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Monday, October 31, 2005

[Sports] Trying times

First up: Gigantic ups to the Silver Ferns, Kiwis and Blacksticks!!! The girls beat their respective Aussie sides and the boys beat the Brits. The Ferns were the most impressive. That popping sound is the bubble of Aussie sport greatness (fuck, I just know I’m gone regret writing that when the Commonwealth Games start).

So I did my very quick analysis of the Tri-Nations 2005 Statistical Review and Match Analysis. Basically the report is not so much an "analysis" as a group of statistical descriptors.

One area was done well though: Tries.

I read the interesting factoid (both in the report and again on Hard News): 100% of tries scored in this year's Tri-Nations games were preceded by three or fewer rucks or mauls. That sounds amazing, but probably isn’t. Especially when you consider that this is Southern Hemisphere Rugby™. If the stat came from English rugby then that would be something. Let’s look closer at the factoid.

100% of the 26 tries scored in the 2005 Tri-nations were preceded by three or fewer second phases (rucks/mauls).

73% of tries in the 2005 Tri-nations were preceded by no second phase play.

100% of South Africa’s seven tries were preceded by three or fewer second phases

42% of South Africa’s seven tries were contained no passes.

This is not because the Springboks are un-catchable and play beautiful expansive rugby. It is because 87.5% of their tries (6 of the 7) came from opponent mistakes (such as interceptions). In fact 11 of the 26 tries (42%) came from turn-over ball.

There was a drop in tries scored from set piece (62% in 2004 to 38% in 2005), with only two tries being scored from scrums. However there is no data on where the scrums or set pieces were being played from or who was scrumming (for example I would posit that New Zealand has the best scrum in the Tri-nations and if they had a scrum in good field position then they would have had a higher chance of scoring a try).

65% of tries (17) were scored from within the oppositions 10m line (which is confusingly 10m from halfway). Only five tries were scored from within the scoring team’s half. For the first time in Tri-Nations history tries were scored from charged-down kicks.

Across the six games:

Average per game (rounded)

Rucks/Mauls (2nd Phase)










Penalty Kick Attempts


Successful Penalty Kicks




NOTE: “Penalty Kick Attempts” and “Successful Penalty Kicks” are also counted under “Penalties”

Assuming each drive ends with (or begins after) a kick, a penalty (which I assume includes knock-ons, but the report does not explicitly mention them), a lineout or a try. [Note: this also assumes that penalties do not result in lineouts and also assumes no penalty tries (of which there were none in 2005). Also I am assuming that no kicks were re-gathered by the kicking team. Kicks do NOT include starting kick-offs, conversions or penalty attempts].

This means that, on average, there were 118 instances of an ended drive (kick, lineout, penalty or try). Hence there were 1.21 rucks/mauls per drive.

Let’s be generous and say that three quarters of the lineouts resulted from kicks i.e. 26 lineouts per game (rounded from 25.5) were caused by kicks and so can be removed from the total of 140.

This means that, on average, there were 93 instances of an ended drive (kick, lineout, penalty or try). Hence there were 1.53 rucks/mauls per drive. No wonder most tries were scored from 3 or less rucks/mauls.

Ho ho, Of course these are garbage stats. South Africa’s try-scoring tendencies and substantially lower 2nd Phase count (per minute of possession) skews things no end.

Finally, want to complain about that "Pommy" or "Frog" ref? Well do it with immunity as the Northern hemisphere refs called 13.6% more penalties per game (I don’t know if this is significantly different but it will do for complaining down the pub)

PS. Scott's comment below reminded me: the report was fairly shabby in it's presentation. There were numerous spelling and gramatical mistakes. The graphs were poorly designed. The were references to metrics that had not been defined properly. Part of my job is preparing reports for publication and release, there is no way I would have let that report go out in that form. There was also so much more information that could have been added: defensive stats, numbers of players at the breakdown etc.


Scott said...

Anyone else notice the bad graph on page 6? Nice analysis, but the number for drop goals is wrong. Also, I hate exploded pie charts, and 3-d ones are just asking for it.

Scott said...

No penalties for crooked scrum feeds. League-ification?

Tom said...

Don't mention the cricket!