The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

This week we are going to look at some observations from Bledisloe 3. Yes, I know we would all like to forget that abomination from Saturday night, but I think there are some interesting things we need to take notice of. Oh … and apparently the 6 Nations was decided over the weekend too.

Looking at the numbers

I am going to look at a very specific set of numbers here, relating to the scrum halves. Jut for a moment, I want you to compare these stats.

Bled 2020

As I said, these are the stats for the scrum halves. Now I’m going to add in another stat.

Bled 2020 1

The minutes played might give you a clue as to who I am comparing. No I am not looking at the Wallabies v All Blacks number 9. I am looking at the Wallabies 9 v the Wallabies 21. And the last match in particular gives a pretty good indication of why I wanted to look at these numbers.

In game 1, Nic White was busy. He passed the ball 84 times, giving the Wallabies lots of attacking opportunities. In game 2, that slowed a bit and by game 3 he was passing the ball on average once for every 2 minutes he was on the field. Add to that, he only kicked 6 times and carried 4. I know the Wallabies didn’t have a lot of possession, but does that explain why White has such low numbers?

Think about the flow on from that. The number 10 wasn’t getting the ball. Lolesio, as we have seen in SR, works well with quick ball but it wasn’t forthcoming. When White was replaced, McDermott sped the play up, passing the ball just 4 fewer times than White did, despite playing 38 fewer minutes, which helped the Wallabies finally get some front foot ball. But we never got to see how Lolesio combined with him, as he was taken off just minutes after McDermott was brought on.

nic white try wallabies

What was going on with the defence?

I think one of the things that we were most looking forward to with Rennie taking over was that players were going to be picked and played in their best positions. Finally, something we had been asking for during most of the previous coaching reign.

However on Saturday night, there was something that I found immediately disappointing. While much was said about Noah Lolesio making his debut at 10, there was no indication that he wouldn’t play 10 in defence. Now as a Brumbies fan, I might have some bias here, but I have seen nothing in Lolesio’s play this year to suggest he can’t defend at 10. In fact I had always thought he was very reliable in the line. But suddenly he was moved back to 15 to defend, something I am sure he wasn’t familiar with.

I am not a rugby player, I think I have said before that when I was young the main options for girls wanting to play sport were netball, softball, hockey etc. Definitely not rugby. Anyway, I can only assume then, that defending at fullback is something you need experience in to do well. I imagine it is very different to defending at 10 in the main line. Would I be correct?

Was Rennie (or defensive coach Matt Taylor) trying to shelter Lolesio from the Kiwi attack by “hiding” him at fullback? If that was the intention, it backfired spectacularly. We all know how talented the AB’s are when it comes to kicking. Imagine their delight when a debutant 10 is defending in an unfamiliar position out the back … of course they are going to take advantage of that. And they definitely did.

There has been a lot of criticism about Lolesio’s game, many are commenting that he doesn’t look up to this level. But look at what he was thrown into. A scrum half who passed the ball only a handful of times, an unfamiliar defensive position and a very determined All Black team. I really hope he is given another opportunity where he is allowed to play to his strengths.

Noah Lolesio

Noah Lolesio

More Numbers

Most of what there is to say about the match has already been said. So here are the stats from all 3 matches so far. What changed for us? What changed for the All Blacks? Did we see the real AB’s in game 1, or were they off their game?

Bled 2020 2

Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to see exactly where we were that bad. The number of passes is less than half any other game, so did we throw away possession without putting it through the hands? Did we lack patience? We tackled better than we had all series so far, kicked around the same amount, but ran less with the ball.

It clearly comes down to what we are doing with the ball when we get it. In matches when we have less possession, I would have thought it would be even more important to hold on to it. Not give it away so easily as we did on Saturday. I wonder if they will learn the lesson for this weekends game?

