By the Numbers: Round 5
Tigers 22 d Broncos 16
23.8 – The Tigers’ average missed tackles per game in 2019, best in the NRL. What an incredible turnaround from their league-worst 38.3 per game in 2018, and second worst 35.9 in 2017. Robbie Farrah trails only Bronco Andrew McCullough for the total tackles in the NRL averaging 45.6 per game at 93.3% efficiency. One of last season’s big finds, Alex Twal has been a rock defensively as well sitting 14th in the NRL at 40.2 tackles per game, including a whopping 58 against the Broncos with just one missed and one ineffective tackle for a 96.7% efficiency rate. Newcomer Ryan Matterson was also superb against the Broncos with 40 tackles at 97.6% efficiency. The improved tackling game has been the key driver in the Tigers’ improved defence in 2019, conceding 38% less points per game at 11.8 against last years 19.16.
Broncos – Continuing their defensive woes this season, the Broncos had 58 missed and ineffective tackles on Thursday night, 16 more than the Tigers. With 37 missed tackles and 21 ineffective tackles this round, the Broncos are now second worst in missed tackles, dead last in ineffective tackles and they look soft to the eye test (just ask Michael Chee-Kam who broke Bronco hearts with his game-winning run on Thursday night). Matt Gillett (first), Jack Bird (second) and Alex Glenn (fourth) make up three of most ineffective tacklers in the NRL in 2019. Three from the one team is simply staggering and a huge factor in the Broncos’ season running off the rails to date.
Titans 30 d Panthers 24
1 – The first win of the year for the Titans deserves to be celebrated, as we no longer have a winless team in 2019. Helped by reducing their errors from 13.5 per game from Rds 1-4, to a much improved eight against Penrith, the Titans were able to dominate possession 56% to 44%. With their simply awesome 67 tackle breaks the Titans leapt to third in the NRL with 185 tackle breaks on the year, just five behind the top side Melbourne Storm. Jarrod Wallace led the way with 10 tackle breaks, ably supported by Dale Copley (nine), Ryan James (eight), Jai Arrow and “the Peach” Tyrone Peachey (seven). Jai Arrow’s hard running has been a feature of the Titans running game, resulting in 283 post contact metres this season for Arrow, ranking third in the NRL.
67 – After stating last week that the Panthers could literally not play any worse, the Panthers managed to make me look like a fool with their inept performance against the Titans and their downright embarrassing 67 missed tackles. The Panthers are anchored to last place in the NRL with an average of 40.2 missed tackles per game, damn near double the top teams in this stat, the Roosters and Tigers, who average 23.6 missed tackles per game. Setting a new low, Penrith recorded 67 missed tackles in just one game. Let that sink in. The Titans broke every fifth tackle the Panthers attempted. The Panthers error issues continue with Penrith now having a whopping four players in the 20 worst in the NRL for errors (Dylan Edwards third, Josh Mansour sixth, Waqa Blake 13th and Jimmy Maloney 18th). In addition to being ranked dead last in the NRL for errors, the Panthers are also last for possession rate at 47%, which is somehow higher than their rate against the Titans at 44%. Deeply concerning times at the foot of the mountains right now.
Storm 18 d Cowboys 12
91.5% – Melbourne’s exceptional tackle rate against the Cowboys Friday Night in North Queensland. The Storm made 33 more tackles than the Cowboys yet had 19 less missed tackles, a testament to their rock solid defence which sits second to the Raiders with only 52 points conceded this season. The Storm sit first on the NRL ladder after five rounds as the only undefeated team left in the 2019 season. Cameron Smith moved to #1 on the NRL’s All-Time points scoring list, passing Hazem El Masri’s 2,418 points. With 389 appearances to his name, future Immortal Smith is fast approaching a number many thought we would never see; 400. An out and out champion of the game, Smith remains as good a leader as there is in the game and continues to be an Iron man, having been on the bench for just six of a possible 400 minutes of game time this year.
