SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 11: William Kennedy of the Sharks celebrates victory during the round 14 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, on June 11, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Would you believe it if we told you the Cronulla Sharks were a top-four team during the first half of games this season?

Well, it’s 100 per cent true.

And that’s not the only surprise from Zero Tackle’s analysis of every first half this season, building a ladder purely based off halftime scores.

The Sharks might have been the biggest surprise to emerge from this analysis, but the Gold Coast Titans finished fifth, and the Canberra Raiders were also in the top eight, with the Sharks and Raiders’ second halves letting them down badly throughout the season - but more on that tomorrow when we look at second half scorelines and what the ladder would have looked like if each game started at halftime.

One team who would much prefer that turn of events is the North Queensland Cowboys, who won just two first halves all year and seemingly missed the memo that the first 40 minutes isn’t simply a warm-up for the game.

What couldn’t be changed was the top echelon, with the Melbourne Storm conceding less than six points per first half throughout the season, while the South Sydney Rabbitohs also were sitting in the top three.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Brandon Smith of the Storm celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round eight NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on April 30, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Interestingly, top eight finishers the Manly Sea Eagles and Newcastle Knights weren’t in the top eight on this ladder, while the Brisbane Broncos also could have been in with a shot at the eight given their tenth-placed finish.

First half final ladder

Scroll on for the first half result in every single game during the 2021 NRL season.

Team Played Won Lost Draw Points For Against F/A
1 Melbourne Storm 24 17 2 5 39 416 124 292
2 Penrith Panthers 24 18 5 1 37 306 156 150
3 South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 17 6 1 35 380 224 156
4 Cronulla Sharks 24 14 7 3 31 314 226 88
5 Gold Coast Titans 24 14 9 1 29 314 280 34
6 Sydney Roosters 24 14 9 1 29 300 274 26
7 Canberra Raiders 24 11 9 4 26 263 244 19
8 Parramatta Eels 24 11 10 3 25 242 226 16
9 Manly Sea Eagles 24 10 12 2 22 322 278 44
10 Brisbane Broncos 24 9 12 3 21 248 330 -82
11 Newcastle Knights 24 9 14 1 19 215 298 -83
12 New Zealand Warriors 24 9 14 1 19 220 329 -109
13 St George Illawarra Dragons 24 8 15 1 17 211 273 -62
14 Wests Tigers 24 7 15 2 16 210 338 -128
15 Canterbury Bulldogs 24 5 18 1 11 146 312 -166
16 North Queensland Cowboys 24 2 20 2 6 216 411 -195

Before we get into every result, here is a quick snapshot at what Week 1 of the finals would have looked like had the NRL season been played in first halves only:

Qualifying final 1: Melbourne Storm (1st) vs Cronulla Sharks (4th)
Qualifying final 2: Penrith Panthers (2nd) vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (3rd)
Elimination final 1: Gold Coast Titans (5th) vs Parramatta Eels (8th)
Elimination final 2: Sydney Roosters (6th) vs Canberra Raiders (7th)

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Stephen Crichton of the Panthers celebrates with Paul Momirovski of the Panthers after winning the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Regular season

Round 1
Melbourne Storm 22 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 6
Newcastle Knights 18 - Canterbury Bulldogs 10
Brisbane Broncos 16 - Parramatta Eels 0
New Zealand Warriors 6 - Gold Coast Titans 0
Sydney Roosters 26 - Manly Sea Eagles 4
Penrith Panthers 8 - North Queensland Cowboys 0
Canberra Raiders 6 - Wests Tigers 6
St George Illawarra Dragons 0 - Cronulla Sharks 14

Round 2
Parramatta Eels 6 - Melbourne Storm 6
New Zealand Warriors 6 - Newcastle Knights 8
Gold Coast Titans 22 - Brisbane Broncos 4
Canterbury Bulldogs 0 - Penrith Panthers 10
Manly Sea Eagles 6 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 14
North Queensland Cowboys 6 - St George Illawarra Dragons 13
Wests Tigers 6 - Sydney Roosters 18
Cronulla Sharks 0 - Canberra Raiders 12

