Stats Insider: Grand Final analysis

Congratulations to St George Illawarra for becoming premiers in 2010 with an impressive win over the Sydney Roosters last Sunday.

The Dragons were a stats man’s dream – playing basic football all season based on exceptional defence and completion rates. They proved rugby league is still a simple game if you commit to the basics.

Commiserations to the Roosters, who were amazing considering their position last season in winning just five games… they were a dead-set rabble back then.

They were more than worthy grand finalists and shape up as a side that could get much better with another year of cohesion behind them.

Anyway, the big one turned out to be a game of two halves. While most pundits might say the Dragons won the match in the second half, the platform for their victory was actually set in the first half, despite their trailing 8-6 at the break.

The Roosters had enough ball to be ahead by 12 or more points and the fact they weren’t gave Wayne Bennett the ammunition to help his men home.

St George Illawarra didn’t allow a single point past them in all three second halves of football during the finals – simply brilliant. Here are the numbers from the big game…

FIRST HALF
The Dragons completed just 58 per cent of their sets in the opening half – with a whopping 10 errors giving them all sorts of trouble. The Roosters, on the other hand, completed 89 per cent of their sets of six after just three errors… but came up with just two more points on the board.

The possession was 54 per cent/46 per cent in favour of the Roosters. Despite having much less ball, the Dragons gained 545 metres across the ground – not all that far behind the Roosters’ 590 metres.

The Dragons were forced into making 34 more tackles than the Roosters – almost six sets worth – yet still missed just 10 tackles compared to the Roosters’ 12. But they did have 11 ineffective tackles compared to the Roosters’ five.

Despite wet conditions the Roosters knocked out six offloads in the opening half, the Dragons four.

The Roosters had the only line-break of the first half – although the Dragons powered through 12 tackle-breaks to the Roosters’ 10.

The Roosters’ kicking game was dominant – making 403 metres to the Dragons’ 226 metres. (And remember, the Dragons were by far the biggest kicking team in the NRL all year...)

With these stats in their favour the Roosters really needed to be doing much better than just an 8-6 lead. Todd Carney missed both conversions, which certainly didn’t help proceedings. But by all rights they would have wanted probably two more tries with this match ball. Why? Because invariably possession evens up over a game… and the Dragons were ready to pounce.

SECOND HALF
The Dragons completed an impressive 90 per cent of sets in the second half compared to the Roosters’ 50 per cent. The difference between the two clubs was the Dragons used the possession to score 26 unanswered points.

Possession percentages actually favoured the Dragons 63/37 in the second half, making it very hard for the Roosters to stay in the contest. They made six errors compared to the Dragons’ three.

The Dragons made 793 metres across the ground, the Roosters just 500 metres.

The Dragons made six line-breaks, the Roosters none. The Dragons added 27 second-half tackle-breaks, the Roosters just seven.

The Roosters were forced to make 82 more tackles, or almost 14 more sets of six – no team can win in these circumstances. The Dragons missed seven tackles, the Roosters 26.

The Roosters still led the offloads with four second-half offloads to the Dragons’ three.

The Dragons’ kicking game came to life with 443 metres gained compared to the Roosters’ 148 metres.

With these numbers it is no wonder the Dragons finished over the top of the Roosters to grab their first premiership.

Time to give a shout out to the top individuals from the game: Darius Boyd won the Clive Churchill Medal – he made 107 metres, had a try assist and a tackle-break.

But others with big numbers included:
Jason Nightingale – their two-try hero ran for a massive game-high 168 metres, plus he added 10 tackle-breaks, 12 tackles, an offload and three line-breaks.

Ben Creagh – while he may have dropped the ball a few times Creagh was tough on the way to 149 metres, the most territory by any forward in the game. He added five tackle-breaks and 10 tackles.

Ben Hornby – the skipper offered a try assist, three tackle-breaks, 16 tackles, a line-break and an offload. Plus one hell of a catch from a threatening bomb!

Dean Young – made a team-high 40 tackles and 84 metres while adding a try, a line-break and three tackle-breaks.

Matt Cooper (110m) and Neville Costigan (119m) also ran for triple figures.

For the Roosters, fullback Anthony Minichiello made 142 metres and winger Sam Perrett made 167 metres, the only two in triple figures. Jake Friend made a game-high 56 tackles.

So the season is done for another year… what will we all do? Bring on the Four Nations!