6th June 2017, 14:10 | englandrl
HE was sidelined by injury for five weeks but England stand-off Gareth Widdop took just one game to go back to the top of the NRL’s point scorers list – overnight at least.
The 28-year-old’s two tries against Wests Tigers on Saturday, each of which he converted, allowed him to move to just one point short of a century for 2017 despite missing a third of the matches played this season.
In subsequent matches of round 13 the following day, Penrith’s Nathan Cleary, Parramatta’s Clint Gutherson and Sydney Roosters’ Michael Gordon were able to overtake him – but given that Widdop is actually playing again, the trio are in for a fight.
“Gaz, I thought, was the form player of the competition before his injury,” said Dragons coach Paul McGregor following a 16-12 success at ANZ Stadium, referring to a left knee problem.
“He did a lot of work over the last five weeks to come back early – and I’m glad he did.
“He’s a total professional in the way he goes about his preparation to play well. The boys get a lot of confidence in Gareth because he’s the type of player who instils that in everyone.
“And as I said before, he’s a good leader.”
GARETH WIDDOP: A blazing return from injury for the England stand-off in a 16-12 win over Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium; two tries, two goals and a clean line break.
JOE WARDLE: Played the full 80 minutes against Melbourne after being named in the centres, making 27 tackles in a 40-12 defeat at AAMI Park.
The man himself was typically humble, commenting: “I’ve done everything possible to get back out there this week and there were a few good moments and probably a few areas I can work on.
“Midweek … I wanted to give myself every chance and I just wanted to make sure I could get through training. I did that throughout the week. The physio said I was right to come back.
“I didn’t push it. I just did what was asked.”
CHRIS McQUEEN: Just half an hour on the field in the 20-8 defeat to North Queensland, making 17 tackles.
JOE GREENWOOD: Played the full game at the 1300SMILES Stadium, making 36 tackles and missing seven.
Canterbury captain James Graham’s neck injury prevented him playing against Penrith at the same venue on Sunday – and it was probably a good one to miss as the Bulldogs were lapped 38-0.
The rest of the England stars and selection hopefuls involved in the curtailed round 13 were all on the losing side.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has accused rivals of “cheating at the ruck” to shut the Green Machine down – an issue that directly affects hooker Josh Hodgson who is at acting half more than any team-mate.
JOSH HODGSON: Played 82 minutes for Canberra against Manly – because the game went into golden point time. Thirty-three tackles and 89 metres.
ELLIOTT WHITEHEAD: 43 tackles at Lottoland.
“There’s nothing you can really do about it,” the England rake told reporters.
“We don’t really worry about it, we just concentrate on ourselves and our game plan of what we want to do.
“You can’t prepare too much for what the other team is going to do because one, you’re not quite sure and two, there’s not much you can do about it anyway.”