Round 3
Penrith Panthers 6 - Melbourne Storm 6
St George Illawarra Dragons 18 - Manly Sea Eagles 6
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 - Sydney Roosters 0
Canberra Raiders 25 - New Zealand Warriors 6
Brisbane Broncos 2 - Canterbury Bulldogs 0
Parramatta Eels 10 - Cronulla Sharks 4
Newcastle Knights 8 - Wests Tigers 12
North Queensland Cowboys 0 - Gold Coast Titans 26

Round 4
Manly Sea Eagles 6 - Penrith Panthers 22
Canterbury Bulldogs 0 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 14
Melbourne Storm 24 - Brisbane Broncos 6
Cronulla Sharks 36 - North Queensland Cowboys 6
Gold Coast Titans 4 - Canberra Raiders 8
Newcastle Knights 7 - St George Illawarra Dragons 6
Sydney Roosters 16 - New Zealand Warriors 12
Wests Tigers 10 - Parramatta Eels 20

Round 5
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 - Brisbane Broncos 6
New Zealand Warriors 6 - Manly Sea Eagles 6
Penrith Panthers 18 - Canberra Raiders 6
Gold Coast Titans 26 - Newcastle Knights 12
Canterbury Bulldogs 6 - Melbourne Storm 30
Sydney Roosters 4 - Cronulla Sharks 12
Wests Tigers 6 - North Queensland Cowboys 28
Parramatta Eels 0 - St George Illawarra Dragons 18

MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Jack Bird of the Dragons looks on during the Charity Shield & NRL Trial Match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium on February 27, 2021 in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Round 6
Brisbane Broncos 12 - Penrith Panthers 10
Newcastle Knights 14 - Cronulla Sharks 6
Melbourne Storm 4 - Sydney Roosters 0
Manly Sea Eagles 26 - Gold Coast Titans 0
South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 - Wests Tigers 6
Canberra Raiders 10 - Parramatta Eels 12
St George Illawarra Dragons 8 - New Zealand Warriors 12
North Queensland Cowboys 6 - Canterbury Bulldogs 6

Round 7
Penrith Panthers 10 - Newcastle Knights 6
Gold Coast Titans 24 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 10
Parramatta Eels 24 - Brisbane Broncos 6
Cronulla Sharks 0 - Canterbury Bulldogs 18
North Queensland Cowboys 12 - Canberra Raiders 24
Wests Tigers 6 - Manly Sea Eagles 18
Sydney Roosters 16 - St George Illawarra Dragons 6
Melbourne Storm 26 - New Zealand Warriors 4

Round 8
Canberra Raiders 16 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 14
Melbourne Storm 6 - Cronulla Sharks 8
Brisbane Broncos 22 - Gold Coast Titans 22
Penrith Panthers 16 - Manly Sea Eagles 6
Canterbury Bulldogs 0 - Parramatta Eels 16
Newcastle Knights 4 - Sydney Roosters 20
New Zealand Warriors 24 - North Queensland Cowboys 4
St George Illawarra Dragons 8 - Wests Tigers 6

Round 9
South Sydney Rabbitohs 0 - Melbourne Storm 26
Penrith Panthers 24 - Cronulla Sharks 0
Parramatta Eels 18 - Sydney Roosters 12
Canberra Raiders 16 - Newcastle Knights 0
Wests Tigers 12 - Gold Coast Titans 24
North Queensland Cowboys 8 - Brisbane Broncos 12
Manly Sea Eagles 12 - New Zealand Warriors 20
St George Illawarra Dragons 6 - Canterbury Bulldogs 0

