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

The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome to our post test match/pre Super Rugby return edition of the Tuesday Top 5. This week we look at the good, bad and ugly from the weekend, check out the world rankings, dive head first into some stats, have highlights of the various test matches over the weekend  and look at the parenting habits of rugby players.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – Say what you want about the series, but it was definitely entertaining. Three tight games and if you look at the aggregate scores of all three games, it comes out at 55 apiece. See, tight. It was really good to see the Wallabies being competitive again, after a few years of fairly dire matches, they threw it all at the Irishmen and pushed them about as far as they could. So much for the 3-0 series many were predicting.

Bad –  It may have been meant as a light-hearted jab or a joke, but there are times when people just need to know when to stop talking. Phil Kearns had one of those moments on Saturday night. He should have well and truly kept his mouth shut, but he just couldn’t help himself. During a stoppage in play he was complaining about the Irish wasting time (one of many complaints he had that night) when this came out of his mouth … “Fiddle-a-dee, Fiddle-a-dee, Fiddle-a-dee, potato…out the back there having their own little chat.” Some are calling it racist, lots are calling it unprofessional. Whatever it is, is it really something we need to be hearing in the commentary box? Kearns should keep “commentary” like that for the pub.

phil kearns

Ugly – And once again reffing issues raised their ugly head. I’m not going to go into the Wallabies match, I’m sure that’s been talked about to death. But one particular call (or non-call as the case may be) in the NZ v France game has caused a meltdown amongst rugby fans. Damien McKenzie was awarded a try when the defender, Baptiste Serin was clearly impeded by the referee. He had no chance to tackle McKenzie because the referee was directly in between the two. The referee, John Lacey, checked the replay before quickly awarding the try claiming no interference, to the surprise of nearly everyone, including the commentary team. The problem is, Lacey was technically correct in awarding the try. The laws don’t account for the defender running into the referee, only the attacker or the ball. It is the defenders’ responsibility to be in a better position. So he did not have to take any action other than award the try. Other referees in similar situations have played the common-sense card and stopped play, giving the attacking team a scrum, but Lacey simply awarded the try. And he had every right to do so. And that right there is the ugly. The laws of the game are completely lacking in common sense in so many areas, and it is why there have been so many issues with refereeing over the past three weeks. And we wonder why so many people are turning away from the game.

The Rankings Roundabout

With the June tests over and done with for another year, lets see how they impacted on the World Rankings. Some unexpected results (I’m looking at you South Africa and England) saw some big climbers and some slip, while other teams had a bit of a roller coaster of up and down.

  Monday 4th June Monday 11th June Monday 18th June Monday 25th June
1 New Zealand New Zealand New Zealand New Zealand
2 Ireland Ireland Ireland Ireland
3 England Australia Wales Wales
4 Australia England Australia England
5 Wales Wales South Africa Australia
6 Scotland Scotland England South Africa
7 South Africa South Africa Scotland Scotland
8 France France France France
9 Argentina Fiji Fiji Fiji
10 Fiji Argentina Argentina Argentina

It is interesting to see the effect that 3 weeks’ worth of games has on the rankings. The big winners? Well Wales started 5th and ended 3rd which was the biggest change. South Africa looked like they would be the biggest climbers, but the final loss to England halted their climb and saw them drop from 5th back to 6th. Australia held 3rd for a week before falling to 5th after two losses to Ireland.

England win

Stat Attack!

New Zealand v France

After the French were very competitive in game 2 then copped a thrashing in game 3, let’s see what the numbers tell us about the whole series. Any patterns? Any surprises?

New Zealand France stats

I think the numbers here show the dominance of the All Blacks. They looked under pressure in the second test, but easily got the better of the French in the other two matches. Interestingly, the All Blacks, despite having close to the same amount of possession as the French in the third test, made significantly more tackles. The French were really throwing everything at them in attack.

South Africa v England

After two good wins over England, do the stats show us where it went wrong in the final match?

South Africa England stats

While the third test didn’t give the Springboks the clean sweep many were hoping for, it showed how important discipline is. One try each with the Boks making more run metres and breaking more tackles, yet a 15 point winning margin to the English. The 14 penalties the Springboks gave away would have played a big part, handing the English points. Looking at the numbers though, these were two pretty evenly matched teams, scoring the same number of tries (including the penalty try) across all three games.

