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NRL Telstra Premiership 2009

Stats Insider: When your team fires in attack

Benjamin Everill NRL.com Thu, Jun 09, 2011 - 9:55 AM

If NRL games lasted 20 minutes, Canberra and Penrith would be among the leading attacking sides in the competition. Copyright: © NRL Photos

When does your team post its points in games? Do you have to make sure you’re in your seat well before kick-off so you don’t miss them flying out of the blocks? Close calls aside, is leaving a little early to beat the traffic not an option because your boys tend to pile on the points late? What about hitting up the canteen for a pie and sauce or a beer right before or after halftime when the queues are shorter – is it a no-go because that’s when your side experiences its golden period?

Last week we looked into the defences of the NRL clubs and broke down the specific periods they leak points. This week we break the game into four quarters offensively to see which teams do what with the ball, and when…

First-20 Attack
When it comes to getting away to a flyer there is no better side in the NRL than the Melbourne Storm. Currently second on the NRL ladder, the 2011 Storm side have put all the drama from last year behind them and they’re putting other sides on the back foot early by scoring quickly. They have scored 66 points in opening quarters so far and are using this platform to go on and get the job done. The trend is starting to slow though; in two of the past three games they haven’t scored any points to open a match. While the Storm’s numbers are still impressive, perhaps the most interesting storyline to emerge from our analysis is that most of the teams that start impressively don’t go on with the job.

The Storm are six points clear of two teams in equal second ranking – believe it or not Canberra and Penrith, who have scored 60 each. (Penrith and fifth-ranked Manly have scored points in the opening 20 minutes in 10 out of 12 games, the most consistent return in the NRL). Not far behind them, ranked fourth, are the Rabbitohs with 58 points, while Parramatta are alongside the Sea Eagles with 50 points. All bar Manly lie outside the top eight and are basically struggling this season. The problem? Well, for starters, they have almost conceded as many points as they’ve scored in opening quarters… and then their attacks slow down.

At the back end of the opening 20 minutes is the hapless Gold Coast, who are scoring just 24 points this season to open matches. They have failed to score a point in the opening 20 minutes in eight of their 12 games… ouch! (Three times they haven’t even scored before halftime.) To make matters worse they have conceded 82 points in opening 20s… on average they trail 7-2 every week after 20 minutes.

The Bulldogs also have problems jumping out of the stall, scoring just 32 points so far this season. The Warriors are only a little better at 34 points.

Points Scored In First Quarters:
1. Storm 66 points; =2. Panthers, Raiders 60 points; 4. Rabbitohs 58 points; =5. Eels, Sea Eagles 50 points; =7. Cowboys, Dragons, Broncos 48 points; =10. Wests Tigers, Sharks 42 points; =12. Knights, Roosters 40 points; 14. Warriors 34 points; 15. Bulldogs 32 points; 16. Titans 24 points.

Second-20 Attack
As teams start to tire the best attacks start to click into gear. When it comes to the period of football leading into halftime the Cowboys reign supreme and it has helped put them on a path to glory. The Cowboys have mustered 102 points during this part of matches – pretty incredible considering they were actually kept scoreless during this period in three games! Hooker Aaron Payne says the side hasn’t tried to target specific parts of games but has a few potential explanations, including how fresh the side feels. (It’s worth noting here the Cowboys also dominate the last 20 minutes of games, which you can read about further down.)

“We hadn’t really thought about it or talked about it but I guess it’s something our trainers can take some credit for,” Payne tells Stats Insider. “Our training has definitely been different. Paul Bowman is overseeing our training and he’s very scientific with his approach to it.

“We actually did more running during the off-season than we have done in previous years but during the season now we’ve done half the amount of kilometres we used to do during the week.

“The guys are definitely feeling fresher for games compared to last year. I’m not sure if that’s a direct correlation, but I guess it could be.”

Payne is also quick to point out having players like Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen at the peak of their powers certainly helps as other teams start to struggle.

“I think our middle men can also take advantage of opposition big men when they are tired, which could be a reason,” he says. “Probably the fact we are completing at a much higher percentage than last year also has something to do with it.