Round 10
Wests Tigers 24 - Newcastle Knights 4
Manly Sea Eagles 20 - Brisbane Broncos 6
Canterbury Bulldogs 0 - Canberra Raiders 8
Cronulla Sharks 6 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 20
Sydney Roosters 18 - North Queensland Cowboys 10
New Zealand Warriors 6 - Parramatta Eels 24
Melbourne Storm 14 - St George Illawarra Dragons 10
Gold Coast Titans 0 - Penrith Panthers 30

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 01: Corey Harawira-Naera of the Raiders looks on during the round 12 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Canberra Raiders at QCB Stadium on August 01, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Round 11
North Queensland Cowboys 16 - Newcastle Knights 16
New Zealand Warriors 18 - Wests Tigers 10
Cronulla Sharks 6 - St George Illawarra Dragons 2
Gold Coast Titans 18 - Canterbury Bulldogs 10
Sydney Roosters 14 - Brisbane Broncos 16
Canberra Raiders 10 - Melbourne Storm 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 - Penrith Panthers 30
Parramatta Eels 6 - Manly Sea Eagles 16

Round 12
Brisbane Broncos 0 - Melbourne Storm 16
North Queensland Cowboys 22 - New Zealand Warriors 6
Wests Tigers 18 - St George Illawarra Dragons 0
Penrith Panthers 10 - Canterbury Bulldogs 0
South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 - Parramatta Eels 6
Sydney Roosters 16 - Canberra Raiders 10
Cronulla Sharks 26 - Gold Coast Titans 6
Newcastle Knights 12 - Manly Sea Eagles 10

Round 13
St George Illawarra Dragons 24 - Brisbane Broncos 18
Wests Tigers 10 - Penrith Panthers 0
Melbourne Storm 16 - Gold Coast Titans 4
Newcastle Knights 0 - Parramatta Eels 22

Round 14
Manly Sea Eagles 28 - North Queensland Cowboys 12
Cronulla Sharks 18 - Penrith Panthers 0
Gold Coast Titans 4 - Sydney Roosters 18
South Sydney Rabbitohs 12 - Newcastle Knights 10
Canberra Raiders 22 - Brisbane Broncos 10
New Zealand Warriors 2 - Melbourne Storm 18
Parramatta Eels 14 - Wests Tigers 6
Canterbury Bulldogs 8 - St George Illawarra Dragons 6

Round 15
Brisbane Broncos 0 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 18
North Queensland Cowboys 12 - Cronulla Sharks 20
Penrith Panthers 22 - Sydney Roosters 12
Newcastle Knights 4 - New Zealand Warriors 6
St George Illawarra Dragons 6 - Canberra Raiders 14
Melbourne Storm 40 - Wests Tigers 0
Parramatta Eels 6 - Canterbury Bulldogs 10
Gold Coast Titans 24 - Manly Sea Eagles 8

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Siosiua Taukeiaho of the Roosters is placed on report and sent to the Sin Bin by referee Ashley Klein during the round 15 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Sydney Roosters at Panthers Stadium, on June 18, 2021, in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Round 16
Sydney Roosters 0 - Melbourne Storm 30
New Zealand Warriors 12 - St George Illawarra Dragons 6
Penrith Panthers 6 - Parramatta Eels 4
Canterbury Bulldogs 0 - Manly Sea Eagles 36
Canberra Raiders 0 - Gold Coast Titans 22
Newcastle Knights 22 - North Queensland Cowboys 0
Brisbane Broncos 12 - Cronulla Sharks 12
Wests Tigers 0 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 26

Round 17
Manly Sea Eagles 4 - Canberra Raiders 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 - North Queensland Cowboys 12
Canterbury Bulldogs 10 - Sydney Roosters 16
Cronulla Sharks 20 - New Zealand Warriors 6

Round 18
Gold Coast Titans 0 - Parramatta Eels 20
Manly Sea Eagles 12 - St George Illawarra Dragons 14
North Queensland Cowboys 12 - Sydney Roosters 14
Canberra Raiders 12 - Cronulla Sharks 12
Melbourne Storm 30 - Newcastle Knights 0
New Zealand Warriors 10 - Penrith Panthers 16
Brisbane Broncos 18 - Wests Tigers 10
South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 - Canterbury Bulldogs 12

