Like the way of the five metre gap in defence, looking at the points you may have missed from round 25 of the NRL.
Future Newcastle Knight Trent Hodkinson has played his last game for this season due to a wrist injury and his absence is set to have a huge impact on the finals chances of the sixth-placed Bulldogs. Since Des Hasler hasn’t shown faith in Hodkinson this year, and due to Origin commitments, we do have a few matches to look at from when Hodkinson has been absent for the Belmore-based franchise to look at the possible impact. In their last four games sans Hodkinson Canterbury have won two and lost two but, significantly, neither of those two wins were against finals-bound sides. The most recent fixture was round 18 which saw Canterbury beaten 16-8 by Brisbane in Sydney. With Moses Mybe and Josh Reynolds (who is expected back this weekend) in the halves the Dogs scored two tries. Three weeks earlier they beat Penrith four tries to two 24-12. Notably this was when Penrith were not as injury-ravaged with Dallin Watene Zelezniak, Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace all featuring in this game so the win has merit. The week prior was another loss this time 28-14 to the Gold Coast when the Bulldogs scored three tries. A 41-34 triumph over Canberra was the first victory in this block of four games. They did score seven tries in that encounter but again the opponent isn’t in the top eight so this loss doesn’t bode well for Hasler and co heading into the finals.
As our note about how Cameron Munster may be a better option at fullback was roundly ignored by Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy when Billy Slater inked a new deal with the Storm our other key note on fullback options this weekend also went ignored with disastrous consequences for South Sydney. Now Alex Johnston losing the ball close to the try line did mean Brisbane’s Corey Oates got the ball to race nearly 100 metres to score in the 13th minute but Dylan Walker’s attempts to stop the Brisbane forward-come-winger from scoring was woeful. Walker did the good work to get there but must now own the record for the longest ongoing tackle attempt (30 metres) that ended up in failure. Experimenting is meant for trial games and not two weeks from the finals. I’m not quite sure what Michael Maguire has achieved by this positional switch as Souths were beaten 47-12.
When beaten 20-6 by Newcastle in round 24 the Melbourne forward pack came in for heavy criticism from coach Bellamy. None of the big men ran for over 100 metres against the Knights as pointed out by Andy Raymond during the Fox Sports coverage in Saturday night’s fixture against the Cowboys. The message was received loud and clear. On a wet night in the Victorian capital Jesse Bromwich ran for over 100 metres (116) in the first half alone as Melbourne saw off Cowboys 14-6. The Kiwi international finished with an impressive 196 metres from 20 runs. He was joined in the ‘100 club’ by brother Kenny (115 metres) Tohu Harris (113) and Kevin Proctor (103.)
As the Roosters put Manly to the sword on Friday night at Brookvale Oval the value of James Maloney in the coming weeks was highlighted. Not only did the Cronulla-bound pivot pick up two try assists in the 46-10 victory his direction on attack proved invaluable. At one stage the Ourimbah junior forced an error from Manly winger Peter Hiku with one of his first half kicks which lead to a Brendan Elliot try in the eight tries to two triumph. As 19 year-old Jackson Hastings becomes more comfortable in the halfback role the contribution of Maloney, 29, when the pressure is on the Roosters in the coming month or so could be the difference between the Roosters winning back the title they secured in 2013 or the title favourites getting bundled out.
Former NSW Origin winger Akuila Uate was shown up by mature age rookie Nathan Ross on the opposite flank on Saturday night as the Knights fell 20-18 to the Bulldogs. Coming into this game in 20 games this season Uate gained 2735 metres in attack with an average of just under 137 metres per match whilst teammate Ross in four games has averaged 142 metres per fixture. Whilst Ross’ five metre better difference per game isn’t hugely statistically significant given the volumes we are talking about that Uate, a senior player and an international, didn’t lead these categories comfortably compared to his vastly inexperienced club-mate is worrying. Against the Bulldogs Ross not only scored a try but outgained Uate by 73 metres (193 to 120). In addition to this Uate has also been exposed defensively during the month of August missing ten tackles to Ross’ three to go with his howler on Saturday night. Older than Ross by only 11 months the Fijian international despite scoring 12 tries this season would find it hard to make a case for a ‘dead cert’ wing spot in 2016 no matter who the new coach is for the Knights. As we say in fantasy… droppable.