Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 4, 2017


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from the fourth round of the NRL. The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm stay unbeaten (4-0) with the Dragons plus the Cowboys (3-1) in third and fourth, respectively.


Even though they leapt out to 14-0 lead after 28 minutes against the Melbourne Storm, the Wests Tigers were taught a lesson in taking your opportunities before they were ultimately beaten 22-14 on Sunday at Leichhardt Oval. At one stage Melbourne were failing to complete 50% of their sets finishing the half with a try and 9/16 sets complete (56%.) For only one more try the Tigers had completed nine more sets, 18 in total, for the first stanza. Despite the Tigers continuing to complete well (the finished with 82%) in the match it leaves a challenge for interim head coach Andrew Webster. Given they took two penalty goal attempts within eight minutes of each other in the first half (with a Storm try-scorer chance in between), how much trust do they have in their attack at all?


Canberra, one of six sides to win only once in their first four games this season, fell by a point in Brisbane on Friday evening 13-12 and one of their big name forwards failed to fire again. Middle forward Shannon Boyd, who played for Australia at the end of last season, made the least metres of any Raiders forward (68) from his seven runs. This was just above his season average of 6.75 runs per game across the first month, and probably not enough for a representative player. Boyd averages 40 minutes per match so he does not have the likelihood to rack up the numbers of some props that might play more, for instance James Tamou and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (both international forwards) have averaged more minutes this season. A month is perhaps a small sample size but Boyd’s New South Wales Origin hopes would hinge on a bigger effort (despite his tackling numbers) in the coming weeks.


One middle forward with plenty of impact in round four was Zane Musgrove. The Souths prop playing in a losing side mind you (with the Bunnies beaten 20-6 by the Roosters) in 48 minutes garnered a team best of 160 metres gained. This was all the more important when influential English forward Sam Burgess left the game due to a Head Injury Assessment before he ended up not returning. Musgrove, 21, made a team best 20 runs – eight more than Sam’s younger brother Tom Burgess.


First it was catching the ball when playing Dunedin on his debut and this weekend in Sydney Bulldog Brad Abbey continues to have a bit of a torrid time in defence in his opening NRL games, especially after Manly thrashed the Bulldogs 36-0 on Saturday. Standing in as custodian in the absence of Will Hopoate, Abbey was beaten to the ball kicked through by Manly’s Blake Green for the first of two tries to Brian Kelly having earlier mistimed his runs at the back allowing two other Manly tries before he didn’t commit to either Manly player as opposite number Tom Trbojevic broke through the line before feeding Daly Cherry-Evans who kicked through for Trbojevic’s four-pointer just before the break. Abbey, 20, is set for a further tough initiation into the NRL (despite having featured in a win first up) with the Bulldogs playing the Broncos in round five. Trbojevic, only two months older than Abbey, showed the difference in experience in the top grade with the Manly playing having featured over 30 times in first grade already.


Kurt Mann’s eight-minute cameo late in the Dragons 26-12 win over the Warriors on the weekend meant every interchange player was used in round four. Three other players; Jackson Hastings (Manly), Joel Edwards (Tigers), and Vincent Leuluai (Storm) were used sparingly for nine, seven and seven minutes respectively with coaches looking to keep a replacement up their sleeve until late in the piece if needed.


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.

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