FIVE METRE GAP: Round Nine

Hamish NealBy HAMISH NEAL

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence, reviewing the points from the NRL you may have missed from round nine. 

Talk about having a target on your back! Rookie Eels centre Api Pewhairangi wasn’t missed by the Brisbane Broncos during the Eel’s 19-18 victory on Saturday evening with the youngster targeted in defense having to make 30 tackles. That’s a remarkable figure, which out-stripped halves Luke Kelly (14) and Chris Sandow (15) combined,  for the Palmerston North-born debutant playing centre. Yes, Pewhairangi missed four tackles but it’s a colossal effort for a first grade initiation and has gone largely unnoticed on the back of Jarryd Hayne’s audacious field goal.

Still on the Brisbane loss, it was refreshing to see the Broncos have to deal with a level of disruption which other teams deal with weekly for the first time this season. On the weekendm Melbourne notched up the honour of playing in every available timeslot for a match this season the Broncos left Sydney licking their wounds after losing away from home on a Saturday night. But it’s okay – they have the luxury of Friday night matches for the next two rounds. Normal service is resumed

In a match of controversy on the Gold Coast, Dragons bench forward Jack Stockwell produced a terrific effort to register 31 tackles. The Dragons could lose Trent Merrin over the Origin period and 21 year-old Stockwell would be a worthy replacement as evidenced by his performance to pick up 10 hit-ups in his 39 minutes on the park in the loss to the Titans.

What a terrific atmosphere in Wellington for Saturday’s encounter between the Bulldogs and the Warriors. News from Wellywood that the Auckland-based Warriors were doing multiple player appearances concurrently in the lead-up to the match was excellent to hear and came on the back of some great initiatives in terms of fan engagement from the Sharks in Gosford (which also, funnily enough, was prior to a Bulldogs loss.) Despite the fact the crowd in Gosford was down on expectations, the value in these exercises should not just be measured by crowd numbers on the day.

This season is turning out to be a tight competition despite what some people thought after early rounds. In the last two rounds, four matches have been decided by a solitary point, including the season’s first gold point match.

Long live parity!

 

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