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The statistical truth: Roosters vs Storm preliminary final

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Expert
26th September, 2019
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This Saturday, 28 September, at 7:50pm at the SCG will be the 39th time these two sides have clashed since the Storm entered the competition in 1998. It stands at 21-17 in the Purple Horde’s favour.

The two sides will still have met two fewer times than the Roosters played against Glebe, the last of which was 90 years ago.

The Storm have won six of the last ten between the two sides. However, the Roosters have won three of the last five played in Sydney, including the 2018 grand final of course.

You want some freaky statistics?

Of course you do!

Since the NRL era began in 1998 there have been 21 finals series, including this year. The most any side could have possibly played to this point is 82 games. The Roosters have featured in 15 of the 21 finals series. In that time they have played 41 finals matches. The Storm have featured in 18 of those finals series for a total of 48 finals matches.

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The Roosters have played in seven grand finals, the Storm nine. Yet the 2018 grand final was the first time the two sides had ever met in the decider.

Weirder still, the 2018 NRL grand final was only the third finals match the two sides had ever played against each other:

  • 1998 – Roosters 26, Storm 12
  • 2015 – Storm 20, Roosters 18
  • 2018 – Roosters 21, Storm 6

Strangest of all, though is that the Storm have played in 11 preliminary finals since 1998 while the Roosters have played in ten in the same period, yet this is the first time they’ve met each other in the penultimate week of the season.

The Roosters have won seven of those ten prelims, while the Storm have won nine of their 11. This is the Storm’s fourth straight preliminary final appearance.

Melbourne Storm generic crowd

(Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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To further highlight the Storm’s dominance of the NRL era, this will be only the fourth time the Storm have played a preliminary final away from Melbourne. The only prelims they have lost have been to the Warriors in 2011 and to the Cowboys in 2015.

Boding well for the Roosters is that both of those sides beat the Storm through attacking flair. The Chooks have that attribute in spades.

A statistic that doesn’t bode so well for the Roosters is that in only 15 per cent of the time in the NRL era has the previous year’s premier gone on to play in the following grand final: the Roosters in 2003 and the Storm in 2008 and 2018. The previous year’s premier has already been knocked out by now 60 per cent of the time, though, so the Roosters may be the ones to break the mock.

Of course we haven’t had a back-to-back premier since Brisbane in 1993.

There are two prime ways to statistically predict the score of this game. If we compare both sides’ attack and defence for the entire season, we get the Roosters winning 21-19. If we compare both sides’ results against the other top-four finishers, we have the Storm victorious 18-17.8.

Let’s look at both sides’ results against the other top-four finishers.

Roosters Storm
Round 1: lost 16-26 at home to the Rabbitohs Round 2: won 22-10 away to the Raiders
Round 6: won 21-20 away to the Storm Round 6: lost 20-21 at home to the Roosters
Round 9: won 30-24 away to the Raiders Round 15: won 14-12 away to the Roosters
Round 15: lost 12-14 away to the Storm Round 21: won 26-16 away to the Rabbitohs
Round 21: won 22-18 away to the Raiders Round 22: lost 18-22 at home to the Raiders
Round 25: lost 10-16 away to the Rabbitohs Qualifying final: lost 10-12 to the Raiders
Qualifying final: won 30-6 at home to the Rabbitohs

The Roosters have a 4-3 record, while the Storm have split theirs at 3-3. Notably the Storm have lost their last two encounters against this cohort. These two sides have split the honours against each other this season.

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As we have seen, the Roosters have history on their side to win through to the grand final, as in nearly three-quarters of the time top-four sides that win in Week 1 of the finals and have the week off go on to win their preliminary finals matches.

There will be a few personnel changes from their Round 15 clash at Adelaide Oval, where the Storm defeated the Roosters 14-12.

Rossters Storm
Out In Out In
Poasa Faamausili Lindsay Collins Christian Welch Max King
Lachlan Lam Luke Keary Brodie Croft Jahrome Hughes
Matt Ikuvalu Sam Verills Joe Stimson Curtis Scott

Sam Verills has quickly demonstrated what a great prospect he is. While Jake Friend is in the extended squad, I’d be very surprised if Trent Robinson changed his winning formula. Luke Keary is a total gun and will be champing at the bit to prove himself against Melbourne again. Christian Welch is a big loss for the Storm. He plays Bellamy ball very well and can be counted on. Max King will do his best. Curtis Scott has a point to prove, and if history is a guide, he has a ready supply of angry pills too.

