FIVE METRE GAP: Round 13

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 13.

Steve Price’s voodoo hex over Wayne Bennett-coached sides continued on Saturday in Newcastle as St George Illawarra beat the Knights. Many of the plaudits were focused on the individual efforts of Dragons fullback Josh Dugan however ball security won the day for the visitors , who completed 85 per cent of their sets. In recent weeks their completion rate had dipped to 65 per cent so it was been a back-to-basics approach which helped move the joint-venture side up to 12th on the ladder.

Despite the loss on Friday night and the fallout of the ‘Parra 12’ ,the Eels were able to salvage something out of the reshuffled side with the performance of stand-in fullback Jake Mullaney. The 23-year-old was elevated to the starting line-up as regular fullback Jarryd Hayne came off the bench after Origin duty and the former Tiger produced a game-high 19 runs which generated 124 metres and included eight tackle breaks. Given Parramatta’s lack of zip in attack in recent weeks, if your fullback can break the first tackle on nearly every second attempt it’s not a bad platform to start each set with.

Last week we highlighted the targeting of replacement halfback Ben Hunt when the Broncos were humbled by the Warriors in round 12 and this week it’s another substitute half who was in the crosshairs of their opponents. With Johnathan Thurston missing due to injury, Michael Morgan slotted into five-eighth for the Cowboys as they faced the Bulldogs eventually going down 36-26. Missing five of his 15 tackle attempts, the 21 year-old wasn’t quite in Hunt’s echelon but was still poor in his 65 minutes on the park.

With captain Robbie Farah injured, Masada Iosefa took up the workload in the absence of the Blues hooker, making 55 tackles as the Wests Tigers edged the Panthers on Sunday. Team-mate Aaron Woods was exceptional with 46 tackles to go with his 20 hit-ups but the former Panther is proving his worth as Farah’s understudy on the occasions when he has been called upon to play first grade for the side in the last two seasons.

As the Warriors continue their great run of form with their third win on the trot – against Manly on Sunday – coach Matthew Elliott has been left with an interesting predicament about his back three. Compared to the problems he was looking at four weeks ago, the subject of what to do with Glen Fisiiahi with Kevin Locke returning this weekend is a vexing one.  Fisiiahi, 22, produced 20 runs with four tackle breaks and was dynamic in attack playing in the #1 slot on the weekend and Elliott needs to try to get the best out of him coming off the wing when Locke returns but ensuring they don’t reduce the incumbent’s impact.

Not a bad problem to have, though, for the previously under-fire ex-Raiders coach.

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