Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 1, 2016


Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the opening round of the NRL, which saw title-holders North Queensland win by six points whilst 2013 winners, the Roosters, were beaten by 32 points.

Warriors recruit Issac Luke made only one run in the first half as his side went into the break 28-4 down before eventually losing 34-26 to the Wests Tigers to continue their horrible round one record of recent years. The former Rabbitoh ran then twice in the second half but for a player of his experience it doesn’t seem enough impact. Other rakes across the weekend, such as Michael Ennis and Jake Granville in the Saturday night game, ran less but they had other players that were able to pick up the slack in their side. Luke’s team was going backwards for most of the contest and his level of impact wasn’t what coach Andrew McFadden would have been looking for.

Heading into round one a key area of interest was the impact replacement players would have given the reduction in interchanges to eight players this season. Roosters forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho was the biggest contributor, in terms of metres gained, for bench players across round one and did his best to try to get his team back in a game they ended up losing heavily in. The Kiwi, and Tongan, international’s 14 runs in 40 minutes on the park yielded 146 metres and he contributed 23 tackles missing none. I high benchmark for the rest of the season but a sterling effort nonetheless.

The efficient Cowboys only pushed one offload in their win over the Sharks on Saturday evening, the least of all 16 sides across the weekend. Content to spin the ball but not crowd attacking play their solid ball security (76% completion rate) in humid conditions continues to be a feature of the Cowboys game. This helps Paul Green’s side in attack with opposition players at times standing off waiting for the likes of Jason Taumalolo to off-load the ball when, at least on Saturday night, that wasn’t their path to victory.

Two Sydney sides, Manly and the Eels, had club debutantes Dylan Walker and Clint Gutherson respectively caught out when opponents crossed the line to open up the scoring in each of their loses to Canterbury and Brisbane. It’s a simple tactic for coaches to exploit inexperienced defensive combinations as new teammates learn to work together however that Bulldogs coach Des Hasler and Broncos coach Wayne Bennett (two of the most experience coaches in the competition) did so early in their matches is illustrative of a simple but effective approach at this stage of the season. Walker’s blunder might be more of a concern as he was defending three in so he is a key defender who others follow.

Roosters halfback Jackson Hastings had a Sunday to forget as the Tricolours were humbled 42-10 by Souths. Down five tries to nil inside 27 minutes, and saddled with playmaking responsibility in the game, Hastings took boot to ball at the end of a set late in the first half when he had an overlap on his outside . Running the ball at that stage is normally a high risk play but five tries down is five tries down. Perhaps it is looking too much into a small sample of the 20 year-old’s performance but as was displayed later in the game Hastings can yield great results with his running game. Maybe coach Trent Robinson will point this out in the video review session this week.
This review first appeared on From the sideline of sport


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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.


  1. I note Matty Johns was a big wrap for the improved (?) video ref procedures and the reduction of games in real time. I only caught Storm v Dragons from across the weekend, so I’d be interested to see what others think.

    A decent win by the Storm, but the Red V definitely got the rough end of the pineapple from the refs on a few occasions. Some strange calls both ways, but the knock-on call against DeBellin in the 70th minute arguably handed Melbourne the win.

    Glory, glory to South Sydney! Just knock off Manly and I couldn’t care less what happens for the rest of the season. Go you Bunnies.

  2. Steve, the VR procedures from The Bunker seemed better. It is similar in to what was started to be introduced last season in that we hear the explanation from the referee as they go through the angles. Makes fr greater transparency. Dragons need to win those sort of games this season to make the eight so they will come to rue that.
    I’m sorry but I can’t endorse the ‘Go you Bunnies!’ comment.

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