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

The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome back to a fairly relaxed Top 5. Here in Canberra we get picked on a fair bit, but yesterday was a public holiday here so ner ner!

This week we look at stats and how they can be misleading, question the goal kicking (or lack thereof) we are seeing, have some fun at the beach, get a little angry at Scotland and check out some of the more entertaining things from the week in rugby.

Stats

No, I am not going to go through all the stats from each team, there is way too much work involved in that. But I have had a quick look and some very interesting things have popped up after this weekend, which demonstrate that stats definitely do not tell the whole story (except in the case of the Waratahs where only 6 of the starting 15 didn’t concede a turnover and only 3 of the starting 15 didn’t miss a tackle – that tells a pretty good story). Looking at the team stats on the SANZAAR site (I assume that means they are verified, or do we have to check) there is one team leading the way in the following categories: tries scored, clean breaks, carries, metres carried and offloads and are second in defenders beaten. Yet this team has one just one match this year. Do we know who I am talking about yet? Yep, the Reds. Top of all the attacking stats but on the losing end of the scoreboard 5 times out of 6. So what is going wrong? Is it purely down to poor kicking? They aren’t topping the handling error stats so aren’t just dropping the ball, so what is it? Are all of those stats blown out by the one match against the Sunwolves? Let’s see. Take out that one match and they would be on 16 tries from 5 games, 8 less than the Brumbies who have also played 5 games. They drop to 64 clean breaks which would move them to 3rd. They would drop to 8th in metres carried and defenders beaten and 6th in carries. So in answer, yes. That one match against the Sunwolves has blown the stats out so much that it has completely skewed them. On the stats page over at SANZAAR the Reds look like the top attacking team in the comp, but in reality?

Josh Nasser scores

Josh Nasser scores

 

What to do?

I’m guessing that is what a lot of Red’s fans are asking themselves in relation to the question of a goal kicker. Because it is a bit of an issue for the team at present. The Reds are topping the table in terms of tries scored with 26. Yet they have converted only 15 of those tries. The success rate is just 57.7%, the lowest of the Aussie teams. In fact, none of the Australian teams are exactly doing well in the conversion stakes (I am not looking at penalty kicks, as they can choose to take these when they are more kickable which skews the percentage a bit). The Waratahs are on 61.5%, the Rebels on 65.2% and the Brumbies leading the way on 66.7%. Not exactly inspiring are they? Does this mean we just don’t have skilled goal kickers at the moment? On Friday we saw Ryan Lonergan kick 5/5, including some from the sideline. So he is definitely a quality kicker, but probably not yet ready to be a consistent starting 9. Do you build a team around a kicker or do you try and make a kicker out of one of the selected players? The Reds have been using Jock Campbell recently, but he has kicked just 9 of his 18 conversion attempts and even the commentators described him as a part time kicker. Does Thorn persist with him or find someone else, even if they might not usually be in the starting 15? If they had made the kicks on the weekend they would have won, so I think there needs to be some tough decisions made. I’m just glad I’m not the one making them.

Ryan Lonergan kicked well in windy conditions

Ryan Lonergan kicked well in windy conditions

 

What a day

Super Rugby double headers. Brought about by unfortunate circumstances, but a great day out for fans. Yep, on Friday the MST family braved the 3-hour drive and potential poor weather to go see the Brumbies play in Wollongong. With free entry for members, it wasn’t a difficult decision. We planned on watching the Brumbies, seeing the beach (or risk mutiny from miss 3) then heading home, because when we got the tickets we were told strictly no pass outs. But as we were leaving after the Brumbies game the guy at the gate asked if we would be coming back, we took a chance and said yes so he scanned us out meaning we could come back later. And we did. After a quick beach and dinner break between the games (bonus experience of heading to the beach at the same time as the Brumbies for their post-match cool off) we headed back and watched the Tahs game. It was interesting watching from a relatively neutral perspective, we could enjoy the good play by each team without being devastated at the result. We obviously weren’t the only ones, during the Tahs match I saw people in a range of different rugby jerseys including Waratahs, Chiefs, Brumbies, Reds, Force, Blues, Highlanders and Sharks, plus Wallabies and Ireland. Lots of people were there just to watch some rugby, seemingly regardless of who was playing. So my advice to rugby fans in Brisbane – if you get the chance definitely go early and see both games.