Can we please stop

Just stop. I think it is time we stop and take a good look at the way rugby fans and the media talk about a certain player. I’m all for calling out a player who is good, talented, skilled etc, but can we stop with all the Superstar, Brilliant etc descriptions? Want an example? I did a quick Google search of one of the players from Saturday night and these were among news articles in the first few results

“Australian rugby’s most exciting prospect”
“superstar centre”
“young superstar”
“Nineteen-year-old sensation”

 

Obviously they are about Jordan Petaia. You only have to read comments sections and forums to see how much hype there is around him. I’m not saying it isn’t deserved, he is a very good player. But on Saturday I think we might have been seeing one of the side effects of all the superlatives that are used to describe the young man.

Watching him play, he breaks tackles well. But on a number of occasions he undid any good by trying for a spectacular pass. It was almost as though he was trying to do something brilliant or spectacular every time he touched the ball, because that is what “superstar” players do. Unfortunately it came at a cost to the basics of smart rugby such as holding the ball when needed and recycling at the breakdown. Look at some of the best players there have been for the Wallabies. They weren’t flashy, didn’t always look for the “special” play, they had the skills of running, passing, kicking and reading the game.

Take the focus off Petaia, stop making it sound as though he is the Wallabies saviour and let him develop his full range of rugby skills without all the pressure. Then I think we will see just how good he is.

Jordan Petaia

Jordan Petaia

6 Nations Wrap

As with most things this year, the 6 Nations tournament could possibly have been the longest ever. It began with Round 1 way back on February 1 when Wales defeated Italy, and concluded over the weekend with a couple of upset results.

Here’s a quick recap of the results from the season.

Round 1
Sat 1 Feb             Wales   42 – 0     Italy
Sat 1 Feb             Ireland 19 – 12   Scotland
Sun 2 Feb            France  24 – 17   England
Round 2
Sat 8 Feb             Ireland 24 – 14   Wales
Sat 8 Feb             Scotland 6 – 13   England
Sun 9 Feb            France  35 – 22   Italy
Round 3
Sat 22 Feb           Italy       0 – 17     Scotland
Sat 22 Feb           Wales    23 – 27   France
Sun 23 Feb          England 24 – 12 Ireland
Round 4
Sat 24 Oct            Ireland 50 – 17   Italy
Sat 7 Mar             England 33 – 30 Wales
Sun 8 Mar            Scotland 28 – 17 France
Round 5
Sat 31 Oct            Wales    10 – 14   Scotland
Sat 31 Oct            Italy       5 – 34     England
Sat 31 Oct            France  35 – 27   Ireland

 

Going into the final round, England, Ireland and France all had a shot at taking the title. With an English victory over Italy all but guaranteed, it came down to whether Ireland could defeat France with a bonus point (giving them the trophy) or by a margin beg enough to hold out England on for and against. However France weren’t told this and upset the cart by defeating Ireland.

Unfortunately for France, their margin of victory wasn’t enough for them to knock England off the top. Both teams finished on 18 points, however England had a points difference of 22 compared to France’s 21.

Ireland finished 3rd on 14 points, ahead of Scotland, also on 14 points. Wales finished a disappointing 5th, with 8 points and unsurprisingly Italy were on the bottom with 0 points (and a points difference of -134).

You can tell times are tough when you win the 6 Nations and are sent you own DIY presentation kit! Part of me really hopes they had to clean up after themselves too.

(PS Don’t tell Rugby AU that no frills presentations are an option. Imagine the cost cutting with no presentation ceremonies!)

 

  • Patrick

    Good write up, thanks!

    France are treating that as a win, they have not finished even second in nearly a decade and given the difference in trajectories between them and England they are quite pleased with the whole thing. As they should be, they are probably about perfectly placed for the home RWC.

    For me the missing point in the analysis is the absence of leadership on-field. Hooper has never had this, it seemed more present last year but whatever might have been there largely disappeared as far as I could tell on Saturday.

    I think we should seriously consider someone like JOC or Toomua with Harry Wilson as VC.

