Do you go to games expecting your team to explode out of the blocks? Or are you fairly confident of your team’s routine late flourish to secure the win? Perhaps you’re more used to seeing your heroes put the hammer down either side of halftime? Or are you constantly bemoaning a try against you right before halftime as you head to the queues for a hot pie and chips?
Exactly when teams score their points could be a very interesting statistic as we get down to the meat and potatoes of season 2012. With coaches looking for improvement and the ability of their teams to take things to another level, perhaps knowing when the players are likely to clock off will help to fix things. Conversely, if the opposition knows you’re likely to be waning in a certain time period, perhaps a few strategic interchanges might be the perfect counter move.
For the purpose of this analysis I have broken down the 80-minute rugby league match into eight 10-minute periods, to see just how many tries your club scores – and concedes – in each time period.
It comes as no surprise to learn the Storm and the Rabbitohs have been the best sides in the opening 10 minutes of matches this season – but what does come as a huge shock is the fact that lowly Parramatta join them! All three sides have a +4 try differential when it comes to the opening exchanges of games, with the Storm leading the way with nine tries followed by the Eels and Rabbitohs with eight – but they have also conceded an extra try each. The Eels are starting matches well but, as you’ll learn later, they have massive issues in other sections… hence 16th spot on the ladder. And in what no doubt will come as a concern to Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, the Broncos are equal worst in the NRL in this period with a -5 try differential, stuck in last place with the lowly Panthers. Other current top-eight sides who have been slow out of the blocks include the Sharks (-2) and Cowboys (-3).
The next 10-minute period is owned by the Rabbitohs. The bunnies have been phenomenal in this section, scoring a massive 16 tries, or on average one a game in just this period of football. (I wonder if you can place a bet on that occurring on Monday night?) Their try differential for this block is 9, taking them to 13 for the first 20 minutes. It is certainly setting a great platform and is a big part of why they are heading for what would be just their second finals appearance in 23 years. Brisbane make up for their opening 10-minute slack by bouncing back hard in this period; they are next on the list with a +8 differential with the Cowboys and Sharks both sporting impressive +7s. All of the hard work done by the Eels in the opening 10 minutes is wiped off the park in this period, as they’ve scored just two tries but leaked 16 for a -14 differential.
Brisbane continue their fightback from a sluggish start in the third 10-minute bracket of games. They lead the NRL with 11 tries in this time period and with just four conceded sport a +7 differential. The Cowboys also continue a surge (+6); however nine of the 16 clubs are in negative territory here… is this because their first interchanges are made and intensity drops? The high-flying Rabbitohs certainly seem to run out of a bit of puff after a strong start… they are 15th in the NRL here, with a -4 try differential having leaked 10 tries while only scoring six. The Eels remain the worst with -6.
How often do you hear the commentators refer to the crucial period leading up to halftime… it seems almost every match a team takes advantage of the moments right before the oranges break. Who should stand out here? Well, it’s Canterbury’s time to shine, with the Bulldogs making a massive move on the other clubs by sporting an impressive +11 try differential before the break. They are way out in front, having scored 14 tries and letting in just three, well ahead of the second-best Warriors who are at +6. It is a huge psychological boost to put a try on right before the break and ensures the other team goes in a little deflated. Again, the Eels are the worst team here at -8. Also the Dragons, Raiders, Broncos and Rabbitohs are among the teams that need to lift their intensity in this period if they are to be serious contenders.
Just as approaching halftime can be crucial, so too is the period immediately after the resumption of play. The reigning premiers Manly have proven to be the alpha males when it comes to starting the second stanza, with a +8 differential (which is just as well given they can tend to slip away in the following 20 minutes). The Rabbitohs start strong (+5) while the Broncos prove they can jump away well if they put their minds to it. Eels and Panthers fans look away: your sides’ dismal efforts this year can be attributed in no small part to this period.
Having been solid throughout the first 50 minutes of games this is the ‘go zone’ period for the table-topping Storm. They have a distinct advantage over the rest of the NRL in this period, with their +8 differential well ahead of the Warriors, Panthers and Knights (+3). This is a quiet period of games, with only five teams having a positive try differential. If the Storm continue to dominate and make moves here it could be decisive. Meanwhile the Rabbitohs’ defence falters here – is it time for a different interchange approach from coach Michael Maguire?
As we enter the last quarter of games a couple of things become apparent. The Broncos, Storm and Bulldogs are either making a run or putting games away, while the Knights, Panthers, Titans and Roosters are just about throwing up the white flag of surrender. The Warriors and Raiders have scored the most tries with 10 each in this period – but they’ve undone their good work by each leaking seven tries. Brisbane at +6 and the Storm and Bulldogs at +5 should be very happy in the knowledge they are getting it done in the clutch.
The final 10 minutes is obviously crucial in many games but the figures can also be a little skewed given some matches are well and truly over by this point, with the cues already back in the rack. This might explain why it is the Eels that have managed to score 12 tries in the last 10 minutes of matches… although they have struggled here too, leaking 10. Once again it is the high-flying, top-eight teams Canterbury (+9), Manly (+7), North Queensland (+6) and Melbourne (+4) that are stomping the life out of others as the clock winds down. But for Rabbitohs fans there is cause for concern: the side is ranked dead last in the NRL in this period with a -8 differential. As mentioned above though, perhaps some of this can be attributed to clocking off in a game already won; nevertheless the red and green will need to find a way to grind for the entire 80 minutes if they are to compete deep into September.
So there you go, stats fans. With this knowledge perhaps get on a Rabbitoh to be first try-scorer on Monday night… or a Sea Eagle to be the first to ground the ball after halftime. You get my drift. Good luck!
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