1,454.3 – The average metres run for the Cowboys in 2019, second worst in the NRL. In 2017 the Cows were third in the NRL with 1,633.2 per game on their way to the 13 wins and a Grand Final appearance. 2018 saw the North Queenslanders plummet to 1,431.6 per game on their way to just eight wins and no finals. This season the loss of Jason Taumalolo continues to be felt with the Cowboys’ metres again resembling their 2018 output rather than their more successful 2017 numbers. The Cowboys were held below their lowly season average by the Storm who kept them to just 1,399 run metres while handing them their fourth defeat of the season’s opening five rounds. The Cowboys have a near must-win game this week against the hot and cold Warriors in New Zealand and need their pack to lead the way with a strong running performance.
Rabbitohs 28 d Warriors 24
4 – Cody Walker’s incredible four-try explosion for South Sydney against the Warriors was simply phenomenal. Walker personally tallied 16 points for the Bunnies (not to forget the 90 fantasy points), which equalled the Broncos and Sharks team totals for the round and singlehandedly outscored the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Eels. The Rabbitohs failed to reach their magic 30-point mark but were still able to take advantage of the Warriors late game lack of direction to run in three tries in 16 minutes to pick up their fourth win of the season. The Bunnies defence was poor with just an 81.3% effective tackle rate and 39 missed tackles letting the Warriors nearly upset the Bunnies.
28 – Points conceded by the Warriors, continuing the defensive woes for a team that has conceded the third most points in the NRL this season with 124. 15 offloads, six linebreaks and another monster performance from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were not enough to give the Warriors the upset over the Rabbitohs. RTS run wild with 218 metres, two linebreaks, a whopping 12 tackle breaks, three offloads and a try in a Dally M worthy performance against the Bunnies. RTS now leads the NRL in run metres with 1,001 at 200.2 per game, tackle breaks with 35 and linebreaks with six. However, the rest of the Warriors were nowhere near as dominant, with just 1,504 run metres, 46% of possession and a dismal 67% completion rate.
Sea Eagles 26 d Knights 18
80% – After languishing through a morbid 58% completion rate in round four the Sea Eagles bounced back against the Knights with a rock solid 80% completion rate. Manly have committed the third least handling errors in the NRL this season with exceptional receives per handling error rates (RHE) for Api Koroisau 345, Manase Fainu 202, Daly Cherry-Evans 65.25 and Kane Elgey 40. The Sea Eagles did commit nearly double their season average (6.75) in penalties with 11 against the Knights and finished the day with 128.25 less post contact metres, 30% less than their season average. However, they did reel off their third straight win and now sit sixth on the ladder.
Minus 12 – The Knights have become an agonising experience for their fans this season with their minus 12 points difference on the season showing the closeness of their games. With losses by just eight (Rd. 5), one (Rd. 4), seven (Rd. 3) & two (Rd. 2) and their solitary win being by six points, the Knights have found themselves in each game this season, but with four losses to date are facing an uphill battle to make the eight. Of the four teams that had four or more losses after Round 5 in 2018, none went onto make the finals. History is not on their side, of the 17 teams since 2013 with four or more losses in their first five games only two – the 2015 Sharks and the 2013 Bulldogs – have gone on to play finals that year. On a positive note ,Kalyn Ponga has been much better since returning to his fullback role increasing his run metres per game from 72.33 in the first three rounds while playing in the halves to 183 per game, recording three try assists to one, and increasing his per game tackle breaks from 3.33 to 5.5.
