FIVE METRE GAP: Round 15 & Origin II

Hamish NealLike the way of the five metre gap in defence, reviewing the points from the NRL you may have missed from round 15 and an Origin II golden point bonus.

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson is giving Stephen Kearney one almighty headache when it comes to Sonny Bill Williams. Should the dual international make himself available for the World Cup, a case could be mounted for Williams, Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran all starting in the halves for the Kiwis and that’s before considering World-Cup winning Benji Marshall! The ex-boxer’s adaptability across the park will mean it’s likely he won’t play in the halves but the tricolours’ win over the Bulldogs would have given the ex-Eels boss food for thought.

It may have come on a rainy night in Campbelltown in front of small crowd but Wests’ marquee buy Adam Blair put in a stirling effort to help lift the Tigers to just their fifth win of the season . The 27-year-old made 25 tackles and ran for 140 metres in his 20 hit-ups. With Aaron Woods away on Blues duty, the Kiwi forward played 70 minutes and it was a marked increase in input from a similar game in round 10 when he played 72 minutes for 26 tackles but ran only four times.

As Parramatta was humbled 30-10 on Sunday, Ricky Stuart was quick to criticise the penalty count against his side. However, the Eels’ lack of direction in attack continues to be a key reason for their position of last on the ladder. Chris Sandow (three runs) was again limp in attack but aside from the runs and the other main measures of a team’s attacking dominance, one number did stand out for the Eels on the weekend: one.  One kick to force a goal-line drop-out and it was made by centre Ryan Morgan in the last ten minutes of the game.

Storm five-eighth Gareth Widdop had already made 20 tackles in his 51 minutes on the park before he suffered a dislocated hip against the Gold Coast. The Titans had successfully blunted the Storm attack and despite debutant Ben Hampton’s moments of brilliance, John Cartwright’s side laid a very solid attacking platform running at Widdop, one of the visitors’ chief play-makers.

Origin-affected rounds get plenty of criticism, primarily due to the fact the big names are missing and quality is perceived to drop off. Whilst the first of those two points is factual and the second could be disputed. What the competition continues to deliver is contests which are in doubt right up until the end. Three of the games from round 15 were decided by six points or less so whilst the action may not always be of a high standard during the Origin period, the NRL is delivering great drama.

A golden point from Origin: Penalty counts, sin bins and horror debuts aside, Queensland completed their first 12 sets and that laid their platform to score a runaway victory. NSW’s failure to force an error in that period coupled with Queensland’s discipline meant the Blues were blown away well before half time.

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