The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby

The Tuesday Top 5

By Alex E. Proimos
The Tuesday Top 5

This week we look back at the season that was, and pick bits of it apart. There were some things to learn, some stats to be concerned about and some awesome tries. We also check back in with the little saga that is the ARU at the moment.

Report Card

There is no way can I go lower than an A+ for that display of rugby we witnessed in Johannesburg over the weekend. It had pretty much everything. Great tries, tough defence, brutal hits, controversy (well not really, it deserved a Red and I’m not going to go into the whole teams shouldn’t have to go down to 14 men in big games etc, etc) and a near fairy-tale comeback. It really was edge of the seat stuff, and that was as a neutral fan watching. I can only imagine how tense Crusaders and Lions fans must have been. Anyway, it was a match that had it all and was fitting of the Super Rugby Final.

Embed from Getty Images

Well that’s that

The Super Rugby season is done and dusted, with the Crusaders crowned Champions after an exciting final on Saturday (Sunday our time). So what have we learnt from this season? Here are, in the completely un-knowledgeable opinion of MST, three of the most important things we can take away from the season that was.

  1. Attack and defence are both important. It’s no good being good at one if you can’t do the other.
  2. Goal kicking is important. If not for a quality goal kicker the Lions wouldn’t have made it past the first final against the Chiefs. Conversely it was poor goal kicking that lost the All Blacks the series to the BIL (or at the very least played a fairly significant part).
  3. Players need to have that thing we like to call Rugby IQ. Know the game, know how it’s played, know when to run, when to offload and when to take the tackle. Sometimes these things appear lacking in the Australian teams.
  4. And as a bonus 4th item, I can’t undersell the importance of being able to pass, catch and kick the ball and make the tackle. Shouldn’t really need saying, should it? But how often did these, the most basic skills, let us down?
Lukhan Tui scored a good try off the back of an early second half break from Nick Frisby

Lukhan Tui scored a good try off the back of an early second half break from Nick Frisby

Stats and Stuff

I tried my hand at creating some interactive tables using some of the stats from the season. It makes for some interesting comparisons. If you click the title of the column it will change the order using that data. There isn’t really too much to say about it, you can make your own conclusions based on the information. But it is pretty interesting. It may be slightly concerning, however, that when looking at Tackle %, there are 4 Australian teams in the bottom 8, and 4 New Zealand teams in the top 8.

If you would like to see some different comparisons click the explore link and it will take you to the site. Once there, click the explore tab and you can select the type of representation you would like to see, then select the data you want to compare from the drop-down menus, for example you can see if there is a correlation between number of penalties, kicks in play and tries scored (if you so desire). I highly recommend the bar and column graphs!





Tries of the Year

Because I really didn’t have the time (or inclination) to re-watch every try from this year in an effort to dig out the best ones, I had YouTube do the work for me. This is one of the better compilations I found. I know there will be some who might not agree, some who can think of better tries etc, but these are all pretty bloody good. There are (of course) a lot of tries from NZ teams, but honestly they just score some great tries.

Keep an eye out for the 2 tries from the Chiefs v Stormers match, they are enough to make any rugby fan drool.

And because this one isn’t included in the video, and the Brumbies fan in me thinks that is a complete outrage, I have to include this one!

The ARU and the Beanstalk.

There has been plenty happening in the past week in relation to the ARU/Force/Rebels saga, it is more and more resembling a plot from Days of Our Lives! The problem is, none of it is coming from the ARU, bar a “They did something without telling us” memo. Rebels have a new owner, Rebels releasing statements that their future is secure, lots of bewildered people trying to work out how the VRU taking ownership suddenly secures their future. So many questions, financial, licences, ownership … AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

Meanwhile the Arbitration is done, and we are waiting on some kind of word as to an outcome. Whispers were it could be Monday or Tuesday this week, but at the time of writing there has been nothing. Twiggy still backing the Force, putting his money where his mouth is. But again, no formal word, nothing from the ARU.

It still astounds me how silent the ARU has been throughout this whole thing. Yes, I know … I really shouldn’t come to expect much (anything) from the ARU, but to leave so many people hanging for so long is beyond a joke. Imagine if all businesses behaved this way? None of them would have any employees or customers left and probably wouldn’t be in business any more.

Anyway … the little bean plants are doing tremendously well, leaves galore. I even have to lift the blinds higher to fit them on the window sill now, they have outgrown their original spot. They are certainly in a much healthier and happier state than Australian Rugby at the moment.

Beans week 5

  • Pearcewreck

    Thanks MST.
    As a fellow Brumby fan I agree with you, it should have been included.
    Just a shame the Brumbies rarely produced such flair. We seemed robotic in attack most of the year.