Roosters 30 d Sharks 16
30 – Saturday’s win over the Sharks marked the third straight game the Roosters have scored at least 30 points, all wins. The Roosters managed to get 30 despite losing the possession battle, 49% to 51%, completing just 68% of their sets and committing 14 errors. Five more tries to the Roosters saw them home comfortably again however, with Luke Keary leading continuing his run of good form with two more try assists. Keary leads the NRL with both eight try assists, clear on top by two, and 106 supports, eight more than any other player and has taken his game to another level this season. The only areas of concern for the rampant Tri Colours at the moment are their league worst 50 handling errors and Latrell Mitchell’s discipline as he leads the comp in penalties conceded with 10. These are known as first world problems and the Roosters are red hot riding a four-game winning streak heading into this week’s match of the round, the Grand Final rematch against bitter rival the Melbourne Storm.
6 – The Sharks had another six linebreaks against the Roosters and continue to lead the NRL with 25 on the season while also ranking first in linebreak assists. Shockingly the Sharks conceded just three penalties, although they still have a league worst 40 on the season. Despite these positives, Cronulla were well beaten by the Roosters and conceded 30 points on the back of conceding 24 against Parramatta. The Sharks were averaging 12 points against after three rounds this year before conceding 27 per game over their last two games. The Panthers, and all their current struggles visiting the Shire this week gives the Sharks a chance to improve their defensive statistics and end their two-game losing streak (heck, the Panthers missed three tackles while you were reading this), but will need to get their defence back in order to turn it around.
Dragons 40 d Bulldogs 4
5 – Try assists from the Dragons halves in a much improved performance in demolishing the Bulldogs. After combining for three try assists from Rd1-4 (all to Norman), Corey Norman (two) and Ben Hunt (three) set up five tries and looked completely in control against the Doggies in a welcome sight for fans of the Red V. Further impressing with an 85% completion rate and five linebreaks, giving St. George 21 for the season, which is fourth in the NRL. Three straight wins after a horror first two weeks of the season combined with 107 minutes from the bench forwards, the most the Dragons have used their bench forwards in games not affected by a major injury, the Dragons find themselves in a much improved position for their coming clash with fellow redemption story Manly.
12 – The season high error count by the Bulldogs in their thumping at Kograh. Coming into the game the Bulldogs error counts for each game read five, nine four and eight (and of course the week after this column celebrated the Bulldogs brilliant error rates this season) before completing melting down against the Dragons with 12. 52 combined missed and ineffective tackles, as opposed to the Dragons 36, contributed to the Dogs allowing five linebreaks, seven tries and 40 points in their worst defensive effort since round one against the Warriors. Next up is a home game, where the Dogs have an 0-1 record this season, against the Bunnies.
Raiders 19 d Eels 0
0 – The Raiders defence pitched a shutout in the dominant win over the Eels on Sunday. The Canberra defence has been simply dominant through five rounds with the Raiders having conceding a miserly 44 points this season, good for the best mark in the NRL. Through five rounds in 2018 the Raiders had conceded 122 points, 78 more than they have this season. Canberra is also ranked first for possession rate, controlling 55% of possession thus far this season. Against the Eels the Raiders simply strangled their opponent with a benchmark 57% possession rate and holding the Eels to a very mediocre 56% completion rate on their sets. The Green Machine welcomes the Broncos next with a view to a fifth win in six starts to continue their red hot start to the season.
1,257 – Coming into the game the Eels were averaging 1,705 run metres per game, fresh off a whopping 1,909 metres against the Sharks. The Raiders strangled the Eels into producing a season low 1,257 run metres en route to being outgained by a whopping 486 run metres. Add in 18 errors and a poor 56% set completion rate and it’s not hard to see where one of the league’s most potent attacks to that point failed to get on the board Sunday night. Defensively the Eels were just as poor with 52 missed tackles, 18 errors and being forced to defend four forced drop outs had the Eels under the pump all game long. Parra will look to get back on track in a Monday blockbuster against the fifth-placed Wests Tigers.
All statistics courtesy of NRL.com
Any trends you have noticed this season? Stats you would like to see analysed? Feel the need to vent about your teams shortcomings? Let’s hear it in the comments. As always, best of luck to your team this weekend.
Trust in the data!