This game pits the best backline in 2019 against the best forward pack. No Jared Warea-Hargreaves is a big loss for the Roosters. It actually evens this game right out.

Sydney Roosters fans generic

(Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Team statistics
In regards to the team statistics that separate these two sides, there really aren’t too many.

The Roosters, as you’d expect, are better across the board in attack. However, there isn’t much in it, and the Storm are second to the Chooks in many categories. The Storm have a completion rate of 78 per cent, which is better than the Roosters 73 per cent.

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In defensive terms, the Storm are distinctly the best side in 2019. They concede 150 fewer metres on average a match than the Roosters, allow one fewer line break and miss five fewer tackles.

The danger men
The Roosters have plenty of tries in them. Latrell Mitchell has scored 19, James Tedesco 16 and Daniel Tupou 15. For the Storm Josh Addo-Carr has 16, Suliasi Vunivalu 11 and Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen both have nine tries.

Addo-Carr’s 25 line breaks are the third most in the NRL this year.

Cam Munster has 20 try assists and 20 line-break assists. He gets great backup from Cam Smith with his 16 try assists and 17 line-break assists.

Both pale next to Luke Keary and his 27 try assists and 28 line-break assists. He is well backed up by Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco, who both boast 15 try assists. Tedesco has 18 line break assists and 28 line breaks, the most in the NRL.

Luke Keary

(Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The liabilities
Joseph Manu is a superb attacking centre. However, he misses nearly 17 per cent of his tackles. That could be an issue.

Latrell Mitchell and Gus Crichton are almost certain to give away a penalty in this match. Also likely to concede are Justin Olam, Cam Smith, Felise Kaufusi and Jesse Bromwich.

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Cam Munster misses 2.2 tackles a game but Suliasi Vunivalu misses 1.7 while making only 4.2. He is likely to be targeted in defence.

As we’ve seen above, these two sides are dripping with finals experience. Neither side will be overawed on this stage.

Roosters Finals games Storm Finals games
James Tedesco 4 Ryan Papenhuyzen 2
Daniel Tupou 15 Suliasi Vunivalu 11
Latrell Mitchell 5 Curtis Scott 7
Jospeh Manu 4 Justin Olam 2
Brett Morris 14 Josh Addo-Carr 8
Luke Keary 10 Cameron Munster 13
Cooper Cronk 36 Jahrome Hughes 2
Victor Radley 4 Dale Finucane 21
Boyd Cordner 13 Felise Kaufusi 8
Mitchell Aubusson 20 Kenny Bromwich 15
Isaac Liu 13 Nelson Asofa-Solomona 10
Sam Verills 1 Cameron Smith 38
Sio SIua Taukeiaho 9 Jesse Bromwich 21
Angus Crichton 4 Brandon Smith 5
Zane Tetevano 5 Tui Kamikamica 2
Nat Butcher 1 Max King 2
Lindsay Collins 2 Will Chambers 20
Total 160 Total 187

Each team has seven players who have played on the big stage ten times or more. The Storm have five players for whom this is their first finals campaign. The Roosters only have two. That could be a telling difference.

Who is going to win and why
The Storm are dripping with experience and determination. They will be single-minded in executing their game plan and squeezing the life out of the Roosters. And they may succeed too.

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But I don’t think they will. Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen will be game-breaking players in finals in the future. But right now they are still rookies with promise.

That can’t be said about Luke Keary, Joseph Manu, Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco. They are all brutally and spectacularly brilliant. Cam Smith and Cam Munster will surely display some brilliance, but the Roosters backline is a thing of genuine beauty and terror.

The loss of Jared Warea-Hargreaves lessens the Roosters ability to muscle up to the wonderful Storm pack. However, the Storm punch off the bench is severely lessened without Christian Welch.

Assuming the Roosters pack hold their ground and provide their backs enough space, I think the Chooks will prevail in a tight one.

Roosters by four.