Locks' minutes analysed, back-row talents shine, and a thrilling draw few could have seen coming. The key numbers and statistics to come from Round 3 of the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership.
Impact of the reduced interchange on locks
Over the past two weeks we've looked at how the reduced interchange has influenced the game time of props and second-rowers, with some interesting results. However, it appears the most variation comes in the way of the men in the No.13 jersey, with each team utilising their lock slightly differently. Here's how many minutes each starting lock played in Round 3.
Cowboys: Jason Taumalolo (41)
Roosters: Sio Siua Taukeiaho (80)
Bulldogs: Sam Kasiano (29)
Eels: Tepai Moeroa (56)
Knights: Jeremy Smith (73)*
Raiders: Shaun Fensom (78)*
Panthers: Elijah Taylor (33)
Broncos: Corey Parker (58)
Titans: Greg Bird (62)
Wests Tigers: Sauaso Sue (46)
Warriors: Simon Mannering (80)
Storm: Dale Finucane (65)
Dragons: Jack de Belin (76)
Rabbitohs: Sam Burgess (52)
Sea Eagles: Jake Trbojevic (80)
Sharks: Joseph Paulo (25)
*Raiders-Knights match ended after 90 minutes
The first thing you might notice is the relative lack of locks playing 80 minutes in Round 3. Only Taukeiaho, Mannering and Trbojevic went the distance, with the young Manly forward thriving with longer minutes. Generally capable of playing 80, Sam Burgess left the SCG injured, while Jack de Belin marked a return to the Dragons' starting side with a strong 76-minute showing. Joseph Paulo and Elijah Taylor played fewer minutes than they're capable of, while we've see some sides (Bulldogs, Wests Tigers, Storm) continue to roll with effectively a third prop to start proceedings.
Back-row talents emerge
While the Rabbitohs suffered their first loss of the season on Sunday, there was plenty to like about the efforts of improving forward Paul Carter. Against the Dragons, Carter made 61 tackles (second most of any player in Round 3 behind Jake Friend (64)), three tackle breaks, four offloads and 100 run metres. Finishing with a NRL Fantasy score of 69, it could've been even more impressive for Carter had he not missed six tackles and concede four penalties, costing himself 20 Fantasy points in the process.
In perhaps his finest showing of his three NRL games to date, English import Elliott Whitehead started at five-eighth and unleashed his inner playmaker, with two try assists and two line-break assists in the Raiders' 24-all draw with the Knights. Whitehead also made 40 tackles, and currently sits sixth for that stat in the competition after three rounds.
Thriller in the Hunter
Back in front of their home fans for the first time this season, Newcastle rallied, putting in a much-improved performance as their match with the Raiders went into golden point extra time. With a number of missed attempts at field goal, neither side could be separated after 90 minutes. Robbie Rochow, Josh Hodgson and Josh Papalii were the only forwards to play the full 90, along with each side's backline. The contest – which marked Jarrod Mullen's 200th NRL appearance – was also the first drawn Telstra Premiership match since Round 21, 2013. On that night the Knights were again involved, the venue was also Hunter Stadium, with the Broncos sharing the points with the Novacastrians in an 18-all draw.
Season stats leaders after Round 3
Points: Bryson Goodwin (28), Jarrod Croker (26), Cameron Smith (24), Johnathan Thurston (24), Jamie Soward (24).
Tries: James Tedesco (5), Kevin Naiqama (4), Alex Johnston (4), Aaron Gray (4), Solomone Kata (3).
Run Metres: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (651), Aaron Woods (560), James Tedesco (492), James Graham (488), Josh Mansour (482).
Tackles: Jake Friend (169), Simon Mannering (150), Jake Trbojevic (131), Bodene Thompson (127), Tyson Frizell (121).