  • ForceFan

    Thanks MST…have enjoyed your posts all season.
    You’ve done a great job with the stats.
    The carry metres is damning for Australian teams with only the Waratahs (6th) showing any real talent in this area. The other Aussie teams the 4 lowest.
    The Lions and Crusaders both used similar strategies at the breakdown in the final;
    +Standing off Def Rucks (Lions 59%; Crusaders 56%)
    +Front Rows being very involved and working hard (close to 30% of Total Rucks)
    +Committing fewer players in support of the ball carrier (Av 2.1-2.2 per Attack Ruck)
    +Committing fewer players putting pressure on the opposition ball carriers (Av 0.5 per ruck)
    The Lions worked hard to stay in the game (despite being down to 14 men). Lions created 121 Rucks and had 283 Ruck Involvements (254A/29D). The Crusaders only 56 Rucks (203 RIs – 140A/63D)
    +Leaving ruck involvements to those who are good at it (e.g Matt Todd)
    +Leading Ruck Involvements:
    Crusaders – Matt Todd: 32 Total (17 Attack/15 Defence)
    Lions – Franco Mostert – 38T – 34A/4D)
    +The Lions certainly missed Kwagga Smith at the breakdown but other players lifted their intensity.

  • Adrian

    Great stats MST.

    So frustrating that Australian sides can do some things well, but are horrendous at other things.

    Poor coaches for sure, poor tactics, poor fitness, and in particular very poor player depth. Our really good players, who aren’t quite Wallabies are in Europe, meaning that many SR sides have about 5 players who are really just club standard

  • LED

    I love that top table…

    If you sort by Points For you can see the Brumbies are one of the worst – and that where we get the Wallabies Attack coach from.

    Then if you sort by Points Against you see the Waratahs are one of the worst – and of course thats the Wallabies Defence coach

    So inspiring for Wallabies success…

    • ForceFan

      Waratahs also had the worst tackle Success rate.

      • Interesting to note that the best tackle %age rate was 86% and the worst 80%. That’s not a huge difference. I would be interested in the dominant tackle %age, ie the % of tackles where the momentum is stopped at the tackle or driven back. You’d need to get some specialised stats – I doubt anyone regularly collects them. I would bet this would open up that %age margin hugely.

        I know I bang on about it forever but I doubt the Waratahs made one all year – or so it looked to my jaundiced eyes.

  • McWarren

    Surprised too see the Reds penalty count. 6th least conceded penalties in the comp. do the stats take into account the finals?

    • Huw Tindall

      Interestingly 4 of the top 6 most penalised teams were all semi finalists with Chiefs and Crusaders 1 and 2 respectively. Suggests these team are almost professional cheaters…infringing at the right times and the right part of the field not to suffer too badly off the resulting opposition penalty. I don’t want to simply rely on the rehashed stereotype of Richie and pals pushing the laws to the limit but the stats must count for something. I could be somewhat wrong if these stats include the final series but regardless, they’d still be up the top of the penalty count – interestingly we don’t here anything about this during the season and the Reds are unfairly stigmatised as you point out McWarren!

      • McWarren

        Clutching at straws I realise but does say a lot about the perception taken into a game. Also points I suspect to our lack Rugby IQ. I’d suggest the Kiwi teams penalty counts are heavily weighted towards the first 20 minutes. Getting a feel for the ref, less chance of a card and they learn on the run and adapt their game accordingly.

      • MST

        I didn’t actually realise at the time, but yes, it appears the stats do include finals – I got them from the SANZAAR site. When I looked up the Crusaders it says 18 matches, 15 for the Reds. It doesn’t skew the stats massively, but does impact some of them, for example penalties.When it comes to penalties it means the Crusaders actually averaged 9.3 per match, the Chiefs 10.1, the Reds 9.6 per match.

  • If you do some really crude analysis, there’s no good indicator for a “good defence” from those stats. The best correlation is a weak negative one: if you give up more turnovers you give up slightly more points (which seems right), but it’s not significant – there are a lot of turnovers that don’t lead to points it seems. For those of you that think the NZ teams play better off turnovers than the rest of the completion – it’s probably not statistically significant, but the equation of the correlation line for just their sides shifts to be almost flat and shows an almost 0 R^2 (no correlation) so it’s not so but actually it’s the SA conference that does best. My eyeball test suggests this is probably that scramble defence from the Kiwi sides which isn’t clearly measured here. A turnover is more significant in SA as a stopper, in NZ there are more ways to stop the attack. For the Australian conference it’s weakly positive (m=0.096) and R^2 =0.7 so there’s a pretty strong correlation – more turnovers leads to MORE points conceded! I’m guessing this is just bad play after the turnover – we’re talking generalisations here but how often would you like to guess the Aussie sides turn the ball over, kick it away (probably badly) and if you do that to a Kiwi side, or a good SA side, they run the ball back aggressively and score? That would account for this weird looking stat. The other things have weak correlations. Yes, giving up fewer tries really helps, but there’s nothing to indicate HOW to give up fewer tries really.