“It’s a good little stat to have on our side so hopefully we can keep it going.”

The Dragons rank second in this time period with 94 points – they average 7.8 points and just 2.5 against, indicating how crucial the section is to their success. The Red V are well clear of the Knights who rank third with 78. Penrith and Canberra start their slide here, equal third worst with just 52 points scored, while the Titans still struggle in second last with just 44 points. But the least-damaging side are the Rabbitohs who have only managed 39 points leading into halftime, scoreless seven of 12 times, including the past three in a row. (The Bunnies are also the worst side defensively during this period, leaking 86 points).

Points Scored In Second Quarters:
1. Cowboys 102 points; 2. Dragons 94 points; 3. Knights 78 points; 4. Storm 76 points; 5. Sea Eagles 70 points; 6. Wests Tigers 66 points; =7. Bulldogs, Warriors 64 points; 9. Broncos 63 points; 10. Eels 62 points; 11. Sharks 57 points; =12. Roosters, Panthers, Raiders 52 points; 15. Titans 44 points; 16. Rabbitohs 39 points.  

Third-20 Attack
John Lang may be one of the best halftime motivators in the business, as the Bunnies seem to bounce back from a poor end to their first 40s with a good start to the second 40s. We’ve all seen Lang’s beetroot face after a few halftime rockets and while it can’t be good for his health it certainly gives his side a boot up the backside. The Rabbitohs lead the way for attack in the opening 20 minutes of the second half with 66 points scored so far in 2011. They are just ahead of the Sea Eagles and Broncos, tied for second with 64 points.

It is in this part of matches when the Cowboys take their nap. While they kill teams right before halftime and annihilate them in the last 20 minutes of a match, the Cowboys have scored just 34 points in the third 20 minutes to be ranked second last. Five out of 12 games they haven’t scored a single point in this period.

But they are not the worst side… the gong goes to the Titans once again. They have put together just 32 points in this part of the game… and in half of their outings they haven’t posted a point.

Points Scored In Third Quarters:
1. Rabbitohs 66 points; =2. Sea Eagles, Broncos 64 points; 4. Wests Tigers 61 points; 5. Storm 60 points; 6. Bulldogs 56 points; =7. Warriors, Knights 52 points; 9. Raiders 48 points; 10. Dragons 47 points; 11. Eels 42 points; =12. Roosters, Panthers 40 points; 14. Sharks 38 points; 15. Cowboys 34 points; 16. Titans 32 points.

Fourth-20 Attack
Beware the Cowboys’ lethal finish! What they lack in the first 20 after halftime they certainly make up for at the death. The Cowboys have posted 116 points in the final 20 minutes of games – almost 10 points a week – helping them to a top-four ladder position at the halfway mark. They were actually scoreless on three occasions but on others went on rampages. They put 16 on Newcastle and Cronulla; they added 18 against Melbourne and Canberra; and they blitzed the Eels with 26 points at the back end!

The Sea Eagles are the next best side with 94 points scored, followed by the Wests Tigers with 89. The Raiders and Roosters struggle in the final 20 of games with 46 and 44 points scored respectively but the worst finishers have been the Eels who have scored zero points in half of their games at this point in matches and have a total of just 38.

The Rabbitohs are mid-pack with 61 points scored at the death but in a worrying trend they have failed to score a point in the final 20 minutes of their past four games. Considering they have leaked 106 points in this time period you can see why they are outside the top eight.

The Titans actually score points here, ranked sixth, but no doubt this is because other teams have taken their foot off the gas after running them down early.

Points Scored In Fourth Quarters:
1. Cowboys 116 points; 2. Sea Eagles 94 points; 3. Wests Tigers 89 points; =4. Bulldogs, Storm 82 points; 6. Titans 75 points; 7. Panthers 74 points; 8. Warriors 73 points; =9. Rabbitohs, Dragons 61 points; 11. Broncos 59 points; 12. Sharks 58 points; 13. Knights 50 points; 14. Raiders 46 points; 15. Roosters 44 points; 16. Eels 38 points.