Your Edge: Round 25 Preview

Your Edge: Round 25 Preview

Round 25 of the 2022 NRL season is here and so is Your Edge. This week we’re looking into how teams perform against those in the Top 8 and how that regular season form might translate into September.

Forward Battles

Finals football is almost here but there is still some jostling of positions to take place.

Thursday night will settle 4th spot on the NRL ladder as the Parramatta Eels host the Melbourne Storm at CommBank Stadium. It’s as close to a finals game as we’re going to get in Round 25, and like all good finals games, the middle will go a long way to deciding the winner.

The Eels are the superior yardage side overall. Their 1,704 running metres per game ranks 2nd in the NRL. As mentioned last week, the performance of their edge players is typically a key indicator of their performance. Isaiah Papali’i and Shaun Lane averaged 144 running metres per game in wins prior to Round 24 and only 129 running metres in losses. As you’d expect when piling up 53 points on the Broncos, the pair ran riot to combine for 299 running metres between them. As we can see below, the pair are crucial to Parramatta’s yardage game given their tackle-breaking and offload ability.

Eels v Storm Forward Preview

Meanwhile, the Storm are down at 7th with 1,549 running metres per game. While their pack boasts big names, they don’t put up particularly big numbers outside of Nelson Asofa-Solomona. He’s a wrecking ball and his move out to the edge in recent weeks is one of the more interesting aspects heading into this one. Craig Bellamy has seen a big unit in Lane run and offload his way to career-best form on the edge and is now employing Asofa-Solomona in a similar role with a little bit more focus as a ball carrier. If the big Storm forward is out that wide again on Thursday night, he will test Lane with a right foot step early which later opens up opportunities for a flick pass/offload.

Asofa-Solomona is a key player for the Storm in this one. Lane, Papali’i, Ryan Matterson, Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard all average more metres per game than the next best Storm forward – Felise Kaufusi at just over 100 metres per game.

The Eels are an inconsistent football side, but when they’re on the front foot, few can keep up with them. If the Storm wants to secure 4th on the ladder and a second chance in September, they need to limit the damage the Eels do through the middle and support Asofa-Solomona in the yardage game.

We’ve kept track of net running metres all season and they’ve consistently painted an accurate picture of how teams are travelling. Most recently, the Sydney Roosters have topped the list and played themselves into premiership contention on the back of it. Across the whole season, it’s interesting to see the split between the top and bottom eight teams when measuring net yardage against points conceded. Not only are the Top 8 teams the only eight teams in the positives when it comes to net yardage, but there is also a significant gap between them and the bottom eight teams.

Net Running Metres v Points Conceded

Notably, the Broncos’ capitulation has seen them lose the yardage battle by a combined 1,839 metres over the last fortnight. Their position on the ladder and in the graphic above accurately reflects where they are as a team right now, though.

How teams perform in the middle of the field will determine who ends up on top on Grand Final Day. It’s the first area teams need to dominate if they’re to advance through September. While it is still regular season football, that finals focus on the middle of the field starts on Thursday night.

Top 8 Form

We’re only one week away from cutting the NRL in half. Outside of a miracle for the Broncos, we can make the cut already with the Panthers, Sharks, Cowboys, Storm, Roosters, Eels, Rabbitohs and Raiders to advance.

Continuing on with the net yardage angle, we can see how each team has performed when playing Top 8 opposition.

The Penrith Panthers are a different beast. While they’ve displayed some vulnerability in recent weeks, there is no question that they are the team to beat when fully fit. Given Nathan Cleary has spent five weeks resting while serving a suspension, we can expect him to hit the ground running next week regardless of the fact his first game in six weeks is a finals fixture.

Net Running Metres v Top 8 Teams

Despite sitting at 7th on the ladder, the South Sydney Rabbitohs are an impressive yardage side. They’ve tightened things up as the season has progressed and play a consistent brand in yardage before letting Latrell Mitchell and the stars out wide work their magic. Following on from their superb form in recent weeks, the Sydney Roosters are the only other team in the competition to win the yardage battle against a Top 8 side consistently.

The Sharks and Cowboys are interesting to note here. Much has been made of the relatively easy schedule the Sharks have played this season. Sometimes teams get lucky and manage to avoid the top teams and play those at the bottom twice, and this year, that happened to be the Sharks. However, they’ve managed to keep up with those Top 8 teams on the nine occasions they’ve faced one.

Likewise, the Cowboys and Eels have performed relatively well in yardage against finals teams. The Storm and Raiders are in concerning spots. Still, the Storm have had to work through other issues and are coming good at the right time while little is expected of the Raiders, really.

Where questions start to be asked about the Sharks and others in the Top 8 is in defence. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the NRL overall…

Points conceded in 2022:

1st – Panthers: 12.7
2nd – Sharks: 15.1
3rd – Cowboys: 15.3
4th – Storm: 16.9
5th – Roosters: 18.2
6th – Rabbitohs: 19.5
7th – Raiders: 19.6
8th – Eels: 20.7

However, the Sharks concede almost 22 points per game to Top 8 teams.

Top 8 Opposition: Points scored v Points conceded

Only one team has won the premiership with a defence outside the top three since 2005. The Sharks technically tick that box right now, but it may not translate into September.

The Cowboys are better positioned to replicate their regular season form in the finals. Ranked third in the NRL overall, they’re in the same spot when put up against Top 8 teams. They employ a similar style to the Panthers in that they work hard from the inside and look to push the opposition wide. It’s reliant on fitness and effort – something that can slip at this time of the season. However, with the lure of a premiership in September, we can expect them to return to form without the ball sooner rather than later.

Interestingly, the Rabbitohs pop up again as a good team both in attack and defence against finals sides. They’ve somewhat flown under the radar as a premiership threat. At 7th on the ladder and heavily reliant on Latrell Mitchell, they aren’t talked about like the Panthers, Storm or even the Roosters. Still, the numbers suggest they deserve more consideration as potential premiers.

We might still have Round 25 to get through yet, but every team in the Top 8 (outside of an unrecognisable Panthers side) will be closely monitored as they look to wind into finals football this week.

NRL Value Plays

The Punters Preview and NRL Draftstars Stats Bible is in for Round 25.

The Punter’s Preview looks at try scorer & player performance markets as well as NRL Draftstars stats and advice. If you’re enjoying our free content & data tools, follow us on social media & join our Discord channel where we discuss all things NRL, NBA & Cricket.



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