    • Hoppy

      Pick the team and then the captain – so Hooper wouldn’t be there because his play has been way off what is needed in any of these three matches. Cane and the other AB backrowers have ‘owned’ him. I have watched the B3 replay and struggled to get his tackle count over 10 with 5 straight misses and yet officially he’s credited with 15 tackles by the SMH. Think he was also credited with a turnover he wasn’t responsible for – he did get over the ball a few times but was removed very easily. He was a spectator for the rolling maul try and then walked away to the goal posts by himself rather than immediately calling all into a huddle and getting them refocused. Not a captain’s performance and not a test flanker’s performance. Time to give him a rest. Why not Slipper as Captain with O’Connor or 7A’s as VC – although I think Tupou should start at 3 so that would disqualify 7A’s as VC (or C) for some periods of the match.
      Give McWreight his shot at open rather than blindside – his SR form was streets ahead of Hooper’s as well and, like Liam Wright, has real leadership potential for the future.
      ALso get McDermott on much earlier – in fact start him or Gordon and give White a rest. He occasionally brings a big game but always follows it with some really ordinary ones – and he’s not emotionally equipped to handle the ABs niggle.

      • Patrick

        Agree totally on Hooper. France’s 7, also capitaine, came 4th for tackles and frst for tries in the 6N, for example (beaten mainly by his own no 5 and 8 for the tackles). And he didn’t miss many that I saw.

        McCreight looks to me like the future as well. If not maybe even Samu could do it (better).

  • Geoffro

    +1 on Petaia.Him and his buddy Hunter have got plenty of years ahead of them to show how good they are.(was a bit worried when he got smacked in the mouth sat night,looked like he was spittin teeth and maybe headed for another break courtesy of head protocol)

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks MST, Loving your work and seeing you back. It can’t have been easy for you watching that game and also capturing the figures but thank you for your work. Really interesting statistics there for White. Maybe he forgot his main job while he was concentrating on trying to wind up the ABs and complain to the referee or Assistant Referee. My lingering memory from this match is him standing there arms out stretched with a look deploring the Ref or AR to do something that he imagined was wrong. Not sure if he was too wound up like Daugunu or what but he seems too emotional to be able to play well at this level.
    Agree 100% on the media portrayal of the players and putting them on a pedestal that they then feel obliged to live up to. I actually think this has been Tupou’s biggest issue as he always seems to me as though he’s out to prove something, not just play well. Interesting that the stats are so close and to me it just reinforces that perhaps we aren’t capturing the right statistics. I don’t know enough about statistics to know what we should capture but if the ones we look at are so close with such a big discrepancy in the final score then it tells me there’s either something missing or there’s a 2nd or 3rd effect of the scenario that we aren’t capturing.

    • moaning expat

      This is exactly what happened to JO’c if you recall. Hailed as a superhero at such a young age and potential saviour. Look how that worked out. I hope JoC can mento petaia a bit.

  • Hutch

    I think White was a victim of the flawed strategy. He spent the game defending either in the front line or on the wing, with DHP and Lolesio swapping between the usual 9 sweeping role. When he wasn’t being forced to attempt big tackles, he was spending his energy sprinting into position. He was also used in some odd ways, like the ridiculous attempted blind side lineout move in the 1st half.

    • RedAnt

      Yeah I agree. Seeing these stats and MST’s commentary, among others’, I wonder if almost all the problems we had in game 3 were a result of a flawed strategy to take the pressure off Lolesio. Players like White and DHP and Hooper were probably expected to step up and help ease Lolesio into the game but they largely failed. Maybe we’re not a good enough team yet to be able to make those sorts of changes and maybe Lolesio deserved a bit more faith. Anyway, it’s just speculation, but whatever the issues I do think Rennie and the team will learn and improve, they are at the very start of their ‘journey’.

    • Who?

      I’m not sure that it was a flawed strategy, because White’s handled that shortside role for Exeter for a few years. And he did a fantastic there – his positioning on Mo’unga’s first try (where a player more experienced playing 15 than Lolesio would’ve come up to fill that gap) was top class. He blocked the pass to Jordie, and he blocked Jordie’s line to the tryline.
      Normally, having your 9 on the shortside would reduce the amount of running required compared to sweeping behind the line. The issue this game was that the ABs targeted that short side, and we were consistently short of numbers, regularly requiring White to make two tackles per phase.

  • idiot savant

    Great stats MST. The big difference in the team stats is the number of tackles the ABs had to make in game 3. About half as many as they made on average over the previous 2 games. What that says is that the Wallabies had bugger all ball. The possession stats seem weird to me and must count the time it takes while waiting to set scrums and lineouts. To the naked eye it looked like we had the ball for about a third of the game. To be able to make the metres we did with so little ball is one of the few things that augur well for the future.

