The Super League season is now officially at the business end with the league splitting into two as the top eight sides from the regular season form the ‘Super 8s’, whilst the bottom four drop into the ‘Qualifiers’ to face the top four teams from the Championship as they battle it out for the right to play in next season’s top tier.
One of the teams in the Super 8s will be crowned as the Super League champions in October, but before that they must all face each other in a bid to make the semi-finals. The race for the top four is bound to be tight with just four points separating the teams from third to seventh place.
Every point earned will play a big part in determining who makes the semi-finals, so we’ve assessed some of the key statistical trends from the regular season to see what could make the difference over the coming weeks.
Method of Points
Unsurprisingly, league leaders Castleford Tigers scored the most tries (132) and goals (118) during the regular season as well as scoring the joint highest number of drop goals (five) along with St. Helens.
Of the teams to qualify for the Super 8s, third-placed Hull FC scored the fewest tries during the regular season (87). Interestingly, they also kicked more goals (95) than they scored tries – the only side to do this.
Missed kicks at goal were particularly crucial for Wigan Warriors during the regular season, as they came unstuck on several occasions because of a lack of a recognised goal kicker. They kicked the fewest number of goals of the teams to qualify for the Super 8s (66).
Castleford’s attacking structure gained a lot of plaudits during the regular season but their defence was also impressive too. They conceded the fewest number of tries (64) across their 23 regular season games.
Salford Red Devils and Wakefield Trinity conceded the most number of tries during the regular season (88), but it was Wigan who conceded the highest number of points (518).
Leeds Rhinos were on the receiving end of the most drop goals conceded (five). With drop goals tending to come when games are tight in rugby league, can we deduce they were involved in more close games across the regular season than any of their Super 8s rivals?
Hull scored the first try of the game more often than any of their Super 8s rivals, racking up 16 tries to open up the scoring from their 23 regular season games.
However, despite starting games quickly, the black and whites weren’t strong finishers and only scored the last try in a game on just eight occasions, the fewest amongst their Super 8s rivals.
Huddersfield Giants were the most frequent team to score the last try, doing so on 16 occasions.
Wigan scored the highest number of combined first and last tries during the regular season with 29 (15 first, 14 last).
Salford on the other hand were involved in the fewest with just 18 (eight first, 10 last).
Wakefield were leading more games at half-time than any other side to qualify for the Super 8s (16 times). However, they couldn’t always convert those leads to wins at full-time with them going on to lose five of those, the highest number of losses when leading at half-time.
Castleford were unbeaten in 15 games during the regular season when leading at half-time. They won 14 of those games and drew the other.
Huddersfield were only ahead at half-time in 10 of their 23 games and went on to draw two of those, the highest number of draws from a winning position at half-time across the Super 8s teams.
Compared to their Super 8s rivals, Wigan and Huddersfield were both losing the most games at half-time (11).
The Warriors and Giants - finishing seventh and eighth respectively - were only able to go on to win one of those matches each, the lowest amount amongst the teams in the Super 8s.
Castleford were able to turn five of their seven losing positions at half-time in to wins, which is the highest number amongst their Super 8s rivals.
The sample for teams drawing at half-time was too small to provide any meaningful analysis.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Huddersfield score a higher percentage of their tries in the right wing zone than any other team in any zone across the Super 8s teams. The Giants scored 41.3% of their total tries in that area, which isn’t too much of a surprise with Huddersfield utilising the centre-wing combo of Leroy Cudjoe and Jermaine McGillvary.
Wigan have had numerous injuries this season and one area hit the most has been their three-quarter line. They have had to chop and change all season and this could explain why they’ve only scored 4% of their total tries in the right centre zone. When fit, Anthony Gelling would be expected to play centre on that side of the pitch but is more renowned for creating tries than scoring them too.
Wakefield like to keep opposition defences guessing with them looking to spread the ball to both the left and right wing zones. They have scored 33.7% of their tries in the left wing zone with 32.7% of their tries coming in the right zone, a difference of just 1% which is the lowest differential between the two wider zones amongst the Super 8s teams.
Salford’s left wing is the leakiest zone amongst the Super 8s teams, with them conceding 36.4% of their total tries in that area of the pitch. The Red Devils are another side who have been hit by injuries and the constant chopping and changing in this position could be one of the reasons why they have struggled in this area. Opposition teams have clearly identified this as a weak point of their defensive structure.
Leeds defended solidly through the centre of the pitch during the regular season with just 3.5% of their conceded tries coming in that zone, the lowest percent of any zone by any team. Hooker Matt Parcell has made the second highest number of tackles across the entire league with 815, whilst it isn’t a coincidence that Hull have the second lowest percentage in the same zone (6%) with them boasting Super League’s top tackler and Steve Prescott Man of Steel, Danny Houghton, who leads the way with 819 tackles made. Both of these men will defend the middle zone when on the pitch and play a big part in how their respective teams defend.
With the Super 8s getting underway on 3rd August, these stats and trends could give us an insight into what we can expect during the course of the next seven games. Some teams will need to improve certain aspects of their game in order to earn the necessary points whilst others will be hoping to continue some of the impressive standards they’ve set.
We’ve highlighted plenty of these above and will endeavour to keep you continually informed on how the Super 8s are shaping up with our weekly previews.