Yes, we’re back after an unscheduled bye week due to the plague infecting the MST residence. This week we go through the good, bad and ugly from the past weekend, study some stats from our matches against Ireland and see how our Southern Hemisphere counterparts are faring in their own tests, give you some quick one liners from around the place and throw in some highlights from a few tests you may or may not have seen.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good – Although we may not have come out on top in the last test, it is good to see the Wallabies being competitive. Many had written them off before the series, with some naysayers predicting a 3-0 series loss. The first test was definitely one that changed the minds of a lot of people, and the last 10 minutes of the second test went a long way to reassuring them that the week before wasn’t a fluke. It will be interesting to see what Saturday brings!
Bad – Consistency. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens Saturday, or more importantly, which Wallaby team shows up. The one where Foley and Beale place perfect kicks for Folau to fly through the air and take, or the one where they produce lack lustre kicks that rarely find their mark to a Foalu that doesn’t seem to be running as hard. The Wallabies that are tight on defence or the ones that are loose on discipline.
Badly Ugly – I tossed up whether to include this with the Bad or Ugly, as it fits into both. Over the weekend Chucky Stannard announced his retirement from rugby. He was due to retire at the end of this season, after the Sevens World Cup in July, but the choice to retire on his own terms was taken away from him after a one punch attack left him with a fractured skull in March. Stannard represented both the Force and Brumbies in Super Rugby and was a veteran of the Aussie Sevens.
Ugly – Card, cards, cards. No one has the answer but they just keep getting in the way. On Saturday we saw Benjamin Fall shown red very early into the match against New Zealand in what many saw as dubious circumstances. Now the card has been overturned. Well that’s wonderful, but it was still given, the player still missed the majority of the game and his team suffered because of it. Would a different call have changed the outcome of the game? It’s impossible to say for certain, but the way the French played it is a definite possibility. But none of that matters because games can’t be re-played, results can’t be changed etc. Lack of consistency, stupid laws and their various interpretations, varying opinions of referees all impact whether a card is given and what colour. We saw that even in the Wallabies game where repeated infringements within the red zone were met with multiple warnings but no card. Is there an answer? I have no idea, but the cries are getting louder and louder for World Rugby to do something about it. Good luck with that!
New Zealand v France
Let’s take a look at the stats from the two matches so far from the first of our neighbours. Will they tell us anything interesting?
I think going into the series many expected the All Blacks to dominate, and after the first match that looked likely. But the second match was a completely different story. Looking at the stats, and knowing the way the Kiwis usually play, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the AB’s who were a man down. It was a much tighter game and the Kiwis were really put to the test defensively, the French beating 29 defenders is huge! The run metres were high in both games but much more even in the second. It’s also interesting to note that the French had the majority of possession in the second match, which forced the All Blacks to make plenty of tackles. Their tackle percentage in both games has been close to the worst out of the six teams I am looking at here, something which I didn’t expect to see.
South Africa v England
This has definitely been the most interesting of the OS series so far, with results no one really saw coming before the first test. So what can we see in the stats?
These two teams are much more evenly matched than I think many would have thought. South Africa are marginally ahead in most of the stats. It’s interesting to see that there are lots of defenders being beaten, but very few offloads, particularly in the second match. Does that point to weak defence or strong runners? It’s also worth noting that in the first test there were 10 tries scored but fewer defenders beaten and more tackles made than in the second test, where there were only 4 tries scored. So it looks to have been more defensive yet higher scoring. Penalties are definitely an area of weakness for England, with a much higher count in both games.
Australia v Ireland
From the sideline it looked like we had two very different matches, so what do the numbers tell us?
I think the numbers confirm it. The Wallabies performed better in the first match and were outplayed in a lot of areas in the second. They did have less territory and possession in both matches, but were able to make more of their time with the ball in the first match. Their defence dropped in the second, making fewer and missing more tackles, although their effort in that area in the first test was well above what I expected. We didn’t have much of the ball in the second match which is reflected in the run metres. The Wallabies will want to watch their penalty count in the decider, with the number creeping up in game 2.
Throw Aways …
Here are some quick ones that have popped up around the traps over the past few days …..
* Daniel Hourcade has announced that the upcoming test match will be his last as Pumas coach. Public pressure has been mounting for them to find a new coach given the poor results with just 2 wins in 17 games. No word on who his replacement might be at this stage.
* English scrum half Ben Youngs is being heavily criticised for his poor form in walking out of an interview after 10 seconds after his side’s second loss to South Africa.
* With all the uproar over Optus and the Soccer World Cup at the moment, it seems funny that over in NZ, Sparks (a telecommunications company, ie just like Optus) has announced they will be streaming the majority of the 2019 World Cup in New Zealand, with 7 games being shown live free to air on TVNZ. Yes, apparently they are aware of the current mess here with Optus – “Spark are vowing to get things right for Kiwis during next year’s Rugby World Cup broadcast after seeing Optus Sport struggle to deliver the Fifa World Cup to frustrated Australian viewers.” All I can say is good luck!
* Did anyone hear about USA beating Scotland? Probably. But did anyone expect it?
*Craig Joubert refereed his last ever game of rugby over the weekend, a schools match between Hilton and Michaelhouse in Durbin (apparently it’s a really high profile match)