    And if you take out the 15 minutes of AB dominance in game 2, the first 2 games were very even. But the utter brilliance of AB coaching and player execution in ‘shaping defences’ was revealed in game 3. Look out world. The ABs haves emerged from their laboratory under Mt.Cook with a new strategy. They can now manipulate defences to the point where they can open up parts of the field and stroll through. They gutted our defence like a fish in game 3. We need a stat for tries scored when there is no defence in front!

  • Reds Revival

    Thanks for the write up MST. I found your first round of stats particularly interesting. McDermott obviously had a good impact on the speed of the game and the Wallabies go forward. While I wouldn’t start him based on that, I would certainly think that he should be brought on earlier (maybe even a half time swap).

    • idiot savant

      I’d start him. We have nothing to lose now. I thought he and McReight looked sharp. Admittedly against tired defence.

      • Reds Revival

        Correct IS. It is much easier to shine at that time of the game, especially for a half back. I have no doubt that he will be a starter in future, but personally, I would prefer him to be the bench finisher for this year. It will still give him the taste of Test Rugby, without the massive expectation.

        • idiot savant

          Yeah thats probably prudent. It was the timing of his passes in phase play that I liked when he came on. His set piece passes are still a bit of a work in progress.

  • moaning expat

    What a great article- Id love to see more of these breakdowns and analysis.

  • Mike D

    The change in forward momentum in the second half also helped. In the first half every contact we went backwards. They changed that up and started going forward which helps the half back, he actually has time to pass.
    On the junior “superstars”, there needs to be a media black out on superlatives, positive and negative, for the first 2 years of their international career; no more “Next amaze-balls player” crap, and likewise no “He was found out at test level” bs. Just let them play. Not practical of course, because media outlets need to sell content, but really do want to see these young blokes given a chance without the added weight on their shoulders.

  • Thanks MST.

    Your stats section really highlights why the stats we, the public, get fed are a load of rubbish. Except for Tries Scored, and that horrible tackling stat in Bled II, there’s not a really big difference in the overall stats that leaps out. I guess the fact that the Wallabies are marginally worse, pretty much all down the column does, but if you took off the tries scored numbers and asked someone to match them up, I bet most of us would say 6-1 in game 2 and 4-1 in game 3, not the other way around.

    Of course, some of the difference is about where and when these things occur. Some of that is obvious: a line break inside the defensive 22 is probably not points while a line break break inside the attacking 22 stands a much better chance of being points. A penalty 40 m out, right in front of the posts, probably 3, 5 m from the defender’s try line… no points directly (but it ruins the attacker’s chance of points).

    Some is about quality too. I might go back and score Bled III if I can bring myself too, but I’ve started keeping a sort of mental tally, as best I can of kick quality. I have a fairly simple scoring system, a good kick is one where you gain metres (like a kick to touch or a kick where you regain the ball) or where you contest the kick – either a jump, or you tackle the catcher before they take two steps, or where the ball touches the ground (except for a grubber). An OK kick is a kick where you move the defender more than 10m AND into a corner – between the 15m and touch so as to limit their choices, but they take it on the full (it’s not your fault they defended it well). A bad kick is one they catch cleanly that doesn’t meet the above criteria, or that doesn’t gain your metres, or that costs your side a penalty or similar. This system is not perfect, but I figure the times I count things like kicks to touch that are short, is balanced out by the times I count kicks where the receiver drops the ball and makes a bad kick into a good one, or close enough.

    My rough count, from memory, had the ABs make about 1.5-2x more good or OK quality kicks than the Wallabies. They still make bad kicks, they’re not gods, and the Wallabies kick ok and well too. But the proportions are different. If you counted differently, you’d probably change the numbers a little bit, but it makes a difference to how the team performs.

    I’m not going at you, you’re commenting on gets widely reported. I’m just pointing out how it’s really not good enough. But thank you for the interesting read. The comments about the two scrum halves was very insightful.

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Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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