beach brumbies

Six Nations

Firstly, I would just like to thank Scotland for messing up my predictions and putting England back in the hunt for the title. Thanks fellas. Yep, in defeating France 28-17 on the weekend (who saw that one coming?!) Scotland have helped England, who put themselves back in the fight by beating Wales, move to the top of the ladder. With England’s final match against Italy (when it is eventually played, as it has been postponed) as much of a sure thing as you can get in rugby, England will probably finish with 18 points. France would need to get a bonus point win over Ireland to also finish on 18 points, with it then coming down to points difference (with England playing Italy you’d assume they will end with a higher PD). But then there is Ireland, whose match against Italy was postponed. Assuming it goes ahead, Ireland could get 5 points from that match, putting them on 14 points, meaning a bonus point win over France would give them the title. Confused yet? Basically, if Ireland or France don’t win with a bonus point the title is as good as going to England. Although with the two matches that were due to be played in Italy being postponed, it could be a while yet before we actually have a winner.

As of late Monday night, there are rumours doing the rounds that the entire final round of Six nations will be called off. I have seen unconfirmed reports of the France v Ireland being postponed, with some saying the entire round, while others are saying Wales v Scotland will still go ahead. As of publishing I haven’t seen anything official. Interestingly, the date flying around the twitterverse for the playing of the postponed matches is October. So it could be a very long wait until we know who wins.

Stuart Hogg - pleased with try

Stuart Hogg – pleased with try

Our highlights from the week in rugby

This first one isn’t a highlight as such, but just an interesting tid bit that showed up just before I hit “publish”. The JRFU has suspended the next 3 rounds of the Top League, but not for COVID-19 reasons. No. It is due to the number of recent drug arrests, which the JRFU is calling “an emergency”. And you thought Rugby Australia had problems!

I just don’t get how it is possible to have jerseys clash these days. Teams make a big show about revealing jerseys before the season, we see them week in, week out, so how the hell did this happen? The picture doesn’t even do it justice, the clash was so bad.

Embed from Getty Images

At half time the Bulls changed jerseys, making the second half much easier to watch.

Embed from Getty Images

This moment of madness from the French Top 14 is so exciting to watch. If you want to hook new fans in, show them this.

Here are some of the top tries from the week. I agree with most of them and it is good to see some Aussie teams featuring.  

 

  • Huw Tindall

    Good Top 5 as usual MST! No mention of our 7s men though who had a cracking tournament in Vancouver and really should have beaten the kiwis in the final bar a really really tough yellow card for a ‘seat belt’ high tackle. Building combinations and stability nicely ahead of Tokyo.

    • Geoffro

      the 7s game was literally thrown away by a wayward long pass at the death.Through the hands we most likely would have nabbed the try and gold

      • OnTheBurst

        (facepalm)

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      7’s seem to running their play nicely and setting up for the Olympics well. Been awesome watching them go well in the last couple of tournaments

      • Huw Tindall

        Honestly to date I’ve been underwhelmed because I had big expectations with Tim Walsh coming over from the Womens 7s to lead up the Mens programme. He essentially created the womens programme from scratch which was professional before it’s time and really created the template for a 7s programme. Looks like he’s getting the men up to speed now though with a regular core of players and consistency in performances.

  • formerflanker

    During the Scotland/France game the Scottish reserves got heavily involved with players on two occasions.
    Both times they were warming up inside the in-goal area.
    The red card punch angered them and they rushed to the melee.
    A later try enthused them and they rushed to hug the try scorer.
    This is going to end in tears all round if match officials don’t stop it.
    My prediction is a flare up of some sort during this rugby season. It may be a Super game but I reckon it will happen.

    • Nutta

      I agree about the reserves thing. I’ve been quietly watching that over a few years now and wondering when it would lead to a proper blow-up with the way they storm on for try celebrations etc. I’m waiting for the day a reserve gets involved beyond any reason… I was going to say “punch-up” but we don’t have those anymore. It’s getting like bloody AFL. Next thing we will see is the jersey-punch! I have to say I still like the NHL way of sorting it; two guys swap a few punches until one falls over and they both do a spell in the chair – that’s that. It clears the air and keeps everyone focused.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Went to a fight once and a Hockey game broke out. Love NHL

        • Nutta

          I’m not a fan of the game because I can’t follow the puk – I don’t appreciate the nuances well enough. But I’ll enjoy watching a punch-on especially when they are clearly consenting adults with clear customs around fair-play.

        • Yowie

          Fair enough, but it can be a long night if you forget the Safe Word.

          EDIT – sorry just saw you were talking about NHL.

