Roosters vs Rabbitohs: The ultra definitive NRL preliminary final stats preview

7:40pm, Saturday 22 September, Alliance Stadium. This is the last rugby league game at this ground.
In 31 seasons there have been some cracking games at Allianz Stadium. The Roosters featured in the very first game here, a 24-14 loss to the Dragons in round one 1988.
The second game at the ground was a 16-14 win to the Rabbitohs over the Roosters.
Now – after 708 games of top grade rugby league, including international and State of Origin matches – the old SFS will host its last league game. It is fitting that a ground that sits in the no man’s land between the Souths and Roosters turf should host this game as its finale.
This game pits the season’s best defensive side against the year’s best attacking side.
However, the crucial factor in this game is carry over points. Greg Inglis had none, so he’ll play in spite of his crusher tackle. Latrell Mitchel conversely had some and will sit out suspended.
That Inglis will be there – with his outstanding experience and leadership – while Mitchell and his stellar attacking game won’t is likely to be the crucial factor that decides this game.
Let’s look at why.
Defence
Team Stats – average per game 2018
Team stats

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Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs
Difference

Line breaks conceded
3.3 (#2 NRL)
3.6 (#4 NRL)
+0.4 Rabbitohs

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Missed tackles
21.5 (#1 NRL)
25
+3.5 Rabbitohs

Tries conceded
2.2 (#1 NRL)
3
+0.8 Rabbitohs

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Errors
10.8 (#14 NRL)
10.4
+0.4 Roosters

Meters conceded
1400.5
1344.7
+58.8 Roosters

Penalties conceded
8.1
8.3
+0.2 Rabbitohs

Offloads
11.1 (#16 in NRL)
8.6 (#3 NRL)
+2.5 Roosters

With the exception of their errors and offloads conceded, Easts have been the number one defensive side this season. While in no way miles ahead of the Rabbitohs, the tricolours consistency in defence is notable.
Further, if offloads conceded were a telling defensive stat how is it that the number one defensive side would be worst in that category?
Maybe it is about the quality of the offloads I guess, and the Bunnies have quality offloads.
Player Stats

Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs

Tackles made
J. Friend – 42.9
R. Matterson – 30.7
B. Cordner – 26.8

D. Cook – 38.6
A. Crichton – 30.7
C. Murray – 28.5
S. Burgess – 28.2

Missed tackles
J. Friend – 2.1
L. Keary – 2
B. Cordner – 2
V. Radley – 1.9
S. Burgess – 3.2
D. Gagai – 3.1
D. Cook – 2.1
T. Burgess – 2

Penalties conceded
L. Mitchell – 1
D. Napa – 0.9
J. Friend – 0.8
J. Waerea-Hargreaves – 0.7
S. Burgess – 1.1
A. Crichton – 1.1
G. Burgess – 0.9
A. Reynolds – 0.8
C. Murray – 0.8

Errors
B. Ferguson – 1.3
D. Tupou – 1.3
L. Keary – 1.2
J. Tedesco – 1.2
A. Reynolds – 1.3
C. Walker – 1.2
S. Burgess – 1.2
A. Crichton – 1.1

There are some awesome defenders in both of these sides. Jake Friend is tackling crazy and Damien Cook is not far behind him. Where Sam Burgess’ and Dane Gagai’s missed tackles are a worry for the Rabbits – and they will be targeted – no Rooster is a liability in the defensive line.
Here is one advantage for the Roosters of Latrell Mitchell and Dylan Napa being out: they are the club’s worst penalty conceders. A bit of cold comfort there really.
From these stats, the Roosters are highly likely to win the penalty count. Gus Crichton and Sam Burgess will concede them.
Further, Sam Burgess and Crichton will make errors. He has been averaging four missed tackles and two errors a game over the last six games.
Conversely, the Roosters errors are predominantly committed in attack, not in their own red zone – as evidenced by their leading error merchants.
Attack
Team Stats – average per game 2017

Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs
Difference

Line breaks
4.6 (#5 in NRL
5.8 (#1 NRL)
+1.2 Rabbitohs

Tackle breaks
27.8
29.2
+1.4 Rabbitohs

Tries scored
3.7 (#3 in NRL)
4 (#1 in NRL)
+0.3 Rabbitohs

Metres made
1446 (#2 NRL)
1460 (#1 NRL)
+14 Rabbitohs

Penalties received
7.8 (#14 NRL)
8.3
+0.5 Rabbitohs

Offloads
6.9
10
+3.1 Rabbitohs

If the Roosters are the season’s best defenders, the Rabbitohs are certainly the year’s best attackers.
When put against each other their strengths virtually nullify each other. The only two things where and real advantage can be gleaned is that the Rabbits overall are 69 metres and 5.5 offloads to the good of the Roosters.
Player Stats

Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs

Tackle breaks
J. Tedesco – 5.7 (#1 NRL)
L. Mitchell – 4.4 (#4 NRL)
D. Tupou – 3.3
B. Ferguson – 3.1
B. Cordner – 1.4
J. Manu – 2.5

D. Gagai – 3.4
D. Cook – 3.1
A. Crichton – 2.8
C. Walker – 2.8
R. Jennings – 2.7

Line breaks
B. Ferguson – 23
J. Tedesco – 19
L. Mitchell – 18
L. Keary – 10
J. Manu – 10

R. Jennings – 18
A. Johnston – 18
C. Walker – 18
C. Graham – 12

Metres gained
B. Ferguson – 189 (#1 NRL)
J. Tedesco – 181 (#2 NRL)
D. Tupou – 151 (#6 NRL)
B. Cordner – 113

S. Burgess – 132
R. Jennings – 129
A. Crichton – 117
G. Inglis – 117

Tries scored
B. Ferguson – 17
L. Mitchell – 16
J. Tedesco – 9
J. Manu – 7

R. Jennings -19
C. Walker – 12
G. Inglis – 10
A. Johnston – 8

Try assists
L. Keary – 19
J. Tedesco – 18
C. Cronk – 15

C. Walker – 17
A. Johnston – 14
A. Reynolds – 14
D. Cook – 10

Line break assists
L. Keary – 17
J. Tedesco – 17
C. Cronk – 10
J. Manu – 8

C. Walker – 27
A. Johnston – 18
A. Reynolds – 14
D. Cook – 11

Offloads
J. Tedesco – 1.1
L. Mitchell – 0.9
J. Waerea-Hargreaves – 0.7
R. Matterson – 0.7
J. Manu – 0.6

