Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Round 11, 2017



Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round eleven of the NRL plus a look ahead to Origin I. The weekend started with victory for the premiers Cronulla on Thursday and finished in Perth with a win for Melbourne. The Storm are sole leaders on 18 points with the Broncos, Sharks and Roosters two points further back.


Thursday night saw Cronulla pick up their second home win of the season but, yet again at Southern Cross Group Stadium, they made hard work of it. Down 14-0 to the visiting Cowboys a second-half revival was enough to register an 18-14 triumph and their eighth win of the campaign. Their only other home win this season was a 19-18 triumph over the hapless Knights. The comeback was in a large part due to skipper Paul Gallen who ran for 206 metres from 18 runs but 147 metres alone in the second stanza. Retired from representative football after his last act of a goal for City Origin in Mudgee recently Gallen made 39 tackles and helped guide his team to an important win to maintain a top four spot. He was ably assisted by a strong overall team effort in the second stanza.


As the Broncos brushed aside the Tigers 36-0 on Friday night there was a surprise top metre-gainer in their pack in the form of interchange forward Joe Ofahengaue. In his 46-minute effort he ran for 142 metres in 16 runs and made 32 tackles to help lead the Brisbane pack to a dominant victory. Ofahengaue, 21, also provided the final pass for the last Broncos try. A regular on the Broncos bench since Tevita Pangai junior’s injury a month ago Ofahengaue hadn’t played more than 24 minutes this season until the weekend and the extra minutes this weekend came about after hooker Andrew McCullough was forced off with a head injury.


As the Dragons arrested a recent slide beating the Warriors 30-14 on Friday evening New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney must be scratching his head. The visitors did fail to convert a few opportunities in the first half so could have lead by more than 18-6 at the interval but what must be even more galling for Warriors fans was the fact that their side (despite scoring a late try) was so far out of the contest the Dragons were running the ball on the last tackle just to try some plays to see how they would go during the last ten minutes. When you are home side, even though they were playing in Hamilton, who need to be more competitive for the whole contest. At times it looked like an opposed training session.


When South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds went from the field for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) it proved crucial as the notional ‘home’ side fell apart late in their sets with poor attacking options as the Storm won in WA on Sunday evening 14-6. This was typified by John Sutton who kicked one ball out of the full and kicked another dead, all within a short space of time. As they fell by eight points Sutton was given the role to take the last play kick options and the gulf in class between him and the two-cap Origin halfback Reynolds was clear. Chasing the game before eventually falling 14-6 Sutton’s two poor kicks came just before Suliasi Vunivalu’s decisive try six minutes from time.


With the State of Origin sides selected for game one, to be played on Wednesday May 31 in Brisbane, the backlines (as in the selected 1-7 starters) for each side match-up evenly in terms of tries with 23 each so far this season but Queensland have a distinct advantage in creating try-scoring opportunities with six more try assists (23) recorded compared to 17 for New South Wales. Whilst try assists are not the only measure of try-scoring opportunities it is noteworthy that Queensland’s halves of Anthony Milford (Brisbane) and Cooper Cronk (Melbourne) have combined for nine tries with 12 try assists in their club games to date this season whilst the Blues duo of James Maloney (Cronulla) and Mitchell Pearce (Sydney) combining for eight tries with nine try assists. Despite the Maroons vaunted attacking dominance underscored by the fact they outscored NSW eight tries to six last season in their 2-1 series victory last year one of their backs, Justin O’Neill, hasn’t got a single try or try assist this season in the eight games he has played. The Cowboys centre has also failed to score in the Origin arena in the three games he played last year. From a NSW point of view the player with the least attacking output in the first 11 rounds is Josh Dugan with two tries.


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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