Australia v Ireland

Probably the closest series the Wallabies have played in a while, is this reflected in the stats?

Australia Ireland stats

It was definitely close in the third test. The big question for me is with so much territory and possession in the second half, how did we not capitalise? The stats for these two are very close, with the same number of points being scored across all three games by both teams (55). We did score more tries than the Irish, but again it show how important penalties can be. Give away penalties in kickable positions and the good teams will make you pay. A real positive for the Wallabies to come out of this is the tackle percentages. Considering how poor we have been in Super Rugby at times, it was good to see that the Wallabies were making their tackles.

 

Back to past’s future

To help you forget the Wallabies and get back in to the groove we have put together a four-point plan to get you back on track.

Now, let’s recall where we let off with Super Rugby. Actually, does it matter? It’s been about a month and who knows where each teams form will be at after such a break. Now let’s get straight to it

Step 1: The Reds will open up Super Rugby on Friday at 5:35pm (EST) playing the Kiwi’s weakest link in Auckland. Its position 13 v 14 with a small margin separating both so it actually could be quite a tight game and definitely worth a look. Both teams should have close to full line up’s available so let’s see if the Reds can get us back on a “one game” winning streak (although I am thinking it will be a short streak of one day!) against the Kiwi teams. This one has no implications on the finals and is all about pride. Might not be a bad warm up in anticipation of the next game.

Step 2: Now this one will count and has implications. The Rebels are hosting the Tahs at             7:45pm (EST). Off the back of the Wallabies campaign there are injuries that could be influential. For the Rebels the loss of Genia is a real blow. Colemans absence will also add to the Rebels challenge. For the Tahs the Izzy “air-challenge” is yet to be decided (at the time of writing this) which has the potential to change up the game plan significantly if he is rubbed out. Adding to the Tahs headache is their much-maligned back row will be under more pressure minus Hooper. Will Miller stand up?! (Been waiting to write that one for ages!!!).

This game has some real implications on the finals. With one point separating them on the table a win will be advantageous going in the final two games. Both teams will be wary that the last two games are potential “banana skin” games and the Rebels have an added challenge of facing a Kiwi team. Both teams will be watching over their shoulders and keeping tabs on the South African conference as the last Wild Card spot is certainly not set in stone and both will know that 2 losses could see them miss out.

Waratahs v Rebels 2018 (2 of 2)

Step 3: This game is just to help you warm up and a bit of casual Saturday night “rugby porn”. It a Kiwi battle between the Landers and Chiefs. It’s important to them, not so much to us.

Step 4: To round out the Aussie games the Brumbies will attempt to play the Hurricanes. Now before you all groan and think predictable I will remind you that in their last 3 games prior to the break the Reds gave them a real scare getting within 4 points and they lost their last 2 games. Add to that Matt Proctor (centres starter) and Ardie Savea are out and Stuff.co.az are reporting “Bogan Beauden Barrett, Brad Shields and Vaea Fifita are at long, long odds to travel over” the Canes could be vulnerable. If the Brumbies turn up an upset is a real possibility. Pocock on the rampage, home track and a bit of luck; the stars could line up. Definitely worth a watch.

For those that haven’t had enough the Sharks v Lions is worth keeping an eye on but for the Mst’s the Jaguars resurgence has captured our interests so we will be checking out their game.

Highlights





Bonus Tid Bit

Did you know that Matt Giteau and Campbell Magnay are co-parenting? Yep. The Suntory team-mates have shared care of a hedgehog named Sonic. Apparently, they take turns week about looking after the little mite, and he travels back and forth on the Tokyo Subway in a carrier backpack. It looks like Drew Mitchell was easily replaced, and by something a lot more adorable! Meanwhile the pet parenting status of fellow Suntory players ex Brumby Jordan Smiler and former Rebel Sean McMahon remains unknown.

Sonic

  • I appreciate you don’t collect the stats and I didn’t (and don’t want to) collect hard data on this but as I’ve commented before, I’ve come to the conclusion that a simple collection of metres made, tackles made, possession isn’t a good reflection of the match.