S. Burgess – 1.7
A. Crichton – 1.5
D. Cook – 1.1

How will the Roosters go without Latrell Mitchell? His tackle breaks, line breaks and tries have been essential to their success this year.
However, look at Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco’s attacking stats – they are awesome. The question is how much positive influence does Mitchell’s presence have on their stats? I think it is a fair bit.
A lot rests on Tedesco, Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary to make up for Mitchell’s absence. They certainly have the credentials to do it too.
Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds are such a huge factor in Souths chances. If they are on song, I believe they will win this game.
However, if they struggle – and they can – their opponents will feed on that. Tedesco was made for matches like this.
The wild card is whether Damien Cook can inject his considerable X-factor from dummy half.
The Danger Men
James Tedesco
The number one tackle breaker and the number two line breaker in the NRL this year. Last outing he made 240 metres and eight tackle breaks, while laying on three line break assists and two try assists. He could bust this match wide open.
Blake Ferguson
He may be leaving the Roosters after this season but he’s giving his all to the club. The number one metre gainer in the NRL this season, he has 17 tries to his name. The only question is whether he can do it without Latrell Mitchell on his inside. The Rabbitohs will be hoping the answer is no.
What can Ferguson achieve without Mitchell? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Luke Keary
The words – as reportedly delivered by Russell Crowe – “You didn’t earn your money last year” signalled the beginning of Keary’s exit from the Rabbitohs, with whom he won the 2014 premiership.
It is a safe bet that Keary would really love to show Crowe just what his value is in this game. His 19 try assists, 17 line break assists and ten tries in just 21 games this season show he is definitely earning his pay from Uncle Nick this year.
Sam Burgess
I reckon big Sam is going to put all of the distractions behind him and show us all just how good he is at football this week. That will mean huge trouble for the Roosters if I‘m right.
Damien Cook
As above, Cook needs to have a big match here. He must be at his attacking best. I reckon he’s due for a blinder.
Greg Inglis
This will be Inglis’ 24th finals appearance. He has won 15 of those. He has won four out of the five that he has played at centre. As he demonstrated in this year’s Origin series, his leadership and big game experience can be incredibly influential. Expect him to assert his dominance in this game.
Tom and George Burgess
If the Rabbitohs want to win this then the twins must dominate. It is as simple as that. They must hurl their huge bodies at the Roosters pack relentlessly and cause havoc. Will they?
The Burgess brothers must rise. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
The History
The Roosters overall record
This will be the Roosters 2378th competition game. They’ve won 1255 of them (52.8 per cent)
The Rabbitohs overall record
This is the Rabbitohs’ 2372nd game since entering the competition. The have a 52 per cent win rate.
Overall between the sides
No two Australian Rugby league sides have played each other more than these two. Dating back to 1908, this will be the 241st game between the sides in all competitions. Easts have won 110, the Bunnies 124, and there have been six draws.
In the Sydney premiership – and its subsequent iterations – this will be the 219th game between the sides. Souths have won 113, the Roosters 99, and there have been five draws.
The last ten
The Chooks have won six of the last ten. That includes four of the last five. The latest match between the two – round 22 at ANZ Stadium – saw the tricolours run out 18-14 winners. However, the Rabbits were without Campbell Graham, Robert Jennings and Greg Inglis, and the victors had Latrell Mitchell and Dylan Napa playing.
At this Venue
This will be the 39th game between these sides at Allianz Stadium. The Roosters have the upper hand, winning 24 of them (63.1 per cent). The last ten have been split five a piece.
Finals
Here’s a weird stat for you: in spite of the massive number of games these sides have played against each other, this will be only their 11th finals match. So, just 4.6 per cent of their encounters have been finals. Further, this will be only their second finals game against each other in the last 80 seasons.
In 2014, the Rabbitohs beat the Roosters 32-22 in the Preliminary final at ANZ Stadium.
The final before that was on August 27th 1938 at the SCG, with Eastern Suburbs triumphing 19-10. That means the two sides have played each other 167 times in 80 seasons with only one finals game in that time.
Last time these sides played in a prelim, the winner went on to taste the ultimate success. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox)
This is the very last game at this stadium and also the first finals game between these two sides here.
Form
By round 11 of this season, the Roosters were sitting in seventh position, having won six and lost five of their games. They only lost three of their remaining 13 games to storm home to the minor premiership.
They’ve played 12 games against the other finalists this season, winning six and losing six. Four of those six losses have come at home. They’ve played other top four sides five times for a three and two record.
The Rabbitohs have won six of their last ten, but three of those losses were against other top eight sides (Sharks, Panthers and Storm).
South Sydney have played 13 matches against the other finalists this season – including the qualifying final and last week’s semi. They’ve lost seven and won six of them. However, against other top four sides they have won three and lost two. Their average score against the other top four sides is a 24-17 win.
The Roosters also have a three and two winning record against the other top four sides but their average score is only an 18-14 win. This suggests a 19-18 win for the Rabbitohs in this game.
Referees
Ashley Klein, Adam Gee
These two have never officiated a Roosters-Rabbitohs game together before, finals or otherwise. This is not surprising, as there has only been one final between these sides in 80 years.
Ashley Klein has run three games between these teams, and Easts have won all three, the last being the 14-12 win here at Allianz in Round 18, 2017.
Adam Gee has run one game. In Round 1, 2016 the Bunnies flogged their rivals 42-10 here at Allianz. There are only five members of the losing side backing up for this match, compared to seven winners.
Klein has controlled 34 Roosters games since 2009. The Roosters have won 19 of them (55.9 per cent). He has controlled 41 Rabbitohs games with the Cardinal and Myrtle winning 20 of them (48.8 per cent).
Adam Gee has controlled 12 Rabbitohs games – including their recent final loss to the Storm – and the Bunnies have won six of them (50 per cent). Under Gee’s control, the Roosters have won five of nine (55.5 per cent).
Finals
The Roosters lost their only finals game they’ve had under Adam Gee. That was last year’s Preliminary Final loss to the Cowboys at the venue. Conversely, the Rabbitohs have lost their only finals match under Ash Klein, their 2015 qualifying loss against the Sharks, also at Allianz Stadium.
Easts’ 40-14 2013 Preliminary final win over the Newcastle Knights was controlled by Klein, and it was also at Allianz Stadium.
Who is going to win and why
The Latrell Mitchell out is a big one, but the minor premiers still have Cronk, Cleary and Tedesco, so it’s not exactly like they are without extreme attacking class.
If that triumvirate gets on to,p then the Roosters will win. However, their pack is not stellar. They are very good and dependable, but they aren’t match winners.
Their opponents’ pack can definitely be match winners.
I’ve felt that this year the Roosters have won matches because their backline venom was so damn good it compensated for their lesser pack.
The removal of Mitchell dampens that venom – and gives the Rabbitohs a target in Joseph Manu.
If Souths are able to put off field distractions out of their minds – if – I think they’ll win narrowly.
Statistically predicted score: Roosters 20.4 – Rabbitohs 19.6
Prediction: Rabbitohs 1-12

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