three years ago as an 18 year-old Tigers halfback Luke Brooks was pulling off stunning 40/20s in the youth competition and the Tigers playmaker’s late kick helped set up a victory over the Warriors which gives Jason Taylor’s side a shot at finishing in the top eight. Brooks’ kick set up territory for the Tigers and allowed Sauaso Sue to score his second try before Mitchell Moses and Kevin Naiqama dotted down – all of this happened in the last ten minutes. Despite the controversial nature of the games with the New Zealand side falling foul of the NRL Bunker Brooks’ late play shows how much the 21 year-old has improved this season.

Meanwhile, a long way from Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium, Hull FC won the Challenge Cup final in London, breaking a hoodoo in the English capital primarily on the back of Marc Sneyd. Down 10-0 on the hour the eventual Lance Todd Trophy winner (man of the match award) executed a great 40/20 before his pin-point high kick sent through former Melbourne Storm outside back Mahe Fonua. Sneyd’s deft kicking game saw Jamie Shaul’s four-pointer put Lee Radford’s team ahead with Sneyd’s conversion. The Humberside team held out Warrington in the final stages (including a crucial Danny Houghton tackle) for their first Challenge Cup triumph since their 2005 win over Leeds in Cardiff. Former Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow had a strong first half, including a 40/20 of his own, but his Wolves side ultimately fell short. The 40/20 rule, which first came about in 1997, is one of the consistent rules across both top flight competitions in each hemisphere and it proved it’s value this weekend in two dramatic finishes.

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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