NRL Second Quarter Grades – Part 1

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I’ll get to the grades later, but right now I will jump on the soapbox. I believe that Russell Packer should be suspended for at least a season following his disgusting act on Monday night. Two days prior to the showcase of rugby league, the game has been given another black eye. In years to come, people won’t remember the great game between two great rivals; they will remember that an absolute grub decided to urinate on the playing field. Playing the great game of rugby league at the highest level should be an honour and privilege, not a right. Players have to learn to treat the game with respect and they need to be penalised accordingly when they do not. In the years to come, Packer won’t be the one who is laughed at and mocked the most, the game of rugby league will be. For this damage, Packer at least needs to be suspended for at least a season. That is the only way he will realise the opportunity that he has, playing the great game.

For those who think I’m going too harsh, allow me to tell you about some of my experiences. As you probably know already, I am a Wests Tigers tragic. When I have to tell people who know little about the NRL or rugby league about the team I follow, there is only one thing I need to tell them before they know what I’m talking about. I have to say that I support the team where one player shoved his finger up the, ah, you-know-what, of opposition players. This was 12 years ago and rugby league is still suffering from this disgusting incident. Also, while I am up on my soapbox, I cannot believe that Robert Lui is able to play rugby league after being found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend and mother of his child.

While I cannot calculate the average for the second quarter for all teams in the top 8, I can do it for the 8 teams who have played 12 games so far in 2013. The average points scored per game by these 8 teams from rounds 7 to 12 was 21, while the average points conceded per game was 20.2. This is higher than the average points scored and conceded per game over the first six rounds (18.4). Compared to the same period for last season, these averages are slightly lower than the total average in the second quarter in both points scored (21.3) and conceded (21.2) per game.

A

South Sydney: 5-1 (1st quarter: A, 5-1)

The Rabbitohs are leading the way halfway through the 2013 regular season. Over the past 6 rounds, Souths have scored 27.5 points per game, which is higher than over the first six weeks. This did include the 54 scored against the hapless Tigers. The Rabbits have conceded just 12.7 points per game over the same period, which is lower than the average from the first six rounds. The most points they conceded in this period was 18 to Newcastle in Round 12. At the moment, it looks very likely that my premiership prediction will finish in the top 4, if not the top 2. Greg Inglis is maintaining his destructive form, while John Sutton is finally living up to his potential. One of the unsung players, Chris McQueen, has been rewarded with a Queensland Origin spot. Souths won all three of their home games, to be 4-1 at home in 2013. The only loss over the second quarter was at Cronulla, but they did win two other tough away games against Manly and Brisbane. Over the season, the Rabbits have a 6-1 record away from home.

Over the next 6 games, Souths have 4 home games and two away from home. The toughest games are two games against the Gold Coast.

Next 6 games: vs Gold Coast (Sun, 2pm), at Parramatta (Sun, 3pm), vs Canberra (Fri, 7:45pm), vs Warriors (Sun, 4:30pm), vs St George Illawarra (Mon, 7pm), at Gold Coast (Sat, 7:30pm).

Canterbury 5-1 (1st quarter: F, 1-5)

The Dogs have bounced back after a horrible start to the season. They are still nowhere near their 2012 form, but they are finding ways to win. Their attack has significantly improved, as they have scored 22.7 points per game over the last 6 games. This is much higher than the 11.3 scored per game in the first quarter. This included scoring 40 against the Tigers in Round 8.Defensively, Canterbury has also improved as they conceded 16.7 points per game from round 7 to 12, which is less than the 22.8 conceded per game in the first 6 rounds of 2013. This number would have been much better, if the round 10 loss to the Knights (8-44) was not included. Sam Kasiano has returned from injury, but is still not quite as his best at the moment. Trent Hodkinson has made the most of his opportunity and is now the first choice halfback, while Mitch Brown continues to make the most out of Steve Turner’s retirement. A big question for the Bulldogs is whether Krisnan Inu can play a game without doing something that will eventually get him suspended. Inu should return this round and he may be somewhat rusty after missing so much football. Canterbury won all three homes games over the past 6 rounds, to be 3-3 at home in 2013. Away from home, the only loss was the flogging at the hands of the Knights. Their 2 wins from 3 games over the second quarter have resulted in a 3-3 away record for the season.

Over the next six games, Canterbury’s run isn’t easy. In fact, it is quite difficult. They do have 4 home games, but three of these are against teams currently in the top 8. This includes tough games against Melbourne and the Roosters. Of their two away games, the biggest challenge is the Round 14 clash at Brookvale against Manly.

Next 6 games: at North Queensland (Sat, 7:30pm), at Manly (Fri, 7:35pm), vs Roosters (Fri, 7:45pm), vs Newcastle (Sun, 3pm), vs Melbourne (Sun, 3pm), vs Parramatta (Fri, 7:35pm).

