Can the Panthers still make the finals despite a poor start to the season?

Here are the key numbers and quirky stats from Round 7 of the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership season. 

No need to panic…yet

While the Storm and Dragons have jumped out to great starts in 2017 – they theoretically need just six wins from 17 matches to make the finals – it's a different story for those sides rooted to the bottom of the ladder. The Knights and Titans are long-odds to make the playoffs, but there is hope for teams like Penrith and the Tigers. The Panthers found themselves 3-4 last year but still finished sixth. The Cowboys lost their opening three games in 2015 but went on to win the premiership. The Eels started the 2009 season with a 2-5 record but made the grand final, while the blue and golds were 3-10 in 2006 but recovered to finish eighth. 

Freaky Friday

Not since the days of Kiefer Sutherland have we seen the number '24' appear so often on our screens. Incredibly, all three winners on Friday – the Bulldogs, Roosters and Broncos – scored exactly 24 points in their respective matches. Just for good measure, the Titans also won with a score of 24 in the Holden Cup on Friday while the Bunnies were beaten but still scored four converted tries. 

 


Second-half struggles are real

If NRL games were played over 40 minutes then we might have had some very different results in Round 7. The Rabbitohs and Warriors both held slender half-time leads but failed to score a point after the break. It was a similar story for the Storm and Dragons who piled on the points in the first-half but couldn't add to their tallies in the second stanza. Thankfully the top two teams did enough in the first 40 minutes to hold on for victory. 

Started from the bottom now we're here

The Dragons' resurgence in 2017 has been compared to plenty of things, but this is probably the first time they've been likened to hip-hop sensation Drake. Let's start with the basics: the Dragons wear red and white; Drake is Canadian and the colours on their flag are red and white. The Red V won their most recent premiership in 2010, the same year that Drake released his debut album. The Dragons had the worst attack after seven rounds last year (59 points) but they are first in 2017 with 191, so just like Drake said, they started from the bottom but now they're here. And if you want one last reminder why the two are so similar, we're hearing that after their 6-1 start to the year, the Dragons have adopted Drake's 'YOLO' motto – You Only Lose Once! 

No cracks in Cronulla's wall 

Tipped by many to struggle in 2017 after tasting premiership success last year, the Sharks have shown they are the real deal with back-to-back defensive shutouts against pre-season favourites the Storm and Panthers. While they did concede a penalty goal in each of the away wins, it was the first time since the final two rounds of the 1994 season that Cronulla had held opponents tryless in consecutive matches.   

Titanic struggles

The Titans were undoubtedly the unluckiest team of the weekend to fall at the death to the Broncos. Incredibly, it was the sixth time in a row Gold Coast had lost against their neighbours when leading at half-time.

It was a slightly different yet equally pertinent case of history repeating for the Knights who were held scoreless in the first half for the fourth-straight match by the Roosters.

 


First-half field goals prove fatal

When will teams learn? You never kick a field goal against the Bulldogs before half-time. Adam Reynolds knocked over a one-pointer in the 40th minute on Friday to give his side a 9-8 lead; the Rabbitohs never scored again. Jordan Kahu did the same thing a few weeks ago, only for the Broncos to squander a 7-0 half-time lead to go down 10-7. Brett Finch must have thought his first-half field goal in the 2004 grand final was a good idea at the time. It wasn't. A 13-6 lead quickly evaporated and the Roosters lost 16-13. Incidentally, all of those games were played at ANZ Stadium. 

Weekend forecast

Everyone has this theory that the Storm struggle against the Warriors, but they've won the past three head-to-head meetings and have also won three of the past four Anzac Day clashes, including a 42-0 thumping in 2016. 

The Eels and Panthers will do battle at ANZ Stadium for the first time since Round 1, 2001 when the blue and golds claimed an easy 40-4 win. Penrith have struggled at the venue in recent times, losing four straight – and 10 of their past 12 – at the Olympic stadium.