The Roar
The Roar


To win in the NRL, just score first - however you do it

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9th August, 2019

It may seem inconsequential in a game that lasts 80 minutes for the score at the halfway mark of a match to have any real value, much the same for the first recorded score of a game. However, the facts prove both are important in achieving a win.

The NRL Premiership ladder after 20 rounds is not too dissimilar to the ladder for sides who have converted the most halftime leads into victories.

The Roosters and Raiders are at the top with 13 wins from half time leads, then Melbourne comes in third with ten. Souths and Manly have nine, Parramatta eight, Newcastle seven, Penrith and the Wests Tigers have six, Brisbane and the Cowboys are on five, Cronulla, the only anomaly, has three along with the Dragons and the Warriors, the Bulldogs two while the Titans are last, having converted just one half time lead into a win this year.

In 56.58 per cent of all games played in the NRL in 2019, the winner has been undefeated in both halves, either outscoring the opponent in both halves or outscoring them in one half and drawing with them in the other.

This shows that teams have a stronger chance of success if they are not trailing at halftime.

 The below chart shows each side’s win percentage in each half for the 2019 season, up till the end of Round 20.

Now while there is a correlation between having a first half lead and winning games, there is a more prominent statistic to do with scoring and winning.

Of the 152 games played so far in the 2019 NRL season, the winning team has been the first scorer on 103 occasions. That equates to the first scoring side in a match going on to win the game on 67.8 per cent – a little over two-thirds – of the time.


Only four of the 16 NRL teams have a win percentage under 50 per cent in 2019 after being the first scorer in a game – North Queensland at 44.4 per cent, the Warriors at 41.7 per cent, St.George-Illawarra at 36.4 percent and the Gold Coast Titans at 28.6 per cent.

By comparison, only two of the 16 sides have conceded the first points in a match yet still managed to win at least half of their games – Melbourne with a remarkable 72.7 per cent and Manly at 55.6 per cent.

These two points show the overwhelming value and significant importance of being the first scorer in a game.

There have been 45 occasions where a penalty goal was the first scoring play of a match, and on 64.4 per cent of those occasions, the side has gone on to win. A try as the first scoring play has led to the scoring side winning on 69.2 per cent of the time.

Given there are often howls of protest by some commentators whenever a team decides to take a shot at penalty goal at the start of a game, despite being in great attacking position, these stats show that scoring first by any means possible can lead to victory more often than not.

That’s a stat this is too big to ignore.

While it may not be exciting to watch a player kick a goal, compared to scoring a try, winning is king and when scoring first leads to a win in such a high percentage of games, any side would be mad to turn down the opportunity.