C

Gold Coast 3-3 (1st quarter: B, 4-2)

The second quarter was a mixed bag for the Titans. From Rounds 7 to 10, they only won 1 of those games and looked like they were bound to slip out of the top 8. Two straight wins have seen the Titans consolidate their spot in the top 8. Their attack has slightly declined as they scored 20.7 points per game over the last 6 rounds. Scoring 42 and 31 points over the past two rounds has masked their poor attacking form from rounds 7 to 10. Their defence is not as strong as it was in the first quarter, as they have conceded 19.5 points per game (4.5 more per game) from rounds 7 to 12. The big story for the Titans has been Dave Taylor, who is constantly finding himself in and out of first grade. If the Titans are to make the semis and cause some damage while there, they need Taylor at his best. Young halves Kelly and Sezer are continuing to build their combination and are looking more settled and confident. Also, Jamal Idris is in near career-best form and is showing the form that saw him selected for New South Wales in 2010. The Titans won 2 games from 3 at home in the second quarter and are 5-2 at home for the season. The only home loss came against Newcastle, after they lost multiple players to injury early in that game. Away from home, the Titans only won 1 from 3 and are 2-3 away from home. They will need to learn how to win away from home if they are to stay in 5th.

Over the next six games, the Gold Coast has 3 home games and 3 away games. All 6 games are against teams currently situated in the top 8. The end result of the Titans’ season will likely be determined by the results of these 6 games.

Next 6 games: at Souths (Sun, 2pm), vs Melbourne (Mon, 7pm), at Newcastle (Sun, 2pm), vs Penrith (Sat, 7pm), at Manly (Sun, 3pm), vs Souths (Sat, 7:30pm).

Warriors 3-3 (1st quarter: F, 1-5)

Despite showing some decent form over the past 6 rounds, the Warriors are still near the bottom of the ladder. They have shown impressive form in the defeat to Melbourne and in the victory against Brisbane. However, they have also shown some horrible form, particularly in the loss to Penrith. The Warriors have improved their attack as they have scored 24.8 points per game in the second quarter, much higher than the 14.3 in the first 6 rounds. The 56 points scored in Round 12 certainly contributed to this increase. However, the Warriors defence was worse in rounds 7 to 12 (conceding 28 points per game) than it was in the first 6 rounds (24.3). Had the Warriors not conceded 62 points in Round 10, then they would have seen improved defensive statistics. The Warriors have not had too many stand-out players, but halfback Shaun Johnson is playing much more consistently. However, he is yet to show the form that saw him take the Warriors to the 2011 Grand Final. The Warriors have performed much better at home this season, which has included 2 from 3 over the last 6 rounds. These two wins came against top 8 teams Gold Coast and Newcastle. For the season, their home record is 3-3. The Warriors have won their first game away from home for 2013 in Round 12. For the quarter, they won 1 from 3 and their away record in 2013 is now 1-5.

Over the next 6 games, the Warriors have 3 home games and 3 away games. Two of their home games are against top 4 sides Manly and Melbourne. They also play two away games against top 4 sides, being the Roosters and South Sydney respectively. Victory of any of these games will be a huge effort.

Nest 6 games: vs Manly (Sun, 4pm), at Roosters (Sun, 6:30pm), vs Brisbane (Sun, 4pm), at Souths (Sun, 4:30pm), at Wests (Fri, 7:45pm), vs Melbourne (Sun, 2pm).

D

Newcastle 2-4

Much like the Warriors, the Knights have been hot and cold over the past 6 games. They have shown form that could contend for a place in the top 4, while at other times they have shown form that would see them well out of the top 8. Unfortunately, it has been more of the latter for the Knights recently. Their attack has improved statistically over the past six rounds, from 21.3 points per game in the first quarter to 23 per game in the second quarter. This was assisted by the 44 points scored in Round 10 against Canterbury. Defensively, the Knights have fallen over the past 6 games, having conceded 22 points per game. This is far lower than the 14.2 conceded over the first 6 rounds. The Knights do have a lot of players out due to injury, including Beau Scott, Kurt Gidley, Danny Buderus and now Alex McKinnon. The most impressive player for the Knights is James McManus, who is consistently safe under the high ball and a strong attacking threat. Newcastle’s strong home record remains, as their only loss at home this season came in Round 8 in golden point to Cronulla. For the season, they are 5-1. Away from home, it is a different story as their only win came against the Gold Coast, who lost multiple players to injury early in that game. Their away record in 2013 is 1-5.

Newcastle will play 3 games at Hunter Stadium over the next 6 games, with the toughest game against the Roosters in Round 20. Of the three away games, the clash against the Storm in Melbourne in Round 14 will be the Knights’ toughest challenge.

Next 6 games: vs St George Illawarra (Sat, 5:30pm), at Melbourne (Sun, 3pm), vs Gold Coast (Sun, 2pm), at Canterbury (Sun, 3pm), at Penrith (Sun, 2pm), vs Roosters (Sun, 3pm).

