Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: Women’s Interstate Challenge + NRL Round 20, 2017



Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from not only Round 20 of the NRL but also the Women’s Interstate Challenge, won for the second year running by New South Wales. In the NRL, ladder-leaders Melbourne won a controversial game in Canberra and the second-placed Sydney Roosters won on Friday night.


The dynasty has begun. Well perhaps by New South Wales standards at least it has after a hat-trick to debutant winger Jess Sergis helped seal a 22-6 triumph for New South Wales in the Women’s Interstate Challenge (aka Women’s Origin – although the NRL don’t officially refer to it as that for reasons of player residency.) The result means Ben Cross’ side has retained the Nellie Doherty Cup after their 6-4 triumph last year on the Gold Coast. Sergis, 19, crossed twice during the first half in Wollongong as NSW (who had 10 Jillaroos in their squad) targeted the Queensland left side defence. The home side made the most of their attacking chances even allowing for the fact they failed to complete six of their ten sets in the first half. Corban McGregor and Vanessa Foliaki notched the other two tries for the Blues with Jenni-Sue Hoepper picking up the Maroons’ sole four-pointer. Bega’s Kezzie Apps was named player of the match.


Later on Sunday in Wollongong the highest-scoring game of the season saw the Dragons move to 24 points and eighth spot following a comprehensive 52-22 win over Manly. Leading 30-0 at the break St George Illawarra lapsed for a 15-minutes period as the Sea Eagles ran in four tires before the home side notched four more of their own to finished with nine tries. Manly centre Dylan Walker had a day to forget despite his second-half try as he missed eight or seven tackles (depending on if you look at Champion Data or the NRL website.) Either way the former Blues utility missed the most in the game for either side.


Still maintaining hopes of a top four finish despite the absence of Johnathan Thurston for the rest of the season the Cowboys beat the Warriors 24-12 on Saturday night in Townsville to finished the week in fifth – but still on the same amount of points (28) as third-placed Brisbane. Despite Simon Mannering’s try which helped levelled things up for the visitors at the interval, North Queensland continued to play disciplined football in the second half. Given they travel to Sydney to play the Roosters in Round 21 it was an important victory.


The mouse-trap play might have got the clicks on the web after the return to some vintage moves on Friday night but it was another ruck play which must has infuriated South coach Michael Maguire as his side lost 26-12 to defending premiers Cronulla. Stand-in hooker Fa’amanu Brown ducked over from dummy half for the Sharks second try. Brown, who has only played 21 games in the top grade over four years, beat two of the Burgess brothers in marker defence. Brothers Sam and Tom, both experienced internationals and title-winners must do better in that situation. It goes a long way to explaining why the 2014 premiers have won only six times this season.


Sitting just outside the top eight in ninth Penrith won on Saturday 24-16 over the Titans for their third win on the spin and a subtle change to the end of their sets could go a long way to seeing them play finals football. The return of Peter Wallace at hooker was crucial in the win as the former half bought a diversity to the kicking game for Anthony Griffin’s team. This helped to ease some of that responsibility on playmaker Ivan Cleary. In round 19 when Penrith beat the Warriors Cleary took all 20 general play kicks and this time around Wallace and the returning Matt Moylan also contributed in this regard. Having variety to kick from dummy half through Walllace if needed offers something his replacement, Mitch Rein, rarely did.


This rugby league 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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