    A simple to describe, easy to eyeball, but painful to collect accurately stat of “number of successive phases breaking the gainline” seems to correlate much better to successful play. Penalties against works too, in an individual game. Add in scoring from first phase ball too, directly from turnovers, scrums and lineouts because the best sides are starting to bring that back into the game in various ways and it should count as a positive.

    New Zealand, even without that correct but ugly assist from Lacey, tended to make a gain and in the next phase make a gain, and in the next phase make a gain and so on. Not every time, but quite often. They also scored from first phase a few times. France certainly had their moments of doing that and worked two rather spectacular tries on the back of it. However, they had a lot of empty possession by this count – the AB tackled them when they didn’t make a gain, or they’d make a bit of a gain on one phase then get knocked back in the next phase and so on.

    My eyeball count for successive phases making a gain had the AB comfortably ahead in two tests and slightly ahead in one, reflecting the scoreboard. My impression was that when McKensie came on they didn’t adjust to the differences in playing style as you would expect of them, perhaps due a lack of experience in their back row and midfield, and while they still had a fair number of line breaks and offloads, they didn’t have the follow-up phases of making metres to really push home the advantage.

    Ireland v Australia, Ireland won in this area in the last two tests, they were thwarted from being further ahead on the scorecard by Pocock getting turn-overs and penalties at critical moments. If O’Mahony had stayed on and nullified Pocock as he seemed to in the second test, or at least countered him by doing the same back to the Wobs I’d have expected a bigger margin tbh. It’s a salutary lesson that, like any single stat, this doesn’t tell the whole story.

    The same generally seems to apply to the SA v England matches and the various Argentina matches. The Argentina matches were exacerbated by optional tackling and rucking, which made it easier for the visitors to build up phase after phase crossing the advantage line.

    I’m not obsessive about this, I don’t keep a tick sheet while I watch the match, I just keep a sort of whose ahead count in my head as I watch, and by how far. After nearly a year’s worth of rugby it’s yet to fail to match up to the winner and it’s usually a good indicator for the score too… big differences in the count tend to go with big scoreline.

    • Brumby Runner

      EP, my eyeball count has the ABs scoring most of their tries (and they are the benchmark) within a phase or two of turnover ball or quick throw in. I don’t think many come off set piece play, which I think is becoming less and less influential except when within the attacking 20m area.

      Wondering if you’ve noticed anything similar?

      • Kokonutcreme

        @brumbyrunner:disqus

        The All Blacks scored seven tries last weekend. Most were within 3 phases from a setpiece (usually a lineout) and only one directly from a turnover.

        1st Half
        1st try Ben Smith 4th phase from lineout
        2nd try Matt Todd 1st phase from lineout drive
        3rd try Damian McKenzie 1st phase from scrum

        2nd Half
        4th try Damian McKenzie 3rd phase from lineout
        5th try Rieko Ioane 1st phase from lineout drive
        6th try Rieko Ioane 1st phase from turnover ball
        7th try Rieko Ioane 3rd phase from scrum

        By comparison France scored their first try by Baptiste Serin after six phases from a scrum under pressure.

        Their second to Wesley Fofana, was after 9 phases from a free kick.

        The number of tackles made indicates a volume of defensive pressure exerted by the opposition. When fatigue becomes a factor, this stat is often used as a causal explanation for why they’ve conceded points.

        Using the third test as an example of what Steve Hansen is trying to achieve tactically, where he wants to run teams off their feet in the second half. This requires a high degree of accuracy in skill execution and fitness and while France made less tackles, the tempo the All Blacks were playing and speed with which the All Blacks scored their second half tries, meant that France were struggling to keep up and were being stressed physically and aerobically despite making fewer tackles.

        Mentally it’s deflating to find yourself trailing by 7 points at halftime, to then concede three converted tries in a scoring burst between the 48th and 59th minute.

        • One of the “old facts” about winning and losing rugby matches was the side that tackled most, lost. The flip of that (quite obviously if you think about it) was the side with the most possession won. If you have the ball, they tackle you, you don’t tackle them.

          The AB in particular, but during the 6N this year too, the side that tackled most often won. Defences are getting too good and I guess sides are spending a lot of time doing hours of tackle practise so they can keep up in the intensity through the whole match. Striking from turnover, or from a penalty to the corner or similar has become rather important and you don’t need the ball for long to do either of those. If, like the AB you can strike regularly from long distance from a turnover, then even territory doesn’t necessarily matter.