Brisbane 2-4 (1st quarter: C, 3-3)

I don’t know what it is, but the Broncos do not carry the same swagger that typical Brisbane teams have done in the past. Maybe it’s the lack of spark in the backline, but whatever the reason, the Broncos are in severe danger of missing the semi-finals. Brisbane has been slightly better in attack in the second quarter, having scored 19 points per game in this period (17.7 for the first quarter). However, their defence is much worse statistically as they have conceded 23.5 points per game, including 56 to the Warriors in Round 12. However, that team was a much weakened team so this may be an anomaly. Corey Norman has shown some positive glimpses in attack for the Broncos, especially in the absence of the oft-injured Justin Hodges. The Broncos have lost Ben Hannant to injury for a considerable period, which is a big blow. Three of their forwards, Thaiday, Gillett and Parker were rewarded with Queensland jerseys, so they are still strong up front. Brisbane’s home record in 2013 is a poor 2-4, having won 1 from 3 over the past 6 rounds. Away from home, the Broncos also won 1 from 3 in the second quarter and are 3-3 for the season.

Over the next 6 games, the Broncos only have 2 home games and 4 away games. Only one of these away games is against a side in the top 8 (Melbourne), while their toughest home game will be against Cronulla in Round 18, as they are again without their Origin stars. Brisbane will have to win the majority of these games to stay in touch with the top 8.

Next 6 games: at Canberra (Mon, 7pm), vs Tigers (Mon, 7pm), at Warriors (Sun, 4pm), at Melbourne (Fri, 7:35pm), vs Cronulla (Fri, 7:45pm), at North Queensland (Fri, 7:35pm).

North Queensland 2-4 (1st quarter: D, 2-4)

I was very tempted to give the Cowboys an ‘F’ grading here but their wins in Rounds 7 and 8 were enough for me to just sneak in a D. However, this is no solace for Cowboys supporters who were expecting a top-4 finish in 2013. Statistically, the Cowboys have performed worse in the second quarter compared to the first, as they have scored 15.7 points per game and conceded 19.2 per game (16.3 and 18.3 respectively in the first quarter). For the first 10 rounds, the Cowboys could be excused as they played against good opposition. However, the loss in Round 11 to the Tigers was very disappointing. They had a much better team but they played diabolical football to lose that game. Matt Bowen has not been in the same good form as he was in 2012. He is now out injured and I doubt if we will ever see Bowen at his electrifying best again. If so, it is a real shame. One thing in favour of the Cowboys is that 8 of their remaining 12 games are at home. So far, they are 2-2 at home in 2013, including 1 from 2 over the past 6 rounds. However, they are 2-6 away from home this season. In the second quarter, they won 1 game from 4 away from home.

In the next 6 games, North Queensland plays 4 games at home. Two of these games (against Cronulla and Manly) are against teams in the top 8. Both games away from home are against teams outside the top 8, but one of these is a trip to Canberra. The draw is there for the Cowboys to make a run for the top 8, but whether they do is a big issue.

Next 6 games: vs Canterbury (Sat, 7:30pm), at St George Illawarra (Fri, 7:35pm), vs Cronula (Sun, 6:30pm), at Canberra (Sun, 2pm), vs Manly (Mon, 7pm), vs Brisbane (Fri, 7:35pm).

F

St George Illawarra 1-5 (1st quarter: C, 3-3)

The times they are a-changing in Kogarah and Wollongong. Premiership-winning five-eight Jamie Soward is named to play reserve grade this week and he may never wear the red v ever again. While the Dragons have played against some tough opposition, winning one from their past 6 games is simply not good enough. Statistically, the Dragons aren’t much worse in the second quarter than they were in the first. In attack, they scored 15 and 14.7 points per game in the first two quarters. In defence, they conceded 20.3 and 20 points per game respectively in the first two quarters. Still, these numbers are not pleasing to the eye. Especially the attacking stats, as the Dragons would have expected the inclusion of Josh Dugan to increase the attacking potency of the side. Still, he has only been there for a few weeks so he may be more influential in the weeks ahead. Also, the injury to Brett Morris has not helped the Dragons’ cause, especially in attack. The Dragons only win in the second quarter was in Round 10 at home against Parramatta. For the quarter, they won 1 from 3 at home to be 2-3 at home in 2013. They lost all 3 away games and are now 2-5 away from home this season.

Over the next 6 games, St George plays 3 at home and 3 away from home. The toughest home game will be against the Roosters in Round 17, while their toughest away game will be against another top 4 team, South Sydney in Round 19.

Next 6 games: at Newcastle (Sat, 5:30pm), vs North Queensland (Fri, 7:35pm), at Penrith (Sat: 7:30pm), vs Roosters (Sat, 5:30pm), at Souths (Mon, 7pm), vs Canberra (Sat, 5:30pm).

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