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Manly's worrying defensive downturn of recent years took another turn in round one with the Roosters piling on nine tries with concerning ease. Stats has crunched the numbers behind the decline of the once-formidable Manly defence.

Even with an upward trend in total tries per game last year as a result of the new rules, Manly's numbers are stark.

In this analysis, has gone back to 2013 – the year in which more detailed statistics such as location and action of try causes began to be recorded – a period which overlaps with Manly's last two top-four finishes in 2013-14.

In 2015 Manly slipped to ninth and since then have finished 13th, sixth, 15th, sixth and 13th. The years in which they finished 13th or lower are 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Those three seasons are the only three in this analysis in which they conceded four or more tries per game on average, with 4.50 last year the worst and 4.29 in 2018 the next worst.

Their 5.05 line breaks conceded per game last year is also the worst in the eight years in the analysis.

Increasing right-side frailties

Manly's right edge has become an increasing target for opposition attacks.

While skipper Daly Cherry-Evans is considered one of the best defensive halves in the game, he has had a rotating cast of edge partners in recent years with Curtis Sironen in and out through injury (though less so in the past two seasons), and a changing list of centres and wingers outside that.

Looking at location of try causes – the spot on the field where the problem resulting in the try happened – last year was the worst in the analysis for the right edge (generally patrolled by the centre and winger) with 1.60 causes per game. Neither of Manly's far edges has had a worse year in the past eight years.

There were a further 3.45 try causes per game in the right channel (generally the region from the edge back-rower and half to the centre) last year. The only worse season for either the left or right channel for Manly in the past eight years was that same right side in 2018, with 3.63 try causes per game.

Left side starts poorly

Bearing in mind more than one try cause can be attributed per try if multiple players were deemed to have been at fault, Manly's left side started season 2021 with 16 try causes.

Seven of the Roosters' nine tries came on that side of the field, with Reuben Garrick, Brad Parker, Kieran Foran and Jack Gosiewski having a torrid afternoon.

"They were quite vulnerable there," expert Brett Kimmorley noted on NRL Teams.

"There doesn't seem to have been much improvement from what they did last year."

Fellow panellist Robbie Farah added their recent defensive record is particularly poor, with the side conceding below 30 points just once in its past seven games.

Round 2 - Norman and Doueihi return, Mansour makes way

"They've conceded over 30 points per game over their last 10 games," Farah said.

"That's obviously a trend, there's some concern there. It's something that's been part of their team now for the last 12 months, it's not something they can change over the next seven days."

Tries conceded from kicks with Turbo

Manly have certainly struggled defending kicks in the games Tom Trbojevic has missed. The week after his round six injury last year the team conceded three tries from kicks.

The team also conceded 10 in four games to finish the season, which included one game in which the star fullback made a brief return from injury before being hurt again.

Every try from round 1

It was a similar story in 2019; in round two with Turbo out the Roosters scored three tries from kicks against Manly. He played rounds three and four and Manly conceded no tries from kicks, then he was injured again.

The team conceded 11 tries from kicks in eight games he was out, then he returned and they didn't concede another for a month. There were just three tries from kicks let in in 11 games he played before his next injury.

In the three seasons from 2016-2018 when he hardly missed a game, the team conceded 0.63 tries from kicks per game.

In the games he's missed over the past two seasons the rate is 1.3, or 35 tries from kicks in 27 games the fullback has missed. In games he's played over the past two seasons they've conceded 0.52 tries from kicks per game, or 10 in 19 games.

No easy fix

With no specialist fullback in the top 30, the team will have to make do until Trbojevic returns in a few weeks.

The left edge is missing Joel Thompson, with former Eel Andrew Davey promoted to start this week in a move that could stem the tide somewhat.

The task doesn't get a whole lot easier this week with heavyweights South Sydney ready to test out those Manly edges at Lottoland on Saturday.


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