Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 8, 2017


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round eight of the NRL. A 20-14 win over the New Zealand Warriors in the final match of the round gave Melbourne Storm (7-1) sole ownership of the top spot after previous ladder-leaders, the Dragons (6-2), were beaten by the Roosters (6-2) in golden point extra-time on Tuesday afternoon.


Usually it’s Jason Taumololo starring for the Cowboys pack but this weekend Scott Bolton was the forward player to dominate racking up 196 metres from 17 runs as North Queensland (5-3) beat the hapless Newcastle (1-6) 24-12 on Saturday evening. Bolton, for the first time since Taumololo returned from suspension in round four, was the best metre-gainer of the pack for the home side when normally it’s Taumololo. Granted Bolton (67 minutes) played 16 more minutes than Taumololo but it was still an impressive effort given he made 34 tackles to Taumololo’s 26.


Staying in Townsville. Knights coach Nathan Brown demanded improvement for all in dropping Origin-winning halfback Trent Hodkinson for this game but did not get it from another former Blues rep with Anthony Tupou making only two runs of substance in his 28 minutes on the park. He got the ball five times on which he passed on three of those occassions and broke no tackles. We did note this about the Knights early in the season and interestingly Sam Stone (who we focused on in round three for a similarly lacklustre effort) has improved of late with 38 tackles, 13 runs and two tackle breaks on Saturday. For Tupou, a player of international experience with Australia and Tonga, in a side racked by injuries in the forwards you should demand the ball. It’s a lackadaisical effort which will hopefully be improved on against the Titans.


Despite the Gold Coast (2-6) upsetting Cronulla (5-3) 16-12 on Saturday evening it was a bright end to the weekend for Sharks’ forward Chris Heighington who was selected to return to the England team for the first time since he played in the 2011 Four Nations tournament. Heighington, 34, has averaged 29 minutes off the bench in the last four games for an impressive 103 metres per game in that period. The former Wests forward’s ability to offload and reliability (only one error this season) were likely part of the reason Wayne Bennett has returned the two-time premiership winner to the international fold in a World Cup year.


Elsewhere for the international games to be played on the first weekend of May it’s probably not surprising that four of the top six try-scorers were in line for international selection during the representative round but what is perhaps surprising is that none are assured Australian representatives. Topping the count was Jordan Rapana (New Zealand) with seven, BJ Leilua (Samoa), Suliasi Vunivalu (Fiji) and Gareth Widdop (England) each had six. Rapana added his tally with an acrobatic effort as Canberra fell to the Sea Eagles. With players able to drop back to ‘tier two’ nations if not selected for their ‘tier one’ option there is a Leilua could be selected for the Kangaroos to feature against New Zealand next month but that’s unlikely and the Raiders centre is more likely to turn out for Samoa. Unfortunately for Halifax-born Widdop he sustained a medial ligament injury as the Roosters beat the Dragons 13-12 on Tuesday afternoon and this means he is almost certainly out for next month’s game in Campbelltown in Sydney’s west but would still hold out hopes of appearing again for the Dragons this season and in the World Cup.


Two players featured for single figure minutes in round eight heading into Tuesday’s game with Titan Chris Grevsmuhl limited to only seven minutes due to injury as Neil Henry’s side beat the Sharks. Canberra’s (4-4) Adam Clydsdale playing only five as his side were beaten at home 20-18 by Manly (4-4). Clydsdale didn’t play off the bench last weekend, as we noted, along with team-mate Dunamis Lui who played 20 minutes on Friday evening. On Monday evening Melbourne’s Ryley Jacks played only four minutes as the Victorian outfit focused on forwards in their bench rotation with interchange forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona playing a crucial role in the six-point win which included scoring Melbourne’s first try two minutes after he came on the field.


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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