That’s that for the 2020 NRL regular season with the completion of Round 20.
After a fortnight of games we had a hiatus then the final 18 rounds and now eight teams remain in the hunt for the Premiership.
In the final edition of 5 Lessons Learned (the NRL version anyway) for 2020, we’re going to take a look at the season as a whole and see who were the best bets.
Check out our final five takeaways from the NRL season.
1 – Finishing with a Flourish
For the second straight weekend we had the highest scoring round of the season with 438 points scored across the eight games at an average of 54.75 points per game.
This comes after Round 19 averaged 51.5 points per game and you have to think that rise in points comes down to the differing motivations of certain teams and players as the home and away season.
For a team like the Roosters, you wouldn’t expect them to be on the wrong end of a 60-8 drubbing and it’s hard to think of many sides that have won and lost games by over 50 points in the same season.
In a normal round the Storm would have probably blasted the Dragons off the park but instead found themselves on the wrong end of a 30-22 scoreline.
Both of those sides went into this weekend with their eyes on the first round of the finals though, with the Storm resting players.
Such was the impact of the changes the Storm made, St George-Illawarra opened up as +19 underdogs but once Bellamy rung the changes the Dragons went into that game as -1 favourites.
Of course, when the Storm take to Suncorp Stadium Saturday night against the Eels, they will have their full compliment of players ready to go.
2 – Covering the Line
The Panthers won the minor premiership with games to spare but against the spread they will have to share the honours on the against the spread table.
Both Penrith and the Storm went 13-7 against the spread with the Panthers covering in 11 of 17 games as a favourite and the Storm covered in 11 of 16 as a favourite.
That was a marked improvement for the minor premiers after going 10-14 last season at the line.
Overall the spread was quite close all up with the Eels and Broncos covering on just seven occasions at the other end of the table.
That 7-13 record at the line is a great reason to be concerned about the Eels in the next couple of weeks but the fact the Panthers are not only winning, but winning and covering is why you should feel good about them against the spread.
Their 18 wins this season were by a combined margin of 305 points at an average of 16.94 points which all began with a 20-14 win over the Roosters back in Round 1.
3 – Helpful Home Cooking
Home ground advantage took on a very different look in 2020 with a lot of teams forced out of their comfort zone to get the season completed.
Despite having to relocate up to the Sunshine Coast, the Storm were unperturbed about moving north, their final record as the home team this season finished at 9-1 (second best behind the Panthers) head to head and an equal NRL second-best 7-3 against the spread.
Of course, the Storm did play a role in their own struggles against the spread, generally facing a double digit line.
The Warriors actually had the best record against the spread in the entire NRL finding themselves as underdogs in all ten games they were designated as the home side (despite being based in New South Wales) and managing to cover on eight occasions.
In terms of the teams that are in the finals though, Souths equalled the record of the Storm and Panthers going 7-3 both head to head and against the spread.
After finishing the season in sixth, Souths will get one home game in the NRL Finals this weekend when they take on the Knights.
4 – Road Warriors
Before getting into the numbers, you have to give a special mention to the Warriors and their efforts to keep the season going, playing the entire season away from home.
For the rest of the competition though there was a clear standout side when they were the away team and another one that may surprise you.
The Raiders went 8-2 head to head and 7-3 against the spread when classified as the away team, giving them the best combined mark in the competition.
Penrith went 9-1 head to head but just 6-4 against the spread and were favoured in every game they played away from home.
The big surprise in this category though is the Bulldogs who put together a stunning 7-3 record against the spread showing how competitive they could be.
But if you’re looking for signs for the rest of the season, it’s hard to go past the consistency of the Panthers.
5 – Can the Sharks Keep Scoring for Fun?
One way or another you’re going to get points in Sharks games, the Sharks had a competition high 16 overs in the total points market beating out the Tigers by a game for this “prestigious” honour.
Remarkably the Sharks finished the season with a points differential of exactly 0, scoring and conceding exactly 480 points.
It’s not exactly the most encouraging sign heading into the finals but if nothing else, it means they are never going to be out of a game.
Even in defeat on the weekend the Sharks still managed to score almost 30 points and they get to take on Canberra again this weekend.
On the other end of the scale, it was the Panthers leading the way defensively with just 7 overs and 13 unders on the 2020 season.
That’s going to be it for 5 Lessons Learned for the 2020 season, enjoy the finals and we’ll be back with more recaps next season, or you can also check out our NFL 5 Lessons Learned every Tuesday during the regular season as well.