Stats Insider: Cranking up the pressure

Those of you looking for a statistic to back up the theory the table-topping Dragons could be in trouble in the lead-up to the finals need look no further than your friendly neighbourhood Stats Insider.<br><br>We all know the big games come down to defence – but obviously you still need to score some points. Further, the best way to crack a defence in anxiety-driven situations is to build pressure. To build pressure, you need repeat sets of six. <br><br>By now we are all aware the St George Illawarra side has the best defence in the league – but now their attack has started to splutter. <br><br>As they try to convince the masses they are still on track to compete hard in this season’s finals, NRL.com can exclusively reveal the side is the worst in the comp at forcing oppositions into goal-line drop-out restarts – they’ve registered just 15 all season, an NRL low. That’s right: the Dragons are the weakest side in the NRL when it comes to getting the ball back for a repeat set.<br><br>Making this revelation even more astounding is the news they have been forced to drop-out the ball from under their own posts 42 times this season. This is the most of any side! <br><br>Now the obvious positive to these stats is the team isn’t conceding too many tries from these drop-outs – in fact, the six they have let in after a drop-out ranks as mid-range for the competition (equal seventh to be exact).<br><br>But continue that in the pressure cooker of sudden-death football and Wayne Bennett’s boys will be seriously flirting with danger. <br><br>And if the side continues to be unable to get the ball into the opposition in-goal themselves, obtaining extra scoring chances, their attacking woes may even get worse. <br><br>The Dragons have scored just twice this entire season after a drop-out has been kicked to them – again, by far the worst return in the NRL. <br><br>But enough of the Dragons’ negatives; what do these stats reveal on a positive note for title contenders? Well, the big winners are the Titans, who have muscled their way to back-to-back away wins in Dragons territory and then in Auckland last weekend against the Warriors. <br><br>As they fight to find a place in the finals, fans can be buoyed by the news they have scored more tries than any other side in the NRL off the back of repeat sets (11).<br>&nbsp;<br>They are also the best side defensively from a drop-out perspective, being equal first with the Bulldogs in conceding just three tries. <br><br>Opposition teams have forced the Titans to drop-out just 20 times this year, which is the second fewest in the NRL (behind just Melbourne’s 18). <br><br>And to put the icing on the cake, the Titans have forced a goal-line drop-out from their opposition 42 times to once again be top-ranked in the competition.<br><br>“Princey (halfback Scott Prince) and our kickers obviously do a lot of work on getting repeat sets and building pressure, so it good to see it is coming out in the stats,” Titans coach John Cartwright tells nrl.com.<br><br>“It’s a little funny to hear and I will certainly pass it on to the boys, but a few weeks ago when we lost to the Broncos we had a really poor kicking game and we have concentrated hard on fixing it up since… it has been the best it has been over the last two weeks.”<br><br>Cartwright says underestimating the importance of forcing drop-outs would be a silly move, as the added time in possession in critical field position will certainly help towards clinching games.<br><br>“It’s everything,” he says. “In finals matches and big games you are probably playing against a side that isn’t dropping a lot of ball and you might not be getting many penalties, so the only way you can get a repeat set is to put one in the in-goal,” Cartwright explains.<br><br>“We hear all the talk of how important penalties are and that’s because you get six more tackles. The same applies with goal-line drop-outs. If you have a good pressure set against their line and then can back that up with six more, you are really starting to test sides defensively. <br><br>“If you can receive a lot more drop-outs on average than your opposition, it probably tells you that you are going to win the game.”<br><br>The Roosters and Warriors rank equal second at scoring tries from drop-outs (eight), with the Sea Eagles, Broncos and Eels equal fourth with seven apiece.<br><br>In a further blow for the Rabbitohs’ finals hopes, they have conceded the most tries from drop-out sets (12) – revealing they struggle more than most to back up one defensive set on the line with another. <br><br>They also rank 14th in drop-outs taken, having been forced to kick the ball back to their opposition on 35 occasions.<br><br>How does your club fare? Check out the rankings below.<br><br><b>DROP-OUTS TAKEN</b><br>1. Storm: 18<br>2. Titans: 20<br>3. Cowboys: 21<br>3. Panthers: 21<br>5. Bulldogs: 22<br>5. Eels: 22<br>7. Broncos: 23<br>8. Roosters: 25<br>8. Sea Eagles: 25<br>10. Warriors: 26<br>11. Wests Tigers: 27<br>12. Sharks: 32<br>13. Raiders: 34<br>14. Rabbitohs: 35<br>15. Knights: 36<br>16. Dragons: 42<br><br><b>DROP-OUTS RECEIVED </b><br>1. Titans: 42<br>2. Storm: 31<br>2. Roosters: 31<br>2. Raiders: 31<br>5. Warriors: 30<br>6. Bulldogs: 29<br>6. Panthers: 29<br>8. Broncos: 27 <br>9. Wests Tigers 26<br>10. Cowboys: 25<br>10. Sea Eagles: 25<br>10. Eels: 25<br>13. Knights: 22<br>13. Rabbitohs: 22<br>15. Sharks: 19<br>16. Dragons: 15<br><b><br>TRIES SCORED FROM DROP-OUT</b><br>1. Titans: 11<br>2. Roosters: 9<br>2. Warriors: 9<br>4. Sea Eagles: 8<br>4. Broncos: 8<br>4. Eels: 8<br>7. Raiders: 7<br>7. Bulldogs: 7<br>7. Rabbitohs: 7<br>10. Panthers: 6<br>11. Wests Tigers: 5<br>12. Sharks: 4<br>12. Storm: 4<br>12. Knights: 4<br>15. Cowboys: 3<br>16. Dragons: 2<br><b><br>TRIES CONCEDED FROM DROP-OUT</b><br>1. Titans: 3<br>1. Bulldogs: 3<br>3. Panthers: 4<br>3. Storm: 4<br>5. Broncos: 5<br>5. Knights: 5<br>7. Sea Eagles: 6<br>7. Dragons: 6<br>9. Cowboys: 7<br>9. Eels: 7<br>9. Wests Tigers: 7<br>9. Warriors: 7<br>13. Roosters: 8<br>14. Raiders: 9<br>14. Sharks: 9<br>15. Rabbitohs: 12