Round 19
Parramatta Eels 0 - Canberra Raiders 0
Sydney Roosters 10 - Newcastle Knights 8
North Queensland Cowboys 6 - Melbourne Storm 10
South Sydney Rabbitohs 34 - New Zealand Warriors 16
Manly Sea Eagles 20 - Wests Tigers 12
Penrith Panthers 4 - Brisbane Broncos 0
St George Illawarra Dragons 6 - Gold Coast Titans 14
Canterbury Bulldogs 6 - Cronulla Sharks 30

Round 20
Sydney Roosters 12 - Parramatta Eels 0
Wests Tigers 10 - New Zealand Warriors 0
Brisbane Broncos 22 - North Queensland Cowboys 12
Newcastle Knights 22 - Canberra Raiders 6
Melbourne Storm 18 - Penrith Panthers 0
St George Illawarra Dragons 10 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 24
Canterbury Bulldogs 0 - Gold Coast Titans 16
Cronulla Sharks 10 - Manly Sea Eagles 16

NRL Rd 23 - Titans v Storm
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 19: Jayden Campbell of the Titans looks on during the round 23 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Melbourne Storm at Cbus Super Stadium, on August 19, 2021, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Round 21
Newcastle Knights 12 - Brisbane Broncos 8
Canberra Raiders 12 - St George Illawarra Dragons 12
Parramatta Eels 0 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 14
New Zealand Warriors 6 - Cronulla Sharks 16
Sydney Roosters 6 - Penrith Panthers 14
Manly Sea Eagles 8 - Melbourne Storm 8
Canterbury Bulldogs 12 - Wests Tigers 18
Gold Coast Titans 14 - North Queensland Cowboys 4

Round 22
Melbourne Storm 20 - Canberra Raiders 4
St George Illawarra Dragons 6 - Penrith Panthers 16
Brisbane Broncos 12 - Sydney Roosters 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 - Gold Coast Titans 0
North Queensland Cowboys 6 - Wests Tigers 12
Manly Sea Eagles 26 - Parramatta Eels 4
New Zealand Warriors 16 - Canterbury Bulldogs 10
Cronulla Sharks 12 - Newcastle Knights 8

Round 23
Gold Coast Titans 16 - Melbourne Storm 12
Canberra Raiders 12 - Manly Sea Eagles 0
Penrith Panthers 10 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 12
Wests Tigers 4 - Cronulla Sharks 16
Canterbury Bulldogs 0 - Newcastle Knights 10
Parramatta Eels 14 - North Queensland Cowboys 6
St George Illawarra Dragons 6 - Sydney Roosters 14
Brisbane Broncos 12 - New Zealand Warriors 4

Round 24
Newcastle Knights 6 - Gold Coast Titans 12
New Zealand Warriors 16 - Canberra Raiders 6
Sydney Roosters 6 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 24
St George Illawarra Dragons 20 - North Queensland Cowboys 10
Cronulla Sharks 18 - Brisbane Broncos 10
Melbourne Storm 10 - Parramatta Eels 10
Manly Sea Eagles 10 - Canterbury Bulldogs 12
Penrith Panthers 12 - Wests Tigers 6

Round 25
Canberra Raiders 12 - Sydney Roosters 20
Cronulla Sharks 12 - Melbourne Storm 12
Parramatta Eels 6 - Penrith Panthers 12
Brisbane Broncos 18 - Newcastle Knights 4
North Queensland Cowboys 6 - Manly Sea Eagles 18
South Sydney Rabbitohs 14 - St George Illawarra Dragons 0
Gold Coast Titans 16 - New Zealand Warriors 0
Wests Tigers 0 - Canterbury Bulldogs 16