The Deeper REALstats on Eagles win


The Deeper REALstats on Eagles win

We saw the basic numbers breakdown in the previous analysis. Check this out if you missed it.

Here are the whole game possession REALstats

                     Roosters                                                                       Manly

1st half    2nd half   Totals                                 1st half     2nd half   Totals

14                18              32                 Sets                    26               23              49

77                86             163               Plays                  103          109             212

3                    9                12                Errors                 5                 5               10

5                   22               27               Lost Plays        11              15            26

Rooster’s errors rose second half after outstanding first half numbers, perhaps under fatigue and pressure of chasing a try? Manly maintained their high first half standard to complete great possession and error stats.

Now let’s look closer at the numbers to see WHAT the experts may have missed (or not shared with us).

My REALstats analysis shows this:

Roosters                                                                       Sea Eagles

1st half        2nd half       Total                                         1st half        2nd half         Total

Position Play Finished             

10        +         12               22                 1-20m                    14       +        12                 26

30         +        43               73                21-50m                  30       +        30                60

26         +        19                45                 51-80m                 32       +         28                60

11          +        12               23                  81-100m               27      +      37                   64

We can see from this table that Phil Gould was close to correct, “the play was all up this end” in his first half summary – 59 to 37 by Manly in Roosters half. It became even more dominant 2nd half – 65 to 31.

The instruction to his players to rectify this in the 2nd half from Roosters Coach Robinson, he told us at half time,  would result in “us coming over the top of them in the last 20”.

Were Roosters really counting on Manly fading under pressure of possession? Even after Manly had won possession and field position battles first half?

We were left to wonder or perhaps expect more of the same with more intensity from Roosters?

He didn’t mention anything about HOW that was going to happen which is fair enough for an NRL coach to keep such info to himself.  But no-one else mentioned any possible change in HOW the Roosters might achieve this improvement.

These REALstats below tend to point out that both teams stuck to their pre-game plans.

         Roosters                                                                              SeaEagles                 

First          Second        Total                                                          First          Second        Tota

Frequency                                     Passes on a  Play                     Frequency 

8         +           9               17                               0                             11         +         11              22

55        +         59               114                             1                             53         +       68            121

13        +        14                27                              2                             20         +      19              39

0          +         1                   1                                 3                               8         +       6                4

0          +         3                   3                                4                                3         +       2                5

1           +         1                  2                             more                            1         +       1                2

86/77   +  87/86   173/163        Passes Plays       197/103   +    109/124  306/227

The table supports what we saw; the passes per play did not alter much from first half to second for either team. Roosters followed their instructions but without the increased intensity. Perhaps that extra ball movement they had to contend with (306 passes to 163), as well as the lopsided penalty count took its toll.

As those 81-100m numbers above show it simply got worse.

  • 27 to 11 1st half
  • 37 to 12 2nd half

The Roosters post-game take on WHY this happened revolved strongly around the referees and the 10-3 penalty count to Manly. There is no doubt that was a factor but we have strong evidence from last season that the Roosters have previously and often resisted these forces – most penalised team in NRL wins the 2013 comp is pretty emphatic.

So WHAT was it that Manly did (as opposed to refs) to win this match?

Let’s find out HOW they achieved this memorable win and WHY it was way more effective to do it by this method.

That REALstat of Total Passes shows us a staggering 306 to 173. Eagles had more passes in the 1st half than the Roosters had in the entire match. Did this happen by accident? Not bloody likely.

Peter Sterling worked it out after the first Eagles’ set of the match when he described it as:

“4 plays in a row, they went from one side of the field to the other”.

Manly were in their own 1-20m zone when they started that plan and in the very first set! That’s a bold plan!!

The deeper analysis from replay shows it went:

  • scrum start – one pass left
  • 3 passes left – knocked down 6 again
  •  1 pass right
  •  2 passes long right
  •  2 passes long left
  •  4 passes long right
  • 1 pass right short side
  • centre field hook kick – DEAD – poor set finish.

But did anyone notice that it continued? The commentary didn’t really highlight that Manly were efficiently winning the field position battle through employing this style of play.

There were 197 passes thrown in the first half by last season’s runners up versus the defending premiers on a wet night in what is a blood thirsty rivalry! Their opponents had thrown just 86 from 77 plays!

This was a well-planned form of attack by a well prepared team.

  • In that 40 minutes Manly produced 34 x 2 or more pass plays which was 20 more times than their opponents.
  • They made 21 x 2 or more passes (to 9 by the Roosters) before they got to the 81+ metre area.
  • They were clearly not waiting to gain field position dominance before “playing footy” to score points.
  • Manly was playing footy (Passing the Ball to each other) to gain that field position, to dominate and to win!

Have other teams not worked this out yet or is Geoff Toovey the next super coach?

It is hardly revolutionary but it proved very effective in this instance.

The Eagles clearly had a plan and it worked, only just, on the scoreboard but more clearly in the battle the Roosters wanted to fight them on – possession and field position; in fact in the 2nd half all Manly got points wise was an 80th minute penalty goal.

But Manly won that battle that the Roosters were so focussed on and so much that they were prepared to stick to it to the bitter end even to lose rather than change from the mantra on which they won a premiership.

The Eagles instead trusted themselves to pass the ball wide whenever and wherever they felt it was “on” or needed or both, even on a slippery surface and against a deadly defence – Roosters were #1 in D for NRL 2013.

Following that mantra of total possession, minimizing errors conceding possession, winning field position, week after week we watched less physically endowed teams try to play the identical blue print to the eventual premiers. Like silly billy goats butting in a brutal physical fight to the death with possession footy the name of the game, the Roosters logically won almost all of these head-ons, using their undoubted skills to rattle up the points when physical dominance was gained.

I found it great to watch a team so powerful and with so much finishing prowess as well as disappointing, watching the opposition in kamikaze mode.

Like a good old western movie, many a man tried and just as many died in the shoot-out with the mighty Sydney Roosters in season 2013. They had the “wrong” plan and I am guessing there will be many more who meet the same fate in 2014 as they are unaware that there is a smarter way.

Sydney’s decision to try to out-physical this opposition confirms how devoted they were to their plan:

  • with single pass plays ad nauseum (POSSESSION PRESSURE)
  •  with only 1 first half play with more than 2 passes
  • again second half they had a total of only 5 plays of 2 or more passes from a total of 86.

Not so the Sea Eagles. They were prepared to “take a chance” by moving the ball to stretch their opponents, take them out of their comfort zone to change the rules of the contest.

But here is something all of us and the premiers of 2013 might want to consider.

Of the sets the Sea Eagles had in possession they only twice (first h) and once (2nd h) needed to kick from inside their own half and all of those were within a metre or two from halfway and on the front foot.

They had a different plan to win field position and it worked for them to get that territorial gain.

I will expand on this and prove to you in our next episode of this TRIPLE TREAT of The REAL REASONs the EAGLES got the ROOSTERS and did it without any greater risk and with something they can build on.

And so can YOUR TEAM.

Check out the SEQUEL here at