          It’s testimony to your fundamentals to tackle, get up, reset the line, tackle again and then, as soon as there’s a turnover, switch to attack and execute those running and passing skills with speed and precision but it’s obviously possible.

          And this is why I have problems and I’m looking for new ways to analyse the matches, without sitting down and being ultra-nerdy. The AB, and gradually some other teams, are changing the way the game is played and the stats we used to be able to rely on are no long really a useful guide to what’s going on.

          BTW, thanks for the breakdown of how the tries came about.

      • I’m not sure set piece play ever directly led to that many tries, not at international level, outside the 22/25 if you’re old enough to remember it in yards. Defences have always been good enough from a set piece where they’re organised, that you just don’t get that sort of massive line break and score that often unless you’re close enough that you can’t reorganise.

        A lot of sides are converting a reasonable number of 5m line outs for example often with the, exciting to some, driving maul. If you go out to 10m-22m conversion rates for most sides seem (I’m not keeping hard stats here) to drop off markedly because keeping a driving maul together over a longer distance is hard work. The AB have an effective plan B and C (and possibly D) and start the drive to make some space, then spin the ball out. Ben Smith’s try on Saturday didn’t actually come off a line out IIRC (rushing before work, so I can’t check, sorry) but that sort of breakdown and change the point of attack is typical AB play and they just do it better than anyone else.

        Likewise, despite Lacey’s block, that strike run from McKenzie was something from further out than any other side is likely to successfully run it, and I think you see the AB run it from comfortably outside the 22 whereas other sides struggle to run it from much outside the 5m line, or 10m from the goal line anyway. Part of that is the freakish speed of Barrett, or in this case McKenzie. Whatever you think of Foley’s other skills, he’s just not that fast and he’d get caught by a loosie, freeing the 9 to drop back and cover, as you’d hope. Against McKenzie the scrum half had to go because the 7 was never going to get there, and if he’d made the tackle, there’s support on both sides basically level with or behind the French defensive line… easy try. England might manage it if they pick Cipriani regularly. Wales might manage it with Biggar, the way he covers the ground chasing his own high balls suggests he’s really quick over 15m or so.

        That’s not to say your first sentence isn’t right too. They’re lethal from turnover ball and loose kicks, whether to touch or to the back three. My eyeball agrees with yours – they build their defence carefully, force the turnover and strike, or force you to kick the ball away and strike. Obviously not every time, but often. Present them with a broken field and they take their chances better than any other side. They score most of their points this way. However, I think that’s because they get more chances to do so rather than because they can’t do it in other ways.

        • Brumby Runner

          All great thoughts and observations EP. Thanks.

    • Kokonutcreme

      I agree that the match statistics published are useful for trainspotters but on their own aren’t extensive enough to analyse how and why teams played the way they did. However they do serve to support confirmation bias in the eyes of the beholder :)

    • Happyman

      A really good measure is what they call YAC (Yards after Contact) Good measure of dominance as it takes out the soft run backs etc.
      Missed tackles can be deceptive in the modern game as often there is a shooter at three those job is to not necessarily to make a tackle but to turn the ball back in.

      • I’ve never seen it produced anywhere as a stat that you can look at how well it correlates with actual results. I haven’t tried to assess it by eye and I’d have to ask some questions… how does it count things like offloads? (if you go into contact and do a round the back offload do those metres count to your side’s YAC?)

        Also, you see players hit into contact, strive for extra metres and get isolated and turn the ball over. I appreciate I pointed out a weakness in the successive phases making a gain stat, it’s easy to stop with timely turnovers, but this seems like a critical weakness with this measure.

        But it would be another one I’d be interested in seeing, albeit one I think I’d find hard to estimate by eye while watching the match.

  • Ed

    Thanks for this MST. I looked at the penalties conceded you posted and decided to look at the Wallabies post RWC15.
    In 32 tests, The Wallabies have conceded fewer penalties in nine of those tests, the same in five matches and more in 18 games. We have conceded an average of 10.9 penalties a match and award 9.3 penalties a game. So for every match where we concede fewer penalties, we do it more in two tests.
    Is there a site which breaks down where the penalties are committed?
    Discipline has been a problem yet we continue to moan about the refs instead of trying to reduce his influence in a game.

Rugby

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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