FIVE METRE GAP: Round 17

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 seventeen

After a trend of close matches which we have been following in recent weeks in Five Metre Gap, round 17 saw a blow-out weekend of scores. The high scoring was only surpassed by what happened in round 10 this season. Six sides in that weekend topped 30 points in winning their respective matches (including Penrith’s 62-6 win over the Warriors) and last weekend saw five sides get to at least 30 points in winning.

Daniel Mortimer looks set to play a key role off the bench for the Sydney Roosters in their charge for the finals. The former Eel, who has finals experience, is providing a great foil in the middle of the park for Trent Robinson’s side. In the tri-colours 36-0 rout of the Dragons, the 24-year-old utility made 21 tackles in his 19 minutes on the field and operated with fast delivery when he moved into acting half. Whilst Jake Friend can play an effective 80 minutes Mortimer provides a genuine back-up option in that role which few other teams have.

Players like Blues forward Andrew Fifita are rightly earning high praise for Cronulla’s current form in the NRL however it is the adaptability of the squad, including other new additions, which is an unheralded aspect of their success. With Beau Ryan and Michael Gordon ruled out late for the Sharks and Luke Lewis moving to a wider role in the centres the men from the shire could have been forgiven for losing a danger game to the resurgent Tigers. However despite a few errors, most notably from stand-in fullback Stewart Mills, Shane Flanagan’s men dealt with new defensive patterns and attacking combinations extraordinarily well.

Whilst plenty of the focus of the Panthers win in the top end was on ex-Souths winger and three-try hero James Roberts it was the Penrith centre pairing of Brad Tighe and Dean Whare who were also very influential. Tighe (124 metres) and Whare (162 metres) ran 14 times each in what was the first time both Penrith centres had ran for over 100 metres each in the past month. It shows the willingness of Ivan Cleary’s men to go wide early, when appropriate, to give some space to their outside players.

Away from the NRL, this weekend sees the culmination of the Festival of World Cups in England which will feature the grand finals in each of the Armed Forces, Wheelchair, Police, Students and Womens’ World Cups. Some of the finals will take place in Kent (wheelchair) and Essex (Armed Forces) with the balance to be played in Leeds as part of a triple-header at Headingley Stadium on Sunday. This concept is a great prelude to the men’s World Cup later this year in the UK. Good luck to all involved.

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