Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 20th round of the NRL. Cronulla remain two points clear of second-placed Melbourne with both top two sides winning this weekend whilst the Raiders vaulted into fourth spot after prevailing 26-22 in golden point extra-time over the Warriors.
In registering yet another triumph, beating Newcastle 36-4, Cronulla chalked up a key statistic for the first time in four games that we had followed earlier in the season – the 30 Set Standard (TSS). Shane Flanagan’s ladder-leading side had been bucking that trend (which is associated with needing to have 30 completed sets to win a match.) Something they hadn’t done in the three prior games this campaign. Seven of the eight winning sides in round 20 completed 30 sets or more, although the Raiders did need extra time to complete their 30.
North Queensland’s ability to force pressure even when they don’t score a try was highlighted by play-maker Johnathan Thurston on Thursday night as they beat the Bulldogs 36-0. In forcing three line drop-outs in the first quarter of the game this was typified by a 20th minute effort which saw Johnathan Thurston put in a kick 25 metres out from the line but his team-mates coming from 30 metres away still hemmed the Bulldogs attacker in goal. Contrast this with Des Hasler’s side who didn’t get a tackle in the 20 metre-zone when on attack until well into the first half and then lacked options when they did get the odd chance and it was clear to see that whilst the Cowboys have only one more win, 12, than the Bulldogs the reigning champions are playing better right now. Thurston will likely miss the next two weeks though due to a hamstring injury picked up in the second stanza.
Mid-season recruit Raymond Faitala-Mariners played 39 minutes off the bench in the heavy defeat for Canterbury. Essentially playing a large swathe of minutes the absent Tony Williams would have, Faitala-Mariner made 20 tackles and had 7 runs for 57 metres which made him the Bulldogs bench player with the most metres gained, although he did play the most minutes of the four interchange substitutes. The work of the ex-Warrior, which included two off-loads could be a window into the future with former Origin forward Williams unlikely to get another big deal at the Bulldogs. Faitala-Mariner played only six minutes in round 18 when Williams played 54 minutes off the pine two weeks ago. Faitala-Mariner’s 57 metres gained where the same as key forward Aiden Tolman who played 12 more minutes.
A 20-point win over the Eels now that they are out of finals contention and without a host of their stars is probably not surprising but not many would have seen the Titans second try coming on the weekend. Winger Nene McDonald produced a deft kick from the middle of the park to supply fellow flyer Anthony Don with his eight try of the campaign. This came before McDonald himself out-jumped the pack to claim his own try in the second stanza after as Tyrone Roberts bomb. The result was as crucial one for Neil Henry’s side who welcome the ladder-leading Sharks on Monday night and have displayed an adept array of attacking options in recent weeks.
Finally, Saturday afternoon was an historic day for rugby league with New South Wales winning the Nellie Doherty Cup for the first time beating Queensland 8-6 in the Women’s Interstate Challenge (aka. Women’s Origin.) The match was scoreless until the 53rd minute when Simaima Taufa crossed after Kezzie Apps feed the ball quickly from dummy half to Taufa who ran a good angle to score. The Blues women (coached by former Canberra, Melbourne and Newcastle forward Ben Cross) held strong but Brad Donald’s side blew a golden chance to score ten minutes from time when Brittany Brearley barged over from dummy half but the try was scratched out after it was ruled her team-mate obstructed the NSW defenders. Queensland did cross the line legally in the final minute through half-back Ali Brigginshaw but time expired at the conversion attempt and the Blues broke 17 years of domination. Coupled with last year’s 4-4 draw the victory shows the Blues have turned around their history in the fixture as it is worth noting four years ago they were hammered 34-10 in Penrith.
Image via theherald.com.au