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NRL Telstra Premiership 2009

Stats Insider: The best close-range defenders

Benjamin Everill NRL.com Thu, May 12, 2011 - 2:30 PM

Brisbane’s goal-line defence is proving one of the best of all time – with not even one try a match getting by them from close range. Copyright: Getty Images

Brisbane’s goal-line defence is proving one of the best of all time – with not even one try a match getting by them from close range. 

While we have read and heard a fair bit about the defensive prowess of the Broncos in 2011, they have given up the “best” defensive team mantle to the Dragons in recent weeks. That said, when dissecting how teams have defended their goal lines – the toughest part of the field to defend – the Broncos come up trumps once more. 

Brisbane have let in just seven tries from between 0-10 metres in their opening nine games – a phenomenal effort. 

When players defend with two feet on their trylines (well, that’s the rule at least) and the opposition is just a heartbeat away, any minor mistake can result in a try rather than just a half-break or line-break. 

Low, ‘legs’ tackles have to be taken out of the equation, forcing teams to really muscle up and communicate well to wrap up plays. 

The Dragons, Storm and somewhat surprisingly the Roosters are the equal next best exponents, with 11 tries conceded from close range. 

For Brisbane to be conceding less than one try a match is incredible – even the 2010 Dragons let in 26 close-range tries from their 24 regular season games. 

The 2009 Storm (premiers before being stripped) and 2008 Sea Eagles also won titles with great defence, but they couldn’t match a strike rate of less than a try a game. 

At the other end of the spectrum, when it comes to teams struggling with their goal-line defences, it’s no surprise that the Raiders are by far the worst team in the league. With 27 tries conceded from close range so far – nine more than the next-worst Titans and Panthers – the Raiders are almost a revolving door when the opposition gets within range.

Confidence and communication are almost non-existent; unless they reverse this the side will leak plenty more before the season is out. 

The best-performing team with a dodgy goal-line defence thus far is the Bulldogs, sitting sixth on the ladder despite leaking 17 tries from close. If they want to keep their premiership quest on track they’ll need to become a vastly tighter unit. The upside though is that they will be a huge premiership threat if they are able to fix their goal-line ‘D’.

Attack-wise, the Wests Tigers are the masters from close range. (This is hardly a bombshell revelation though, with Benji Marshall almost impossible to defend against when he gets close.) The Tigers have scored 23 tries from 0-10 metres in just eight games. 

This stat is a great indicator of the power of a side’s halves and hooker; it’s easy to see how the good combinations can create pathways to glory. 

So… chalk up a big tick for Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, as the Sea Eagles have also scored an impressive 23 tries from close (although they have played an extra game). 
The Cowboys, with Johnathan Thurston running the show, are next with 22, while the impressive Melbourne, thanks to Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, have 21. 

In an embarrassing revelation for the Panthers, Matthew Elliott’s men have scored just five tries from close to the line this year to rank the worst in the NRL. Unfortunately Luke Walsh and co. can’t crack the shell of a peanut – whereas last year they dined out on a deadly close-range kicking game. 

The Rabbitohs and Titans rank only slightly better with just eight tries apiece, followed by the Eels and Raiders with 11. 

Scott Prince has really missed Nathan Friend at hooker, as teams have double-teamed the former Clive Churchill Medal winner. With less of a perceived threat inside and out, opposition sides have forced Prince into hurried choices and poor execution.

Tries Conceded From Close Range: 

Broncos 7
Dragons 11
Roosters 11
Storm 11
Sharks 12
Warriors 12
Wests Tigers 12
Sea Eagles 14
Eels 14
Knights 15
Cowboys 16
Bulldogs 17
Rabbitohs 17
Titans 18
Panthers 18
Raiders 27

Tries Scored From Close Range: 

Wests Tigers 23
Sea Eagles 23
Cowboys 22
Storm 21
Knights 18
Sharks 15
Roosters 15
Bulldogs 14
Dragons 13
Warriors 13
Broncos 12
Raiders 11
Eels 11
Titans 8
Rabbitohs 8
Panthers 5

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