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Mate you need to get to a live game. For me it’s the best live sport you can watch. So fast and so much going on. Big hits and fights. Love it

  • Patrick

    Australia lost so many test matches by less than their missed kicks in the past 10 years it used to bring me nearly to tears of rage before Cheika dulled my reactions to a numb sadness. How can we still not have learnt that lesson??? I would literally select Foley if it meant getting an 80%+ kicker over a 65% one (not that it would have), even if it crippled my backline.

    • OnTheBurst

      Yes, there appears to be a masochistic attitude in Aus rugby which says “focusing too much on effective goal kicking means we’re not playing ‘the right style’, even if we lose games because of it”.

      Madness.

    • Jason

      I think it’s all compromises, because here is the rub, if the Reds have Hegarty (a genuine 75% goal kicker, maybe even 80%+) do they score as many tries?

      I personally like the Red going without a goal kicker, it means we have to simply be the better team and score more tries and shut out games. The Reds aren’t going to win Super Rugby this year, I don’t think… so this season is about next season and the one after. Even looking at their side there are a plethora of guys who ‘can kick’ in the XV, Hamish Stewart, Isaac Lucas, James O’Connor, Jock Campbell, Filipo Daugunu. If we let them settle into Super Rugby this year before asking them to spend extra time working on their kicking I think long term that’ll bode well for the team. If in the mean time we lose matches we were always supposed to lose then so be it. If the Reds had ended up running it down the other end of the field on a spectacular pass from Stewart everyone would be saying the decision to go without a kicker was genius.

      • Patrick

        Nup. Good field and goal kicking are justessential to modern rugby. You just aren’t really competing without:
        1. Aggressive defense from 1-15
        2. Good kicking
        3. An ability and desire to make yards in tight with support

        It has probably always been so, and there are all sorts of other elements including the set piece, but now that skill, strength and fitness have improved so much no-one wins much without ticking all three of those boxes.

        • *points over the ditch* Tell that the AB from 2016-2019 they couldn’t win matches without a great goal kicker. Then duck.

          I’m not arguing that, in general, it’s a good principle. I absolutely agree with 1 and 3, and a certain B. Barrett kicked in insanely good ways from hand of course. And had days when he kicked like a dream from the tee too. But he had days when he kicked like me from the tee. I’m registered as disabled for bad knees and legs, that’s how good my kicking is.

          OK, the ABs are the exception and on the other side the Welsh won a grand slam last year with the fewest tries, the best defence and excellent kicking. You can build a winning side in a tough contest that way. But it isn’t essential, it’s just very common.

        • Jason

          If the Reds go with Hegarty to start at 10 or 15 they don’t score half the tries they did in that game. And there is the difference, if they pick someone based on their kicking they compromise their attack. Now often you can find someone somewhere who can do both and slot into a position, I think towards the tail end of the season O’Connor might be that person but he’s not kicked for a while. But regardless the Reds don’t have an out and out kicker in their XV at the moment, but I’m 100% okay with that for now and I suspect the Reds are because they haven’t rushed Hegarty into the starting XV.

    • Huw Tindall

      This is some analysis I’d love to see. In the past 10 years how many test matches would Australia have won if they were kicking at 70%, 75%, 80% or 85%. Suggest 75% is minimum for a Test kicked and 85% is up there with the best. Interesting to see how that would have impacted past results.

      • Patrick

        I too would love to see this.

  • OnTheBurst

    No pass outs at the Gong stadium? What kind of brainless moron is running that joint (glad the dude at the door saw sense, MST). Surely even from a stadium perspective, you’d be wanting as many people to hang around for all the games – as it means more food and drink consumed.

    Not to mention RA should have busted the Stadium’s balls to say “if you want these extra games, people need to be able to come and go if they wish”. Not hard to maximise the game and its exposure when you’re presented with opportunities likes this.

  • Jason

    I think the Reds have probably had the hardest start to Super Rugby maybe ever… Brumbies are leading the comp in Points per Game. Lions in South Africa (with Jaco), Jaguars at home (with Argentina’s answer to Jaco), Sunwolves got punished rightly so, The Sharks who are leading the comp, and then the two time raining champs who no matter who you slice it are third… I don’t think any teams had a start that difficult. And on top of all that, they were in every game for 60, many for the full 80.

    I believe the win’s will come, they have the Bulls at home; then a bye, then the Brumbies at home, followed by the Rebels, and then Waratahs and finally Highlanders. They *should* go 4 from 5 for that, maybe even 5 from 5. And then after their second bye they have the Blues, Waratahs at home, Hurricanes at home and Rebels away. They should got another 3 from 4 there.

