Almanac League: Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 26

@hamishneal

 

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 26 of the NRL – the final round of the regular season. With the Storm ensconced in first place the ladder interest was around which team would get fourth spot (and secure a double-chance in the finals) plus who would finish eighth with three sides jostling for two places heading into the weekend.

 

After shuffling their side in round 25 when Australian centre Josh Dugan missed the team bus St George Illawarra entered their Sunday afternoon game against the Bulldogs knowing a win would seal eighth spot after the Cowboys had lost 20-10 on Thursday night to Brisbane and Manly had won on Saturday evening over Penrith 28-12. However Paul McGregor’s outfit conspired to lose despite leading 20-14 with 17 minutes to go against a side that ultimately finished 11th. Despite Paul Vaughan’s 202 metres from 18 runs and Canterbury missing 26 tackles to the Dragons 10, it was a season left unrewarded for the 2010 premiers.

 

North Queensland push on to the finals after a nervous few days and will play Cronulla on Sunday in Sydney. Whilst the 2014 premiers have played well despite the absence of future immortal Johnathan Thurston since the Origin period it’s notable Paul Green’s side hasn’t beaten a top eight team since round 16 (a 14-12 victory over Penrith) plus Sunday’s opponents the Sharks have defeated them twice this season – and last year in the qualifying final.

 

The Eels sealed fourth spot in the finals after beating the Rabbitohs 22-16 but the result was un-convincing a week out from the playoffs. Making ten errors until they over-hauled South Sydney with five minutes to go Brad Arthur’s side were a threat when Semi Radradra, who scored three tries, was near the ball. The Fijian-born winger was set-up by Corey Norman for the second try but the Eels were not as dominant compared to recent weeks. Although Manu Ma’u’s 189 running metres and five tackle breaks were important in the victory. But it was a shadow of the nine-try win in round 25 over Brisbane.

 

Parramatta’s Friday night win consigned defending premiers Cronulla to the harder finals run with each game an elimination match but, as outlined, their recent record against the Cowboys has them well placed. The Eels will have some promise when they venture to Melbourne to play the Storm on Saturday in the second qualifying final having won 22-6 in the Victorian capital in round 18 – but Melbourne were missing six regulars via Origin. Friday night’s qualifying final pits the Roosters against Brisbane in Sydney. A repeat of their round 13 game an exciting 18-16 contest would send the Roosters onto week two of the finals and a match-up against the winner of Penrith versus Manly. The other path sees the winner of Cronulla versus the Cowboys meet the defeated team from the Storm and Eels encounter.

 

Saturday’s second game gave us a preview of the first elimination final which will be played on Saturday at Allianz Stadium and Manly came our victorious by 16 points on Sydney’s Northern Beaches over the Panthers. This season the side’s split their encounters with the home side winning each contest (round 18 was a 16-8 triumph to Penrith.) This was a turnaround on 2016 when the Panthers won twice, including a convincing 36-6 on their way to the finals as Manly finished 13th. Trent Barrett’s side is vastly improved and has won six more games (14) this season. However they have conceded 512 points this campaign – the most of all the sides in the finals.

 

NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series – Week 1
Qualifying Final: Friday, September 8, 7.55pm, Allianz Stadium
NRL: Sydney Roosters (2) v Brisbane Broncos (3)
Holden Cup: Brisbane Broncos (6) v Newcastle Knights (7); 5.15pm

Qualifying Final: Saturday, September 9, 4.10pm, AAMI Park
NRL: Melbourne Storm (1) v Parramatta Eels (4)

Elimination Final: Saturday, September 9, 7.40pm, Allianz Stadium
NRL: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (6) v Penrith Panthers (7)
Holden Cup: Penrith Panthers (2) v St George Illawarra Dragons (3); 5.00pm

Elimination Final: Sunday, September 10, 4.10pm, Allianz Stadium
NRL: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (5) v North Queensland Cowboys (8)
Holden Cup: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (1) v Parramatta Eels (4); 1.30pm
Holden Cup: Nth Qld Cowboys (5) V Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (8); 11.15am

 

This NRL 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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