By the Numbers: NRL Finals Week 1
The crucial numbers that made the difference in the opening weekend of the 2015 NRL Finals Series.
Storm fullback Cameron Munster continues to go from strength to strength, and was a big reason why Melbourne surprised many to book a home preliminary final with a win over minor premiers the Roosters on Friday night. While all eyes were on Munster's opposite number Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the young Storm custodian ran for 215 metres and served up one try assist, seven tackle busts, one offload and two line-break assists to help his side earn the week off. Without question one of the breakout stars of the season.
It'd be easy to blame Gareth Widdop for the Dragons' golden-point elimination final loss to the Bulldogs. Attempting a 40/20, the England international kicked out on the full in extra time to hand the Dogs excellent field position to slot the match-winning field goal. While that moment was disappointing, there's a strong argument that the Dragons wouldn't have made it to extra time if it wasn't for the returning five-eighth, who was three from three with the boot and had 19 kicks for 367 metres, taking on the bulk of playmaking duties once Benji Marshall left the field injured. Fullback Josh Dugan also had another strong game, making 250 metres, five tackle busts and two offloads.
Saturday's elimination final was also the scene for another rising star to show the rugby league world what he's capable of producing on the big stage, with late-season sensation Damien Cook making 67 tackles in the Bulldogs' golden point victory. Cook now averages just over 52 tackles from his four games in 2015, and will need to be at his best again on Friday night with the Roosters sure to send plenty of traffic through the middle part of the field.
Think you need a mountain of possession to win a finals game? Think again. Against the Cowboys, the Broncos had just 43 per cent of the ball in their four-point victory. Brisbane also committed fewer errors (five, Cowboys 11) and conceded fewer penalties (three against the Cowboys' five), helping them to a narrow win over their Queensland rivals.
Cronulla lived to see another day following their dominant showing against South Sydney on Sunday afternoon, with the running metres stat perhaps a good indication of where this game was won. With Souths missing their main man up front in George Burgess, the Sharks made 191 runs for 1766 metres, compared to the Rabbitohs' 156 runs for 1302 metres. The men from the Shire also finished with a 74 per cent completion rate, compared with their opponents' 63 per cent. It was a perfect day for both goal-kickers, with Michael Gordon six from six attempts, and Adam Reynolds slotting his two conversions.