    That ought to put them around 56 points. For comparison the best point rate in the comp is the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders on pace for 50 points. And that’s assuming the Reds don’t pick up any bonus points. Now maybe they’ll drop a game or two they should win, but at the moment they aren’t in a position they can’t turn around.

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      5 from 5 is more hope than reality I think mate. I agree they’ve had a hard start but they also seem to switch off and really need to focus on that. I think both the Brumbies and Rebels will test them although 4 from 5 should be something to aim for

      • Jason

        I don’t disagree, but on the other hand they narrowly went down to the Brumbies in Canberra etc etc. So it’s not out of reach, but I do agree they’d need to really step up, probably REALLY play for the full 80.

        But my point is they have many/most of their really tough games out of the way, the only games I wouldn’t expect them to win are the Brumbies, @ the Rebels, and the Blues. Otherwise they SHOULD win the rest. And if they do that they are on pace to be playing finals, especially if they pick up a few bonus points too.

        The Reds have I think double the number of bonus points of anyone else in the comp, reminds me of the Brumbies last year (maybe the year before), lose close or win big no in-between.

        • Reds Revival

          Jason, I think the Reds actually got a lot of benefit out of playing 88 minutes against the Sharks, and putting enough pressure on to score a try.

          Watching the Saders game, I kept expecting them to fade in the last 15, but they didn’t. In fact they scored their best try and had another major break in those last 10mins.

          It would appear that they are improving in playing the full game these days. Fingers crossed, because they will need to against the Brums.

        • Jason

          Yeah, I think that game against the Sharks they showed the team they want to be, but also they wanted to give their fans something, I know every time they speak in the media they just want to make Queensland proud, they want to do it for the fans.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks MST. Really glad the experience was so good and hope its replicated up in Queensland this weekend. Obviously helped by the win for the Brumbies. They are looking good aren’t they?
    You know what they say; “lies, damn lies and statistics”. I just wonder if we actually measure the right statistics. So many times you’ll see a team lose but have the better statistics for the match so I’m not sure we’re onto the right ones. Really good point with the Sunwolves skewing things and maybe we should remove each teams best game and worst game to get a more balanced result.
    Almost have to say “typical France” In the box seat and letting a moments madness stuff things up and giving the 6N to England. A good experience for them though and I think next year they will be in a better place than England or any of the other teams with the development that have started. Most of the other teams seem to be relying on the “named” players and some of these are getting long in the tooth.

    • Patrick

      Yea France are a country mile ahead of the other NH teams at the moment. I listened to an interview the other day and basically under Galthie they train super intense with all the modern data and gadgets tracking them but also old-fashioned hard, right down to taking some of the mouse off the scrum machine!

  • That’s the thing with stats, especially at this point in the season. In four/five/six games one great game can suddenly make you look unreasonably great. Even over 15 it can – ask any biologist or statistician and they’ll tell you 15 is a sample and prone to sample errors like that, 30 is where you start to treat it like a population and assume that the one outlier is buried in the rest of the group. (There are obviously fancy ways to deal with outliers, but that’s the rule of thumb that everyone uses.)

    It’s also why I’m always wary of these “team of the week” where they pick by the statistically best performing – it’s amazing how often the statistically best performing players come from teams that played the teams at the bottom of the log. Gosh, I wonder why they had a great game that weekend!

    Nevertheless, being comfortably top half in offensive stats and 1 from 6 is only half the story. It might be stating the obvious, but rugby is not about scoring points, it’s not the first to 15, it’s about scoring more than the opposition over 80 minutes (or 100 if you play in Paris). What do their defensive stats look like? As someone else has said, the Reds have a load of bonus points, so they’re scoring a lot of points, but leaking more… so I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re uncomfortably near the bottom on a lot of those.

  • Not sure they were found out at the RWC, where Mo’unga was their kicker…

    I think England produced one amazing game, which is a different thing.

    I knew Barrett could kick well in streaks, I didn’t realise his % was that high though.

    • Patrick

      That’s because he did have some absolute shockers, and was certainly no Carter or Mehrtens.

  • GeorgiaSatellite

    Thanks MST. No excuses for a dismal Tahs, but am I alone in thinking it’s a little disappointing for the game when a blatant forward pass isn’t called when it flies towards (or just in front of) the touchie, as evident at 01:12 in the last YT clip?

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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