The statistics after five rounds of NRL action

NRL2021
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After five rounds, the 2021 Telstra Premiership ladder shows three distinct groups of teams. Those who have won four or five games are in the top group. Those who have lost four or five games are in the bottom group, and those who have either won or lost three games - the sort of mid-table marauders - in the middle group.

The top group includes the unbeaten Panthers together with the Roosters, Rabbitohs, Dragons, and Eels. The mid-table group consists of the Storm, Titans, Raiders, Sharks, Warriors, and Knights. The group propping up the bottom of the table includes the Broncos, West Tigers, Cowboys, Sea Eagles, and the winless Bulldogs.

There have been no draws so far, so the teams that have won more games (and scored more tries and goals) are higher on the ladder than the teams that have lost more games (and scored fewer tries and goals). Let's see whether some of the statistics at www.nrl.com can add any detail to that simplistic statement and show why some teams are performing, and others are underperforming.

Possession:
The average possession figure for all teams is 50%. The Storm - now without Cameron Smith - and the Panthers lead the possession table with 56% and 55%. The Bulldogs and Cowboys haven't had as much of the ball, keeping it only 46% and 44% of the time.

Line breaks:
The Panthers, Titans, and Roosters top this statistic with 31, 31, and 29 line breaks. The Bulldogs fared worst with only 11 line breaks - in five games.

Tackle Breaks:
The Panthers top this one too. They have 195 tackle breaks and lead - by some margin - the Eels on 168, Titans on 166, and Raiders on 162. The Cowboys, who bagged their first win of the season when they scraped through 34-30 against the Wests Tigers, and Bulldogs again fared worst in this statistic, with only 101 and 99 tackle breaks.

Tries:
The Roosters lead the try-scoring statistics with 30 tries, thanks mainly to winger Brett Morris and fullback James Tedesco. They have scored 18 tries between them. The Rabbitohs, Panthers, and Storm are next on 24 tries. The Sea Eagles and Bulldogs are struggling to score tries, managing only eight and six, respectively.

Goals:
The Panthers, Storm, Dragons, and Rabbitohs have each scored 22 goals. The Cowboys, Bulldogs, and Sea Eagles have scored 21 goals between them.

Tackles:
The Eels have made the most tackles with 1,847. They are just above the Dragons, who put in a fantastic defensive effort to beat them 26-12 in the final game of Round 5, on 1,843. The Sharks have made the fewest tackles, stopping their opposition only 1,756 times.

Missed tackles:
The Rabbitohs, who continued their good form with a 35-6 win against the Broncos, top this statistic with only 99 missed tackles. The Sea Eagles, Dragons, Sharks, and Cowboys have missed more than 160 tackles in five games. That means they miss on average more than 30 tackles per game.

Tackle percentage:
There is not much difference between the tackle percentage (tackles made out of the total tackles made and missed) across all teams. The average is 92%, with the Rabbitohs sitting on 95% and the Sharks at 90%. 

Interestingly the Panthers, who Betway Sports have at odds of 5.50 to win the NRL Premiership this season, have made the third least tackles (1,638) and have the third least missed tackles (113).

Errors:
The Knights have only made 46 errors (when the ball is lost by the attacking team or when defensive players have reset tackle count to zero) so far this season. Behind them on this statistic are the Bulldogs on 48 errors and the Warriors, who have recently signed Reece Walsh, on 49. The Titans and the Sea Eagles have made 66 errors, a couple less than the Cowboys, who have made 70 errors this season.

Handling errors:
The Sharks have only made 31 handling errors (e.g., dropped catch or clean up, throwing an intercept offload or pass, throwing the ball in to touch), one less than the Bulldogs and nine fewer than the Knights. The Sea Eagles have made 63 handling errors, the most by any team so far.

Penalties Conceded:
The Panthers, Eels, and Sea Eagles have all conceded less than 12 penalties this season. The Bulldogs, who lost 52-18 to the Storm in Round 5, and the Cowboys have conceded 23 and 24 penalties, respectively.

The teams that are closer to the top of the ladder are doing well in the line breaks and tackle-breaks statistics, thereby creating try-scoring opportunities. They're also making most of their tackles. In contrast, the teams at the bottom are spending more time conceding penalties, making errors, and making handling errors.