We’ve looked into when teams score their tries; we’ve analysed the various distances from which teams score their tries; but perhaps the most important aspect of try-scoring is where teams score.
You’ve probably heard Sterlo, Rabs and rugby league’s other experts referring to a team’s strong left edge, or their weak right-side defence. They quantify this is by numbers. So, just where do teams score, and get scored against?
Imagine a rugby league field lengthways and cut it into five sections: the left sideline section, the left edge, the middle, the right edge and the right sideline. Looking at these areas we can learn about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, both in attack and defence.
A team that scores a lot on the sidelines is obviously good at creating overlaps; those who score mostly on the edges have usually created one-on-one situations with great decoy shifts; and the teams that excel up the guts know how to isolate markers and find holes – sometimes with clever outside/inside plays like the Melbourne Storm have perfected with Billy Slater.
So, which of the contenders left in the finals race (sorry Eels, Panthers and Roosters fans… but you know you’re gone) are the best, and which are the worst, in each segment of the field? Who needs to fix their edge defence? Who needs to tighten up at ‘A’ defender and marker? Who needs to stop coming off their wing?
The most-prolific left-sideline attack belongs to the table-topping Bulldogs who have scored 19 tries. Centre Josh Morris is obviously a main reason for their dominance on this side of the field (he’s scored 16 tries this season, ranked second), ably supported by league-leading Ben Barba (17 tries) who has forged a pretty lethal combo with Morris. Canberra and Newcastle are the next best on the left sideline with 16 tries apiece for the year. At the other end of the scale the Titans, now eighth, rarely score down the left sideline, with just eight tries. Manly, North Queensland and South Sydney also rarely have success on the left sideline, with just nine tries each.
The left edge belongs to the Warriors who have scored an impressive 21 tries on this side of the field. Before thinking immediately of barnstorming rookie centre Konrad Hurrell, remember: he plays on the right side! It seems the Warriors’ left-edge forwards are creating plenty of problems for the defence. Canberra is next on the list with 20 tries, making them the most-prolific team on the entire left side. Melbourne and North Queensland have also been good here, with 18 tries each. Meanwhile the Sharks have the worst left edge in the NRL, having crossed for just nine tries all season. The Dragons aren’t much better with 10, which is a long cry from their premiership year in 2010 where their shifts left were near unstoppable.
When it comes to scoring tries up the guts the resurgent South Sydney are the kings of the NRL, with 22 tries up the middle. With a great, scheming hooker in Issac Luke and a rookie halfback going great guns, the Rabbitohs are dynamite through the centre. (Also, don’t underestimate the fact Greg Inglis and Dave Taylor suck defenders wider, leaving more space to work with up the middle.) The Bulldogs are next best with 20 tries… again, Ben Barba’s support play up the middle is a huge factor. Who can’t make inroads up the middle? The Raiders – they have just nine tries this season. The Dragons, Sharks and Knights are not much better with just 10.
Want to know the key to shutting down Melbourne? Stop them from scoring on the right edge! The Storm are way out in front of the league, with a mammoth 26 tries on the right edge, seven more than their nearest rivals the Raiders and Bulldogs. Slater likes chiming into a backline anywhere but it seems he’s at his best on the right this season. The Dragons and Titans are the stragglers here with just 10 tries apiece.
The Cowboys rule here, with Ashley Graham (15 tries) really cashing in before his injury. The Cowboys have notched 23 tries on the right sideline, four more than the next-best Sea Eagles. The Raiders and the Dragons find themselves on the wrong end of things again, with just a measly eight tries on the right sideline. Is Daniel Vidot catching a cold?
(* Left-side stats in defence refer to how a team repels their opponent’s left-side attack; i.e. they are the right-side defenders.)
Newcastle take the prize here, having leaked just five tries all season. Their right-sideline defenders have kept up their end of the defensive bargain… and then some. Teams going left on the Gold Coast have also come up relatively empty, scoring just eight tries with Brisbane also impressive at nine. The Storm have had problems here, and have shown a weakness, letting in 16 tries on the left sideline. The Wests Tigers also have cause for concern with 15 let by.
Melbourne make up for their poor efforts on the sideline with a strong wall on the edge. They lead the NRL with just six tries scored by opposition teams on the left edge (their right edge). Canberra are also impressive here, having leaked just eight ‘meat pies’. Those playing the Sharks are well aware of Cronulla’s big weakness – they have allowed 22 tries through on the left edge, compelling evidence that their right-edge defenders must aim up. The Warriors also struggle here, having leaked 20 tries.
They may struggle on the left edge but the Sharks certainly muscle up in the middle, having leaked just seven tries this year. Their ‘pigs’ are doing what’s needed, forcing teams to head to the fringes. The Bulldogs are also pretty solid up the guts, leaking just nine tries. However, perhaps the North Queensland forwards should take some concrete pills, having let 20 tries in up the middle. The Titans and Broncos also need to improve having conceded 18 apiece.
The Sharks once again lead the way, showing they have just the one area of real concern. The boys in the black, white and blue have let in just nine tries in this region to be equal best with the Rabbitohs. While Souths need to stiffen their defence across the board just a little to give themselves an even better shot at premiership glory, as far as this segment of the field goes they are on track. But Raiders fans… close your eyes. Canberra have leaked a mammoth 27 tries here… by far the worst in the NRL. Also, the Warriors would be advised to concentrate a little harder here after leaking 19 tries.
The ’Dogs of war lead out again here, with just seven tries conceded. Des Hasler’s influence is seen across the park, but he really likes his sides to work hard in defence and this is further evidence the Canterbury boys are muscling up. It’s more bad news for Raiders fans though – they’ve leaked 18 tries on this sideline to be the worst of those teams left in contention, and equal worst in the NRL. Concern here for the Bunnies and the Warriors also, with 16 conceded tries.
So there you go guys. Are you now a little more worried, or more confident in your team’s chances? Let me know on twitter @NRLStatsInsider