A breakdown of each club's points differential by 20-minute blocks reveals some interesting trends just past two thirds of the way through the season, with the second-placed Storm making a habit of coming home strong while the Panthers are proving adept at overcoming slow starts.
NRL.com Stats also reveal the Roosters drop away in final quarters but are strong otherwise, while the Broncos hit a wall at the 20-minute point despite some strong starts.
The Raiders defend the 20 minutes before half-time better than any team in the NRL but are among the worst defensive teams across the rest of games.
They are one of just four teams (the Rabbitohs, Dragons and Sharks are the others) to have a positive net differential in every quarter of games but are the only one of those teams sitting outside the top eight.
The Eels and Cowboys are the only two clubs to have a negative differential across every quarter, with the Titans just missing out on joining them thanks to some tighter defence at the end of games. Canterbury actually have two of their four quarters (the first 20 minutes of each half) narrowly in the positive but the damage is done at the end of halves.
Broncos: Mostly solid across the board but no team scores fewer points in the 20 minutes before half-time than Brisbane. They score and concede more points in the final 20 minutes of matches than in any other period.
Raiders: The equal-best attacking team in the opening 20 minutes but also concede heavily during the same period. One of the best at scoring points in the closing quarter and the best defensive side in the 20 minutes before half-time. Numbers suggest they should be higher up the ladder with all four quarters in the positive.
Bulldogs: Tend to score well early but fall away then concede too many points in the final quarter of games. Narrowly outscore their opponents in the first 20 minutes of halves but get outscored by a much bigger margin in the back ends of halves.
Sharks: Incredibly consistent across 17 games in both attack and defence. Both are solid without being eye-catching but the end result is four quarters that are all slightly in the positive which is reflected in their top-eight standing.
Titans: Gold Coast don't particularly struggle to score points but the 20 minutes after half-time has been the killer; not only is it their quietest attacking period but their 122 points conceded in that bracket is among the worst defensive quarters of any side. They finish games well enough to have a narrow positive differential in the final quarters.
Sea Eagles: Only the Rabbitohs and Raiders have scored more points in the opening 20 minutes of games than Manly but things fall in a heap in the second quarter, where they concede more points than any side. Their -61 differential through that period is the worst of any quarter by any club other than the Knights. They get outscored in the second half too but nowhere near as badly.
Storm: The headline for the Storm is the stunning 146 fourth-quarter points they have racked up in 17 games; if they maintained that scoring across 80 minutes they'd rack up over 33 points per week (the top-scoring team, the Rabbitohs, average 25 points per game). Their +83 final-quarter differential is the most dominant quarter of any club. Their 100-54 advantage in first quarters proves they are good at putting rivals on the back foot early as well. They do have a third-quarter lull (-18 differential) before living up to their name by ... "storming home".
Warriors: Averaged out over the season the Warriors have been startlingly consistent. All four quarters are reasonably good in attack and defence, with very small positive differentials in the first three quarters and a slight negative in the last. They have had a few dominant wins and a few heavy losses but even then, the scoring for and against has been fairly well spread across the 80 minutes rather than coming in a rush.
Knights: There have been some major positives for the rebuilding Knights this year but there is still a fair way to go for the club, which has the unwanted record of the two worst differential quarters of any side. Newcastle's first 20 minutes of both halves have been disastrous this season. Their third-quarter record of 135 points conceded is the worst defensive quarter of any club, and the corresponding -69 differential is also the NRL-worst. They are also outscored 116-50 in the first 20 minutes of games for a -66 differential. They win their second quarters 111-94 (+17) but need to find a way to hit their stride sooner in both halves.
Cowboys: Who could have predicted this? North Queensland lose every quarter, on average, with their first 20 minutes of each half particularly bad. They have scored just 44 points in their third quarters of games – the worst scoring quarter of any club.
Parramatta: The other major underachievers of 2018 and the only club joining the Cowboys with zero net-positive quarters. Their first 20 is the worst; the final 20 is the least bad but the damage is usually done by then anyway.
Panthers: Penrith boast one of the more interesting breakdowns but it makes sense if you cast your mind back to their early-season comeback wins when they used to fall behind early and finish strongly. Despite sitting in equal-fourth with a big positive season differential, the Panthers still hold a shocking -42 first-quarter differential. It is one of the worst of any team and the second-worst quarter among top-eight sides behind only Brisbane's -44 in the second 20. It matters little to the mountain men though, who comprehensively win the next three quarters on a consistent basis.
Images of Round 18
Rabbitohs: Souths are just really good from start to finish. They boast four good quarters of attack (particularly 122 points scored in first quarters which trails only Melbourne's 146 in the final quarter for total points) to go with three good quarters of defence (they concede a few in the final term but the game is often won by then) making up four quarters of positive differential.
Dragons: St George Illawarra aren't far behind the Bunnies here; their first quarters are close to evens but they really kick away in the 20 minutes after half-time where their 120 points scored and +48 differential are among the league's best.
Roosters: The Bondi boys win their games either side of half-time with dominant second and third quarters of +52 and +56 respectively. Those passages rank as the third and fourth most dominant quarters right across the NRL; only Melbourne and Penrith's final quarters are better. The Roosters win the opening arm-wrestle on average too but save their worst attack and worst defence for the final quarter, in which they trail overall by 83-62 (-21).
Wests Tigers: Things get progressively worse on average for Ivan Cleary's men the longer the game goes on. Their attack is sluggish but consistent (62, 66, 68 and 66 points scored for the four quarters) but it's their defence that makes them or breaks them. They have conceded totals of 40, 76, 74 and 119 points through the four quarters with only their opening 20 sitting in the black. Maintaining the defensive energy of their starts through the 80 minutes is their key to grinding out more wins.