The Roosters forced two line dropouts last week. Believe it or not, that was above average.
They also had to defend their line for eight straight sets of six, which seems about right if the statistics are anything to go by.
According to a statistical analysis of repeat sets on NRL.com, the Roosters are dead-last in drop-outs, as many Roosters fans knew already just from watching every single game this year, having forced just 16 drop-outs this year in 15 games.
They also sit first (or last, depending on your perspective) for dropouts from their own line, having been forced to hand the ball back 38 times this year — and this is with a bye in hand.
But somehow, the Roosters sit second despite an innate inability to force repeat pressure and despite teams putting more pressure on them than any other in the competition.
The Roosters have scored the second-most points in the NRL with 342 (50 points behind the first placed Bunnies) at 22.8 points per game, and despite the extra pressure and sets they are forced to defend from a start of roughly 50m out from their own line have conceded the least points in the NRL on average at 13.1 per game (Manly have conceded one less point but played one game less).
These figures defy convention and explain a lot about the Roosters this year. They are an explosive attacking team who go for the scoring play and back themselves to cross the line when they get near it — and also play great defence, especially at the back when they clean up grubbers and chips to the wings by tapping it dead.
Of course a lot has to do with an inability to escape their own in-goal, but at least they aren’t conceding points when doing so.
It has been frustrating to watch the Roosters meekly concede possession on the fifth after attempting bombs to the wings, as many fans have said this year and in recent years.
But the remaining available stats suggest the Roosters are doing just fine without maintained pressure on the line. Perhaps the Roosters are bucking the trend, defying logic and chaging the consensus that to win, you need to be patient.
I guess we’ll have to wait until October to find out, as it’s almost impossible to measure the tries they wouldn’t have scored had they taken the repeat-set option. There isn’t a way to measure how many tries have been scored on the fifth — at least any that are easily findable for this writer to analyse or unless you’d been physically counting the entire year, which 26 Rounds hasn’t.
Which brings me to this point: Why is the NRL so far behind in making historical statistics and season stats accessible to fans?
This writer by and large gets his statistics from the NRL Dream Team app: So the stats are there. But 26 Rounds has to analyse last year’s app for last season’s stats for tackle busts, missed tackles etc.
As an example of the inaccessibility of the stats: the NRL’s story about drop-outs is something anyone could have written, 26 Rounds included. But nowhere on the NRL’s website can you find these stats.
Come on, NRL, get with the times. American sports are a dream for stat hounds, and the stats are accessible to anyone.
You have them, so make them available. Trying to find a decent stat on NRL.com is like hoping for a Roosters repeat set.
The seemingly flying-high Roosters, sitting second on the ladder, maintain their lofty position despite having forced just 16 dropouts from their 15 games this year.
….Given that the North Queensland Cowboys lead the way with 34 dropouts forced but sit in 13th position, and the St George Illawarra Dragons are next best with 33 yet are 15th on the ladder, you could certainly argue against the importance of this statistic.
….Ladder leaders South Sydney are third with 31 forced dropouts, while Canberra and Melbourne are tied fourth with 30 forced dropouts. Reigning premiers Melbourne are sitting third on the ladder and while the Raiders have slipped to 11th with back-to-back losses, many expect they could be a finals team to be wary of.
Down with the Roosters at the back end sit the Gold Coast with 18 and the struggling Parramatta Eels with 19 dropouts forced.
Analysing second halves alone, the Raiders, Storm and Newcastle lead the way, forcing 17 dropouts this season and showing they are building pressure at the back end of games, conceivably when teams are most vulnerable and tired.
Now what if we flip it? How many dropouts are teams being forced to kick and what can we read into that?
Well, the Roosters find themselves once again prominent, having been forced to drop the ball out 38 times this year. But this isn’t necessarily a negative statistic and possibly lends even more gravitas to their best-in-the-NRL defence.
Perhaps the Warriors’ early struggles can be attributed in part to their need to drop out 37 times this year. Have they been unable to cope with mounting pressure? With their star on the rise of late, perhaps they have found some steel and ability to deal with adversity.
Cronulla and the Wests Tigers are next with 31 dropouts, but the Sharks have played just 14 games.
At the other end, South Sydney have only needed to drop-kick the ball out 17 times. Do we assume their back three are doing a phenomenal job getting the ball back into play, or the defence to the kick is just brilliant? Or both?
Funnily enough they are joined by Parramatta on 17 dropouts but in this case it’s fair to assume the Eels haven’t been required to return the ball back into play too often because opposition teams are scoring points before they need to!
It comes as no surprise that Melbourne are next best for fewest dropouts, booting just 19 heading into this weekend’s round.