Rugby statistics miss the X-factor
Crusaders Sean Maitland makes a break against the Waratahs. AAP Image/Ross Setford
The Chiefs vs Crusaders and Waratahs vs Brumbies games on the weekend were like chalk and cheese. One was thrilling, high scoring stuff. The other was out at ANZ stadium and the less said about it the better.
Both matches involved teams whose seasons were on the line and while you’d expect dour ‘finals footy’, only the Aussie derby brought the boredom.
However, if you look at statistics between the two matches – aside from the final scorelines – you’d expect that both were equally entertaining.
Unfortunately this is a case of lies, damned lies and statistics.
The Aussie derby had more rucks and mauls at 192 (Tahs 116, Brumbies 76) than the New Zealand match at 180 (Chiefs 95, Crusaders 85). There were more line breaks in Sydney with a total of 9 (Tahs 7, Brumbies 2) than in Waikato where there 8 (Chiefs 5, Crusaders 3). And, unbelievably, out of all four teams in those two matches the Waratahs kicked the least (Tahs 15, Brumbies 22, Chiefs 18, Crusaders 27) and ran the most (Tahs 123, Brumbies 82, Chiefs 106, Crusaders 94).
Looking at these figures one could easily assume that the Galloping Greens of old had infiltrated the Waratahs and the romped it in against the boys from the ACT. Unfortunately, we all know differently. The Crusaders victory was one of the best games of the year and the Brumbies upset one of the worst.
Statistics are vital for any post-match analysis. They highlight strengths and areas for improvement. They can tell a coach if a game plan was successful and where their opponents got the upper hand. But, judging by the weekend, they are poor indicators on what a crowd will think of a match.
Waratahs coach Michael Foley may be able to point to statistics in a boardroom but public opinion doesn’t follow the same logic that can be presented to directors. The Waratahs fans aren’t the easiest to please and they certainly know what they don’t like: namely, kicking. Unfortunately for Foley and the Tahs even though they don’t kick their fans still aren’t impressed. The fans want something else. Something that statistics can’t measure. They want an x-factor.
The Waratahs season hasn’t been great but it hasn’t been a disaster.
Their loses haven’t been blowouts. They have got a bonus point for losing by less than seven in the vast majority of their losses. The rub of the green has been against them all season. Of course a champion team would turn those close losses into wins. This could have happened with an x-factor.
It could have happened with Kurtley Beale.
Beale has an x-factor that few players in world rugby have at the moment. People come in droves to see what he can deliver and it can be mind-boggling. For Waratahs to let him slip through their fingers is criminal. There are no players in the current squad that match Beale’s creativity and it hurt their season.
If Beale was still in sky-blue not only would the weekend’s statistics make sense but NSW might be training for the finals instead of looking forward to Mad Monday.
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