FIVE METRE GAP: Round Seven

Hamish NealLike the way of the five metre gap in defence, reviewing the points from the NRL you may have missed from round seven.

AFTER days of off-the-field drama, three minutes was all it took for Tim Mannah’s week to get worse. Hauled off with a leg injury having played 51 minutes  (29 tackles and 14 runs) as Parramatta slumped to their fifth loss of the season – against Penrith on Monday – coach Ricky Stuart may be ruing playing Mannah for longer than his normal match-time.

Every club has a subtle difference in their prop rotation but as the Eels were getting schooled, Mannah ended up playing three minutes more then he had in the past month of action as Stuart attempted to stem the flood of Penrith points. Luckily the injury isn’t as serious as first though.

Speaking of the Eels and their captains, Reni Maitua is fast becoming a target for other sides in attack with the Eels back-rower having missed nine tackles in the last two weeks. The 30-year-old has had some good games in defence this season, including when Parra’ beat Cronulla in round five, but that last few weeks must be cause for concern for Stuart.

Is the top eight set even before Origin? I’m prepared to say no but a good case could be made for that to be the case when you take into account the injury concerns, form and off-field issues surrounding teams nine to 16 right now. The sides most likely to be affected by Origin are ensconced in the top four so even a dip in form is likely to keep them well inside the eight. But as was once said ‘that’s why we play the games.’

Todd Carney, despite the Sharks loss, would seem to have cemented his Origin spot after his comeback from injury on the weekend. The livewire five-eighth was highly influential in Gosford but was let down by his outside backs in the first half. Players like Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis dropped crucial balls after Carney had the Sharks attacking the Bulldogs’ line in the second half. Catching practice might be on the cards for the Shire boys at training this week.

The release of the 28th Rugby League Week Players’ Poll was bound to bring to light player reactions to various aspects of the game. One of the most interesting was Greg Inglis usurping Billy Slater as the ‘best player in the game’.

But some things never change . Brett Suttor was voted ’the hardest referee to deal with’ and the below excerpt from last season’s round 22 match report from this website when Canterbury beat Newcastle 26-10 illustrates why.

“Following a play-the-ball incident, the senior referee of the pair, (Jason) Robinson (an official of ten years’ NRL experience) finished a chat with Ennis after the penalty before Suttor attempted to recall Ennis for an additional dressing down. Despite Robinson saying to Suttor to ‘to let it go’, the junior official called Ennis back to lecture him over the infringement and his team.” Is there a prize for consecutive awards in this category? Wooden whistle?

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