Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 7, 2017



Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from round seven of the NRL. St/George Illawarra (6-1) remain in first place with Melbourne (also 6-1) second on for and against. Cronulla and the Roosters (the only 5-2 sides) are third and fourth respectively.


Dragons pivot Gareth Widdop looks set for a career-best point-scoring season after the competition’s leading points-scorer (73) notched 12 on the weekend as the home side beat 2015 premiers North Queensland. When he crossed in the 33rd minute of the Dragons 28-22 triumph, Halifax-born Widdop notched his fifth four-pointer of the campaign – one short of his total of six in season 2016. All this in only seven games. In 24 games last year Widdop picked up 14 try assists and so far in 2017 he’s got six. Souths Cody Walker leads the try assists count with eight. In season 2015, his second with St George Illawarra, Widdop finished with 182 points (which included nine tries.) The Dragons went out in the first weekend of the finals that season having won 11 games during the home and away rounds and in 2017 they already have six victories.


In Wollongong on Saturday night there was another stellar effort from a player in the halves this time from the losing side in the Cowboys/John Asiata. Asiata, normally a forward, helped drag his team from 28-4 down at the interval to come close to a victory. Having played in the halves whilst a junior in the Eels system the halfback role was not unaccustomed to Asiata who most recently also featured in the role whilst playing in the second-tier Queensland Cup for the Cowboys feeder side Mackay having joined North Queensland from the Roosters. Whilst a loss is a loss, Asiata’s two try assists were well taken – one via a pass to Michael Morgan with the other a kick that resulted in Scott Bolton’s four-pointer to get the Cowboys within a converted-try of sending the game into golden point. Whilst try assists is one statistic, it is at least somewhat notable Asiata’s two try assists from one game is the same as Raiders livewire Blake Austin and Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt have all season.


Our recent tracking of the use of interchange players saw an unexpected statistic this weekend when two players on the Canberra bench didn’t feature at all as the Raiders won 20-8 over the New Zealand Warriors. Coach Ricky Stuart elected not to use Adam Clydsdale, who usually operates as a dummy half, and forward Dunamis Lui. Clydsdale played only five minutes off the interchange bench in round five but prior to that there didn’t appear to be an indication Stuart would be so limited in his use of replacements. This weekend thus far using every bench player in the six prior games this season compared to some other sides such as the Dragons and Manly who have used only 16 players occasionally this season. Perhaps Stuart, a former Australian coach, is starting a new trend?


After falling behind with eight and half minutes to go Brisbane snuck home 24-22 to defeat the Gold Coast and record their fourth win of 2017. One of the surprising factors of the victory was their completion rate of only 55% (18/33.) The Broncos completed only eight sets in the second stanza. The open nature of the fixture played into their hands in that regard despite their 17 errors. The long-range efforts of Brisbane plus their ability to break tackles (33) highlighted by eight tackle breaks each to fullback Darius Boyd and centre James Roberts were constant threats.


Round seven opened with a 24-9 victory to the Bulldogs over South Sydney but things didn’t look favourable for Canterbury just before the break. Once Matt Frawley, a recent addition to the top grade squad, came on the field it took halfback-cum-dummy half Moses Mbye so time to adjust. Just before the break Mbye played to get a penalty when a Souths player was standing in the ruck and Kerrod Holland knocked over the penalty. Given the great field position it appeared Mybe feeding the other side of the ruck and not fishing for the penalty would have worked better to push for the try, especially when Souths Adam Reynolds stuck over a field goal having shown great game management after Souths won possession back. Mybe came into the game fair better in the second half feeding Frawley and Josh Reynolds well plus setting up a try. Usual hooker Michael Lichaa (who is only contracted until the end of this season at the club) ended up playing only 26 minutes in the game so could be seeing limited game time in the future if Mbye improves in the new role and recent debutant Frawley continues to perform consistently.


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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