    I suspect this indicates that the defensive stats aren’t all that helpful tbh. Granted a missed tackle anywhere can be critical but I bet a missed tackle within 5m of your try line is more often critical than one within your 22, than one between your 22 and half way, than one in their 22 etc. Likewise, where the turnover happens probably matters more.

    On attack, there is one really strong (R^2=0.75) positive correlation between points for and one stat – defenders beaten. Both offloads (R^2 = 0.20) and kicks in play (R^2 =0.22) also have weaker positive correlations. I suspect the kicks in play is lower because a lot of them are kicks when you’re under pressure, defensively in your own 22, so they relieve immediate pressure rather than creating scoring opportunities directly. The offloads is probably because of the number that don’t go to hand, get knocked on or similar and so result in bad outcomes – again leaving only the Kiwis sides makes them less brilliant at offloading than the overall championship. My impression is they try more often, and fail more often which is what this might show. The Australian sides have a weaker correlation with defenders beaten, an even worse offloading performance than the Kiwis (maybe that dry weather in SA helps) and a negative correlation with kicks in play. The eyeball test that Aussie teams kick badly and get punished by strong counterattacks by the Kiwis might well contribute to this!

    Perhaps unexpectedly, metres gained has a weak negative correlation (m=-5.08) – that is the more metres you gain, the fewer points you tend to score. Scoring quickly and trusting your defence to keep them out seems to work. All those pundits praising the possession and territory game need to sit up and pay attention – it can win individual games but it’s not necessarily a winning strategy. This is a bit weaker than the overall for the Kiwi sides, where perhaps both sides are happy to not have the ball, but ultimately someone has to have it! However, for the Australian sides the correlation is very weak but positive (m=3.54, R^2 = 0.06). It’s really hard to say exactly what this reflects but I’m thinking it’s rugby IQ. It’s choosing the times to kick and the times to run with the ball. It’s grinding out metres, then giving the ball away (turnover, stupid kick, getting penalised or whatever) compared to assessing the situation and either kicking the ball away or smartly counterattacking.

    Overall this shows the game is played differently between the conferences (there’s no surprises there) but the Australian conference seems to perform really oddly compared to the overall. How on earth does making more turnovers in defence mean you tend to give up MORE points ffs? But the stats show it does if you’re an Aussie Super Rugby side. Likewise in a competition that largely thrives on strong defence and counterattack, seeming to prefer getting the ball and giving it back to them, and keeping the ball and grinding out empty metres without actually scoring seems like a poor strategy.

    Stats, of course, can tell you how to cure the problems, but they can sometimes show you some areas to work on.

    • From NooZealand

      Wow! I had to read it (at least twice) some of the comments and some flew over, but I can see that both the tables (thank you for those MST) and EP’s comments should help work (and maybe cure) the Wallabies areas of concern. I still believe in Miracles, so here is hoping … Go the Wallabies.

    • BigNickHartman

      You should write this up as a doc, throw in some graphs, email it to Matt and tell him I told you to do it, and I can throw it up on the site if you like…

    • I’ve had to redo the analysis to get the graphs, but I’m going to send the document (with a bit more explanation) so I’ll leave it to then to detail them. It doesn’t change the bulk of the information here.

    • mikado

      Good stuff Eloise, although I can’t always see how your conclusions follow from the original stat. Perhaps the full document will make it clearer!

      One thing of course that makes it harder to compare one conference vs another is that the various conferences have different opponents featuring more often. Eg Kiwi teams play other Kiwi teams much more than Saffa teams do, for example. The stats are also affected by the predominant weather conditions of course.

      “…metres gained has a weak negative correlation [with points scored]” – teams that persistently try to run the ball out of defence? Some easy metres but poor field position.

      “the Australian conference… making more turnovers in defence mean you tend to give up MORE points” – having opponents that play fast and loose, hence yielding more turnovers but scoring more points? Just thoughts anyway.

      • I was goofing off from work so it’s not so clear. If Matt decides not to publish, I’ll post here in a day or two when it’s hopefully a bit clearer, and when I’ve done all the stats properly and double checked them!

    • Andrew Luscombe

      The correlation between turnovers and points conceded is only a correlation not a causation. For example, it might be that having a weak front line defence results in conceding more points and also in opposition attackers becoming isolated more because they break through more and so more turnovers.

  • BigNickHartman

    Thanks MST. Enjoyed these reads! Bit disappoint you didn’t go into a Top 6 today. Also hope putting those graphs together weren’t too much trouble – thanks for those too

  • Westo

    Good to see a couple of Ozzie best tries in there. Quite a few against however.

  • mikado

    Great stuff MST. Love the stats (if a bit depressing from the Aussie point of view). That Chiefs try was I think the best I’ve ever seen.


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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