Almanac League: Five Metre Gap – Representative Round May 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the representative round of rugby league in New South Wales and the ACT. The weekend started with a hat-trick of wins for Australia over New Zealand highlighted by the Kangaroos 30-12 triumph in the men’s fixture at GIO Stadium in Canberra. Saturday saw wins to England over Samoa 30-10, Papua New Guinea over the Cook Islands 32-22 plus 14 ranked Tonga upset world number seven Fiji 26-24. There was also a 24-2 triumph for Lebanon over Malta in the Phoenician Cup in Cabramatta before City beat Country in Mudgee on Sunday.

Leading 30-0 six minutes into the second half in the Australian Kangaroos side coasted to a convincing win despite not scoring again in the contest. Both sides had a similar amount of possession (17 sets) in the first half with Australia failing to complete four of those and New Zealand five but it was what they did with the ball that underscored the difference between the two teams. Two of New Zealand’s early incursions in Australia’s red zone ended with ineffective kicks which returned possession to the hosts whereas Australia’s first two attacking kicks forced goal-line drop-outs – the second of those resulting in the opening try to Josh Dugan who scored off Johnathan Thurston’s kick.

Central Coast product Isabelle Kelly scored a try on debut as the Jillaroos, despite late changes and a new halves combination, over-turned the result in this contest from last year in Newcastle winning 16-4. Kelly, called up to start when Sam Bremner withdrew due to injury, dotted down early in the contest won by Brad Donald’s side. Unlike last year in Newcastle when Australia only made inroads into the Ferns’ right-side defence late in the contest the home side targeted this area earlier and were rewarded when Renae Kunst left the visitors clutching at thin air in some cases as she scored what turned out to be the decisive try .

Brisbane Broncos fans got a further look at a player that will be crucial for their forward pack during the stacked Origin period when Jaydn Su’a crossed for one of nine tries scored by the Junior Kangaroos as they vanquished their Kiwi counterparts 46-22 in the first game played on Friday in the ACT. Su’a’s try came seven minutes into the second half as Australia marched downfield scoring twice in the first two sets they had in the second stanza to go 40-0 up. New Zealand finally got on the board not long after when St George Illawarra fullback Steve Marsters crossed as part of mini-revival with three further tries. Australia also won this fixture last were victorious 34-20.

Saturday’s Pacific Tests in Campbelltown in Sydney’s west were a display of the diversity in international rugby league with 11 tries coming from players not currently playing in the NRL, or the English Super League. Perhaps the most interesting non-NRL try-scorers came in the second game when Tonga edged Fiji 26-24. Penith’s Viliame Kikau notched a try for the Fijians and did Newcastle’s Daniel Saifiti but the two non-NRL try-scorers do have NRL connections. Formerly with the Melbourne Storm Under 20s Ben Nakubuwai, 21, joined the Titans this season but is yet to play in the top grade. At the other end of the age spectrum James Storer, 35, has played for Fiji for a decade. A two-game NRL player with South Sydney in 2003 Storer looked sharper than several current NRL hookers when he came on and scored with his first touch before the Bati eventually fell to Tonga. Storer is currently captain/coach of the Port Kembla Blacks who play in Group Seven on the South Coast of NSW.

Sunday’s City Country Origin fixture saw the pride of the metropolitan area of Sydney run out 20-10 victors over the boys from the bush in the last-ever version of the fixture. The maligned annual contest, despite been sanctioned by the NRL, has never really fit well in the calendar – especially since the addition of the April/May Australia v New Zealand test to the schedule in the last decade or so. What was interesting in the last edition of the 106-year concept was perhaps a reverse take on the seriousness of the game. Often it’s assumed the Country players have more to play for but twice Country forward Tariq Sims was bought down after making a burst by two City defenders. First was by the Eels Clint Gutherson who stopped Sims short of the line but the second effort was a quite brilliant chase down from Nathan Ross in the second half. Sims was grinning (perhaps when he realised he wasn’t going to make it to the try-line) before he was brought down by Knights winger Ross. The one-time Toulouse Olympique outside back not only tackled Sims to halt his progress but won the ball back via a one-on-one strip. Apparently Country players wanted to win that match more. Ross, ever the professional, showed otherwise and would not be out of place in a Blues jersey.

Image via Hamish Neal (personal)

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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