FIVE METRE GAP: NRL Finals Week One

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 the first week of the finals.

The now-legendary Geoff Toovey blow-up over penalty counts which earned the Manly mentor a $10,000 fine wasn’t needed despite the Silvertails narrow 4-0 loss to the Sydney Roosters. The Sea Eagles won the penalty count by an astonishing 12-5 after it was 4-3 in their favour at half-time. This was the most lopsided count of the weekend with two or one the difference in the other three fixtures.

Despite the defensive intensity in their one-score loss to the Roosters, Manly was reluctant to go to their bench for reinforcements on Saturday evening. Replacement forwards Richie Fa’aoso (13 minutes,) Tom Symonds (17) and George Rose (24) were used sparingly in the game (although Fa’aoso was knocked out). The lack of play for the latter duo was all the more surprising given Fa’aoso’s injury. With the quick turnaround to Friday evening it would be surprising if the Manly’s #14-17 players were not used more against Cronulla given the physical toll of last weekend’s encounter.

Three hookers topped the match tackle counts in the first week of the finals with Melbourne and Australia skipper Cameron Smith making 51 tackles, his earmarked Queensland replacement Matt Ballin topped a half-century but Canterbury’s Michael Ennis earned his Mad Monday with 52 tackles to his name as the weekend record. The only outlier from the #9 brigade was the Cowboys’ back-rower Gavin Cooper with 43.

It was like watching Melbourne circa 2009 as South Sydney executed their task in attack with ruthless efficiency in their 20-10 victory over the Storm on Friday evening. The Michael Maguire-coached side completed 33 of their 37 sets for a 89% completion rate, the highest of for the weekend. Melbourne failed to completed ten of their 42 sets

Speaking of Melbourne, their research on the Wayne Bennett-coached Newcastle side may have turned up two targets in the Knights defence. Halfback Tyrone Roberts and Robbie Rochow each missed six tackles in the Novocastrians’ 16 point triumph over the Bulldogs. Only the Roosters Luke O’Donnell (eight) missed more over the weekend but the ease of the Knights win would have coach Bennett concerned about the figures for Rochow and Roberts.

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