The Stats Behind Penrith Panthers’ Strong First Half of NRL Season

A poor first-half to last year’s NRL Grand Final cost Penrith Panthers the Premiership, but their continuing fine form this season means they may well end up going one better this time around. The Panthers finished the regular season top of the ladder, losing just one game. Approaching the halfway stage of the current campaign, they are unbeaten and once again setting a clear standard that all of Australia’s other top rugby league clubs have to match.

Strong statistics, such as conceding less than eight points per game on average, explain why Penrith are already red-hot favourites with the bookies to finish first in the regular season once again. With the outstanding individual and team performances on show by the Panthers, they also head the rugby league betting on NRL Grand Final success at 2.75. It’s worth looking at those statistics in more detail and celebrating the continuing excellence of the Greater Western Sydney side.

Any thoughts that Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is picking son Nathan because they’re family can be dismissed immediately. Cleary junior is having a storming season once again, leading the charts for points scored, goals and his kicking in general.

In the first 11 matches of the NRL season, he has made almost 5,000m through his boot. Nathan Cleary is not just a one-trick pony either, making a dozen try assists in a team that is spreading the burden of crossing the whitewash around. Six Penrith players have five or more tries already, underscoring the great threat they pose in attack. Cleary is also very willing to engage with the line and sits second in the NRL for that metric.

Fellow halfback Jarome Luai tops the linebreak assists and try assists charts, so their partnership is a real handful for the opposition to deal with. The running in this team, meanwhile, comes from Samoa cap Brian To’o out on the wing but also New Zealand forward James Fisher-Harris. Nobody has run more metres than To’o, with him posting the staggering stat of charging more than 1km post contact already this season. No other NRL player is even close to him in terms of ground made despite the opposition’s best efforts to bring him down.

It comes as no surprise off the back of that, then, to learn that To’o has also broken the most tackles. He’s also smashed through opposition lines 11 times already and has six tries as a reward for that effort, one behind Cleary. Supporting all those runs has been the decoys of second-row Fisher-Harris, moves he’s been willing to make almost 100 times. Those 1,930m plus run metres occupy other players and create space that the Panthers exploit.

Fisher-Harris isn’t shy about having the ball in hand and offloading it either. With Matt Burton and Charlie Staines crossing for eight tries apiece so far, if Penrith keep these incredible numbers up, then a Minor Premiership is the least that their fans can expect.

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