Does your team come out firing from the start every week? Or do they come home with a wet sail, more likely to fold like a cheap tent at the death? Do you get the feeling they struggle in the period approaching halftime, or do you look forward to the break knowing the start of the second stanza is their bread and butter?
With the help of NRL stats, here we embark on the first instalment of a two-week series dissecting the points scored and conceded in each quarter of NRL matches.
This week we’ll focus on the teams’ defences; next Thursday we will break down the attacks.
First-20 DefenceWe knew the Dragons were good, but this good? Really? St George Illawarra have conceded just six points in the first quarter of matches so far. No, that’s not a typo. Six points. Just over half a point a game. They leaked a Ben Pomeroy try in the wet in the 14th minute in Round 2 and a penalty goal to Johnathan Thurston in Round 9. That is phenomenal stuff. The next best side is Brisbane, who have leaked just 30 points in their opening 20s. This is also impressive but lost in the Dragons’ brilliance. As for first halves, the Dragons have conceded just 30 points in total.
“The start of the game is so important,” Dragons captain Ben Hornby tells Stats Insider. “Obviously we build our game around defence and we want to get off to a good start in games.
“You hope good preparation translates into good starts and while we haven’t talked about these stats specifically I guess it is a source of pride.”
After Brisbane the next best defensive starters in the NRL are the Cowboys and believe it or not, Cronulla. Both sides have conceded just 32 points, or less than three points in the first 20s of matches.
At the other end of the spectrum anyone looking for reasons why the Titans sit in last place on the NRL ladder should consider this – they are the worst team in the NRL for giving up points in the opening 20. The Gold Coast have allowed 78 points in the first part of games – just over seven points on average. This means the opposition is scoring more than a converted try each week. (At the risk of giving away some info for next week’s attacking story… they have only scored 20 points in the same period, 1.8 a game. Chasing your tail from the outset makes life tough.)
Points Conceded In First Quarters:
1. Dragons 6 points; 2. Broncos 30 points; =3. Cowboys, Sharks 32 points; =5. Sea Eagles, Storm 34 points; 7. Roosters 38 points; 8. Knights 42 points; =9. Rabbitohs, Bulldogs 44 points; 11. Eels 48 points; 12. Panthers 50 points; =13. Wests Tigers, Warriors 56 points; 15. Raiders 58 points; 16. Titans 78 points.
The Dragons again lead the way here, having let in just 24 points in the 20 minutes before halftime. Incredibly, before last week’s Wests Tigers game the side didn’t let in a single point during this period for six weeks in a row. Additionally, they have kept their oppositions scoreless in the first half in six of their 11 games.
The side has to lay claim to being one of the best, if not the best defensive side of all time. The 1996 Manly side only conceded 213 points in 25 games on their way to a premiership, or just 8.5 a match. The Dragons are currently at 114 points from 11 matches or 10.3 a game, so there is scope for improvement. But the 1996 competition had 20 teams and was thinner on talent, opening up the debate some more.
The Melbourne Storm are the next best team during second 20s, letting in just 40 points. Meanwhile the Wests Tigers and South Sydney are having problems right before halftime, leaking 76 and 80 points respectively. Cronulla’s good work from earlier slowly comes undone with 62 points leaked here.
Points Conceded In Second Quarters:
1. Dragons 24 points; 2. Storm 40 points; 3. Cowboys 48 points; 4. Roosters 50 points; 5. Sea Eagles 51 points; =6. Warriors, Broncos 52 points; 8. Panthers 54 points; =9 Knights, Bulldogs, Sharks 62 points; 12. Raiders 64 points; 13. Titans 72 points; =14. Eels, Wests Tigers 76 points; 16. Rabbitohs 80 points.
Finally a stat where the Dragons don’t reign… in fact they are ranked sixth in this part of the game after halftime, leaking 42 points. The crown for the best second half defensive side goes to Melbourne, who display the same authority the Dragons do before the break. The Storm have let in a paltry 24 points in the first 20 minutes after halftime to be just ahead of the Knights and Sea Eagles who have let in 28 points.
(Again, giving away some of next week’s figures, this is the part of the match when the Storm really shines; they’ve scored 60 points here to be ranked third.)
While the Broncos were awesome in not leaking a point during this period in their first six matches, their past five have seen 54 scored, dropping them to 11th. The Sharks’ troubles really kick into gear here, as they have leaked 64 points and are ranked second last.
But who is the worst? Who has a sleep during the break and forgets to come out swinging? The Panthers, who have conceded 66 points in the opening 20 minutes of their second halves.
Points Conceded In Third Quarters
1. Storm 24 points; =2. Knights, Sea Eagles 28 points; =4. Rabbitohs, Wests Tigers 38 points; 6. Dragons 42 points; 7. Raiders 43 points; 8. Warriors 46 points; 9. Titans 47 points; 10. Cowboys 48 points; 11. Broncos 54 points; 12. Bulldogs 56 points; 13. Eels 58 points; 14. Roosters 62 points; 15. Sharks 64 points; 16. Panthers 66 points.
When the lungs are busting and the legs are burning, who comes to the fore? With a five-game winning streak the Warriors are running hot – but the key is their defence at the back end of games. The boys from across the ditch have leaked just 33 points in the final 20 minutes of games, keeping teams scoreless in this period seven of 11 times and leaking just one point on another occasion! Their form is really sparkling right now, having kept teams scoreless on six of the past seven games at the death.
The Broncos lift their effort to be ranked second with 40 conceded, while the Dragons also lift to be third, letting in 42 points. Brisbane have kept teams scoreless in this time period six times. South Sydney undoes the good work of their third quarters by leaking a massive 100 points when fatigued.
But the Raiders are the worst in the NRL: they’ve seen 101 points flash past at the end of matches… no wonder they have won just three games.
Points Conceded In Final Quarters
1. Warriors 33 points; 2. Broncos 40 points; 3. Dragons 42 points; 4. Bulldogs 45 points; 5. Sea Eagles 48 points; 6. Titans 53 points; 7. Wests Tigers 54 points; 8. Storm 60 points; 9. Panthers 63 points; 10. Cowboys 64 points; 11. Knights 78 points; 12. Roosters 80 points; 13. Eels 82 points; 14. Sharks 92 points; 15. Rabbitohs 100 points; 16. Raiders 101 points.
Make sure to look out for Stats Insider on NRL.com next Thursday when we break down exactly when the teams are scoring their points.