Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 9, 2017


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from round nine of the NRL. With next weekend’s international and other representative fixtures the Storm will hold a four point lead for nearly two weeks after they beat the second-placed Dragons 34-22 on Sunday. At the bottom Newcastle still have won only once this season.

The Bulldogs fifth win of the campaign came with a positive return to action for fullback Will Hopoate who has suffered a serious facial injury limiting him to only two games this season. As Canterbury won 16-10 at ANZ Stadium over the Raiders the former Eels custodian ran for a hugely impressive 309 metres from 28 runs. He also picked up a try assist and didn’t make any errors. Digging deeper in his metres statistics its noteworthy Hopoate ran for 134 metres on his nine kick returns for an average of just under 15 metres. This helps sets his team up for a positive set and was among the top fullbacks in this statistic over the weekend.

A limp Penrith (2-7) were dispatched in Brisbane 32-18 on Thursday evening and whilst there are many issues Panthers coach Anthony Griffin can’t control directly (such as his team’s 17 errors) there is something he should perhaps consider, recalling Tyrone Peachey to the starting 13. In the past two games the 2016 City Origin representative has played only 81 minutes in total and Peachey played 51 minutes as the Panthers fell to the Broncos. Peachey scored 13 tries last season in 24 games – second only to winger Josh Mansour with 16. He ranked equal-third for try assists (nine) which is an impressive effort for a player who normally gets a quarter of the possessions of some of his other teammates. For a team which has squandered a range of attacking opportunities in their opponents ‘red zone’ this season the Indigenous All Star’s influence cannot be under-estimated. A further issue with the role Peachey is now been asked to play is that he has to play a large role in defence. This is fine for a short time but eventually having to make 32 tackles a game (as he did on Thursday) will start to take the edge off any attacking influence he may be able to have.

In Wollongong on Sunday afternoon as the Storm moved to 16 points with their eighth win of the campaign theire was a slice of history in the goal-kicking department. Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith surpassed Jason Taylor for career goals in the top flight of Australian rugby league competition with his fifth, and final, conversion of the day. Now with 943 goals the Australian skipper came into the round with a career percentage of 73.09% across his 16 years in the NRL. Compared with Taylor, the recently-sacked coach of the Tigers, Smith’s percentage is solid with Taylor in 12 years kicking at 75.24%. It should be noted as a player who marks up in the middle of the field Smith does a lot more tackling and probably expends more energy in that department than Taylor who was a halfback.

Speaking of kicking, after knocking over the crucial field goal in round eight when the Sydney Roosters beat the Dragons halfback Mitchell Pearce reverted to type missing two field goal attempts on Sunday. Pearce eventually potted a one-pointer five minutes from time in Auckland only for the Warriors to get a late penalty, ironically after Pearce himself infringed, and secure a 14-13 win over the Tricolours. Before Tuesday Pearce had only three field goals in his 11-year, 233-game career. A missed field goal attempt in early April was his 18th in a row without success in that afore-mentioned span. Sunday’s defeat was not even the first time he’d missed two field goals attempts having done that in April when Manly beat the Sea Eagles 18-12 in round five. The statistic tells you the Roosters need to find a reliable field goal-kicker (fellow halve Luke Keary hasn’t kicked any in his career) or attempt a try instead in the future when faced with a deadlock scenario.

With the international fixtures next weekend after he missed New Zealand’s fixture last year due to injury veteran New Zealand Warriors Simon Mannering is one of three players recalled for the Kiwis and he does so after an impressive effort in the wet on Sunday in Auckland. Napier-born Mannering ran for 134 metres, the most of the Warriors pack from his 16 runs. The 30 year-old has a team high seven offloads this season so will be a threat with New Zealand’s close-in playmakers ready to run off him in Friday night’s test against the Kangaroos in Canberra.

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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