The opening week of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series through up a number of surprises, with three of the four lower-placed teams coming out on top – and the remaining match, between the Wyong Roos and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, going to extra time. The weekend’s play ended with Mounties and the North Sydney Bears being eliminated, while the Roos and Penrith Panthers enjoy a week off ahead of their preliminary finals berths.
It was a particularly error-riddled weekend, it must be said, with only the Bears and Knights coming up with fewer than 11 errors in possession. The worst of these were Illawarra and the Warriors with 13 each, while Newcastle enjoyed easily the best completion rate (82 per cent) – followed by North Sydney (76 per cent). The Roos were next best (71 per cent), allowing them to make the most metres of any team (1,541) and complete an extra-time victory. There were no particularly world-beating efforts in defence over the weekend, but the Bulldogs’ Rhyse Martin made the most tackles with 40.
In the Knights’ upset of the Bears on Sunday, Simon Woolford’s side enjoyed a greater share of possession (57 per cent) than any other side and ran almost 500 metres further than their opposition.
When Illawarra took on Mounties in the second game of Sunday’s triple-header, the lead and momentum swung several times before a Jai Field match winner sealed it for the defending premiers in the dying moments. Mounties will be left to rue a weekend-high 10 penalties, while their go-forward was most helped by Liam Knight, who bagged a try and ran the furthest (200 metres) of any other player in Finals Week 1.
The first weekend of the finals wrapped up when the Warriors took on the Panthers at Kogarah – and Penrith did not disappoint. Alongside the Knights, they made more line-breaks (7) than any other side while the Warriors come up with the fewest metres (1,272), second-fewest tackles (240) and most missed tackles (48) in a game where neither side were at their best defensively. Garth Brennan’s Panthers had a big missed tackle tally (46) for the second consecutive weekend, but now have a fortnight to fix up that area of their game before the preliminary finals.
View the full stats reports from each of the games below - and recap the 2017 Team of the Year, selected with the backing of statistical data.