Stats Insider: Dragons pick of the 'metre eaters'

There are many reasons why the St George Illawarra Dragons are flying high on top of the NRL ladder but the fact they dominate field position is clearly one of the more vital components to their premiership assault.<br><br>Being able to make the hard metres across the ground while limiting your opponents has always been one of the staples of successful rugby league teams, whether you are talking about the stalwart South Sydney teams of the late 1920s, the scintillating St George sides of the ’50s and ’60s, or the clinical Melbourne sides from the past few seasons.<br><br>In order to attack the opposition’s try line with regular success you need to be within good range; and in order to be able to steer yourself away from your own goal line you need to be able to churn through the metres – and not surprisingly exclusive NRL.com statistics show it is the St George Illawarra club who reigns supreme to date in 2009.<br><br>So far this season the Dragons are averaging 1457 running metres gained a match, which puts them in great stead to launch attacking raids and get the job done. They do this through a concerted team effort in the forwards and some super work from their back three. Impressively six Dragons regulars average 119 metres or more per game: Ben Creagh (119 metres), Justin Poore (119 metres), Michael Weyman (121 metres), Wendell Sailor (134 metres), Darius Boyd (134 metres) and Brett Morris (139 metres). Also, Michael Lett has averaged 143 metres in his two appearances.<br><br>It is also imperative for a team to be able to combat the opposition go-forward. While the Dragons aren’t ranked tops in this category, they are equal third and when you calculate the differential between the metres they are making and the metres they concede, they come out clear winners.<br><br>The Dragons gain 188 metres more than they concede per match – and this doesn’t take into account the precise and top-ranked kicking game the side also boasts. <br><br>When you factor in metres earned from kicks, the Dragons just get further and further away from the field. When it comes to kicking metres, the Dragons have a differential of 180 – 110 metres per match better than the second-ranked Broncos.<br><br>When you combine all metres together you find the Dragons are 368 metres per match better off than their opposition – a massive advantage in any language, especially when the next best is Newcastle who have an advantage of just 88 metres over their opponents.<br><br>While we’re at it, the numbers throw up plenty of interesting sub-plots:<br>The Parramatta Eels are great across the ground in running metres, ranked second – however they give up almost as many as they make and when it comes to their defence against an opposition’s kicking game, they are seemingly clueless giving up 720 kick metres a match to make their overall differential the 15th-ranked in the league.<br><br>The Cowboys are the only side keeping their opponents to less than 1200 metres a game in running metres. But they are ranked last in gaining metres from kicks and are the only team under the 500-metre mark a match. Regardless, their overall differential has them sitting third.<br><br>The Roosters’ position in last place on the NRL ladder could have a lot to do with the fact they are ranked last in running metres gained and 15th for running metres conceded. Their kick metres are also poor and while they seem to defend well against kick metres, it hasn’t been enough to save them the embarrassment of being 166 metres on average worse off than their opponents each week.<br><br>The high-flying Bulldogs and Storm do not stand out in any of these categories except kick metres gained (third and second respectively) and that is offset by a weakness in kick-metre defence. This shows that while the metres gained are a big help, teams with individual brilliance can still achieve results against the odds.<br><br>The Wests Tigers and Manly are the only teams in the overall metres gained differential ‘top eight’ who are not in the NRL official top eight. The Tigers gain just six metres more than their opponents on average, which obviously hasn’t been enough for the side to transform into results. The Sea Eagles are only outside the NRL top eight on points differential and earn nine metres more than their opposition each game. <br><br>Melbourne and Brisbane are the two teams currently in the finals zone who are not in the metres gained top eight.<br><br><b>Average Running Metres Gained </b><br>1. Dragons: 1457, 2. Eels: 1379, 3. Warriors: 1363, 4. Titans: 1349, 5. Raiders: 1343, 6. Sea Eagles: 1339, 7. Knights: 1333, 8. Storm: 1326, 9. Cowboys: 1320, 10. Bulldogs: 1308, 11. Panthers: 1297, 12. Wests Tigers: 1285, 13. Rabbitohs: 1264, 14. Broncos: 1226, =15. Sharks: 1213, =15 Roosters: 1213.<br><b><br>Average Running Metres Conceded</b><br>1. Cowboys: 1199, 2. Panthers: 1229, =3. Dragons: 1269, =3. Raiders: 1269, 5. Wests Tigers: 1276, 6. Knights: 1293, 7. Sharks: 1306. 8. Warriors: 1311. 9. Sea Eagles: 1314. 10. Titans: 1331, 11. Bulldogs: 1339, 12. Broncos: 1363, 13. Eels: 1364, 14. Storm: 1374, 15. Roosters: 1385, 16. Rabbitohs: 1408.<br><br><b>Running-Metres Differential </b><br>1. Dragons: 188, 2. Cowboys: 121, 3. Raiders: 74, 4. Panthers: 68, 5. Warriors: 52, 6. Knights: 40, 7. Sea Eagles: 25, 8. Titans: 18, 9. Eels: 15, 10. Wests Tigers: 9, 11. Bulldogs: -31, 12. Storm: -48, 13. Sharks: -93, 14. Broncos: -137, 15. Rabbitohs: -144, 16. Roosters: -172.<br><br><b>Average Kick Metres Gained</b><br>1. Dragons: 732, 2. Storm: 655, 3. Bulldogs: 640, 4. Knights: 619, 5. Broncos: 615, 6. Sharks: 608, 7. Raiders: 591, 8. Warriors: 584, 9. Eels: 581, 10. Wests Tigers: 578, 11. Rabbitohs: 573, 12. Roosters: 565, 13. Sea Eagles: 562, 14. Titans: 560, 15. Panthers: 520, 16. Cowboys: 495.<br><br><b>Average Kick Metres Conceded</b><br>1. Rabbitohs: 523, 2. Broncos 545, 3. Dragons: 552, 4. Roosters: 559, 5. Panthers: 560, 6. Cowboys: 566, =7. Sharks: 571, =7. Knights: 571, =9. Titans: 578, =9. Sea Eagles: 578, 11. Wests Tigers 581, 12. Bulldogs 605, 13. Warriors: 646, 14. Storm: 668, 15. Raiders: 670, 16. Eels 720.<br><b><br>Kick-Metres Differential</b><br>1. Dragons 180, 2. Broncos 70, 3. Rabbitohs: 50, 4. Knights: 48, 5. Sharks: 37, 6. Bulldogs 35, 7. Roosters: 6, 8. Wests Tigers: -3, 9. Storm: -13, 10. Sea Eagles -16, 11. Titans: -18, 12. Panthers: -40, 13. Warriors: -62, 14. Cowboys: -71, 15. Raiders: -79, 16. Eels: -139.<br><b><br>Total Metres-Gained Differential</b><br>1. Dragons: 368, 2. Knights: 88, 3. Cowboys: 50, 4. Panthers: 28, 5. Sea Eagles: 9, 6. Wests Tigers: 6, 7. Bulldogs 4, 8. Titans: 0, 9. Raiders: -5, 10. Warriors: -10, 11. Sharks: -56, 12. Storm: -61, 13. Broncos: -67, 14. Rabbitohs: -94, 15. Eels: -124, 16. Roosters: -166.