Stat of Origin: Ponga outshines senior teammates

Maroons debutant Kalyn Ponga was a sensation in his Origin debut, taking on a totally unfamiliar defensive workload and position and almost blowing the game apart late, with Telstra Tracker data revealing he was one of his side's hardest-working players.

Telstra Tracker data shows how far players travelled relative to their time on field to come up with an impressive metres-per-minute intensity rating. Only Josh McGuire (115.5 metres per minute) and Jarrod Wallace (115.1) registered a higher ball-in-play intensity than Ponga's 113.5.

In his eagerness to get among the defensive duties, Ponga conceded an offside penalty shortly after entering the field which eventually led to a penalty try to NSW but it was the only real blemish for the highly-rated 20-year-old whose 29 tackles was almost halfway to the 68 tackles he has so far completed in 15 NRL matches this season, according to NRL.com Stats.

His total match intensity (which also includes time when the ball is not in play) of 88.8 was a jump on his 84.9 this season at club level, a figure that was already very high given his metres covered from fullback (the average for all back-three players across the NRL this year is 76 metres per minute).

Ponga's 109 metres gained with the ball was fifth-best for his team. Those ahead of him played 80 minutes and were in the back five, meaning Ponga – who played 52 minutes in the middle – was effectively Queensland's best forward for total metres.

Almost 50 of those metres came in a single run when he brushed past Blues skipper Boyd Cordner to streak into the backfield for what could have been a match-winning try if not for some superb cover defence from James Tedesco and Josh Addo-Carr.

Of more concern for Maroons coach Kevin Walters is the fact that NSW again dominated the intensity readings, with Telstra Tracker data finding the top seven hardest-working players were all Blues.

Halfback Nathan Cleary again dominated with a match-high distance covered of 8579 metres and a match-high ball-in-play intensity of 125.3 metres per minute.

NSW coach Brad Fittler conceded Cleary was "a bit lost" at times, particularly in the first half, but a late covering tackle on Valentine Holmes was a potential match-saver.

He registered just four kicks as James Maloney took charge and six runs but worked hard off the ball – his 25 support runs were eight clear of the next best, Holmes.

Jack De Belin (118.6 m/min), Boyd Cordner (116.4), Damien Cook (116.1), Matt Prior (116.0 across 33 minutes), James Tedesco (115.7) and Maloney (115.6) all registered a higher ball-in-play intensity than any Maroons player.

 

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