Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 9, 2016


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the ninth round of the NRL. The Cowboys, Broncos, Storm and Sharks are joint top of the ladder on 14 points with North Queensland the leaders on points difference.

Defeating Brisbane 30-28 to join them in a clutch of sides leading the NRL ladder the Cronulla Sharks attacking efficiency was again on display on Sunday, particularly in the first half, but again they failed to meet the 30 set standard (TSS) we wrote about last week. Racing to a 28-6 lead at the interval Cronulla had completed 12 sets. Brisbane roared back in the second period as Shane Flanagan’s side completed a miniscule nine sets in the last 40 minutes but still collected the two points. Two others sides didn’t meet the TSS this round but still won. Warriors (26-10 winners over the Dragons) and Penrith (19-18 victors over Canberra) both completed 26 sets in their triumphs.
Melbourne forward Dale Finucane has helped lay a platform for his side in the last fortnight running for over 150 metres in their last two triumphs in which they have blanked the Warriors (42-0) and Gold Coast (38-0). He was matched only by fullback Cameron Munster on Sunday and in round eight Tohu Harris (228 metres), Marika Koroibete (183 metres) and Munster (212 metres). Finucane played 71 minutes on Sunday and ran for 158 metres from 18 runs plus he logged 32 tackles. In round eight (which was a 60 minute effort) the former Bulldog ran for 161 metres from 14 runs and made 31 tackles.

If NSW veteran Greg Bird was looking to make a point after missing out on Australian selection he would have been hoping new Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga wasn’t watching as Bird and his Titans were humbled by Melbourne. Bird missed five tackles (he made 21) in his 60-minute stint and made only nine runs on the edge. It was a huge drop off from last weekend when he made 29 tackles to go with 21 runs (203 metres) in 70-minute appearance.

As Souths slumped to their sixth defeat of the season fullback Greg Inglis started a weekend trend with fullbacks, and those fielding kicks, seemingly reluctant to catch the ball on the full. Inglis stood off after a Luke Brooks kick and the bounce allowed the Wests’ halfback to regather and score on Thursday night as the Tigers won 30-22. Brooks’ four-pointer was the third of four tries for the Tigers in the opening 20 minutes and even allowing for the brief comeback of Michael Maguire’s side Wests had the game in hand for most of the contest. However they weren’t blameless in the air either with fill-in fullback David Nofoaluma fluffing his lines on one occasion. Nofoaluma’s attempt was harder than Inglis’ but the nature to not charge to get into position initially was strange. The following night at ANZ Stadium as the Eels won 20-12 over the Bulldogs players were also reluctant to approach the ball on the full, with a bomb in the first 20 minutes turning into a scrappy contest after a bomb was left. With such an important position how come this is a trend?

In an odd scenario for the NRL, two players who last month switched clubs debuted during round nine. Whilst players leaving clubs during a season does happen the virtual switch of players during one is rare but in this case Shaun Lane left the Bulldogs to join the Warriors with Raymond Faitala-Mariner going the other way. On Friday night former Warrior Faitala-Mariner suffered defeat in his club bow playing 27 minutes off the bench for a good output of 19 tackles, seven runs plus a tackle break and offload, although he did make an error. In his debut for the New Zealand franchise Lane started, but only played 21 minutes for nine runs and four tackles, as the Warriors beat St George Illawarra. It’s a points decision to the new Bulldog Faitala-Mariners but Lane was in a winning side.

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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