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NRC by the stats: Tries aplenty and refs brandishing yellow

Quade Cooper for Brisbane City. (Sportography)
Expert
27th October, 2014
89
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Like much of the coverage and promotion of the National Rugby Championship, records of results and rudimentary stats from games have been hard to come by.

Figuring this might have been the case, I started up my own records as the competition started.

My updated competition tables were often cited on Twitter and even here on The Roar well before the official tables were published.

With the competition just one game from completion, and a cracking final between Brisbane City and Perth on offer on Saturday night, I though now might be as good a time as any to share a few stats and observations from my records.

Up front, detailed game stats like tackles made, scrums won, etc, is not something I’ve kept, and won’t be commenting on in this piece. Additionally, given this was an entirely manual process, I’m expecting to have missed a try or a conversion attempt here or there.

All figures and stats quoted are up to and including the two semi-finals, unless otherwise stated.

Home versus away
After a Super Rugby season that finished with a home-team winning percentage of just over 70 per cent, and that ran at close to 80 per cent for the first two-thirds of the competition, one surprise for me was that home ground advantage didn’t carry a lot of weight in the NRC.

One obvious reason for this is that none of the grounds had much of a ‘home’ feel about them, and in several cases, were being used for the first time above club level.

Add into that teams like NSW Country, Queensland Country, and Perth playing home games at numerous different grounds, meaning that each venue was just as foreign to the hosts as it was the visitors.

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Of the 36 games to the end of Round 9, 18 had been won by the home side, 15 by the visitors, and there were three draws. Both semi-finals were won by the away team, meaning home teams have won just 47 per cent of NRC matches.

Tries scored
Obviously, Melbourne were the standout team in the point-scoring department, running in 58 tries in their eight regular games, and another four in their semi loss to Perth.

What I found interesting in the tallies was the definite split between the top-four and bottom-five teams. The top-four teams going into the finals all scored more than four tries per game on average. Melbourne scored 7.3 tries per game, NSW Country managed 34 at 4.3 per game, Brisbane City got 41 at 5.1 per game, and Perth 42 at 5.3.

The bottom five all scored fewer than 31 tries, with North Harbour’s 28 tries the lowest in the competition, and underlining my oft-stated view of their attack, where aside from broken play, they really didn’t look that threatening.

Overall, 330 tries were scored across the nine rounds and 36 games, working out at 9.2 tries per game. This continued in the semis, where 18 tries were scored.

Interestingly, I noted after Round 7 that the NRC average at the time was 8.6 tries per game, so defences relaxed as the season concluded.

For the sake of comparison, I have record of 582 tries scored in 120 regular season Super Rugby games this year, which equates to 4.9 tries per game.

Of the 348 NRC tries scored to date, I have them being scored by 164 different players, ranging from NSW Country winger Andrew Kellaway’s nine, to 80 players who avoided nudie runs by crossing the stripe once. One is Sydney Stars hooker James Willan, who was the forgotten beneficiary of the infamous ‘own try’ howler in Round 9.

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The top try scorers were:
9 – Kellaway
8 – Telusa Veainu (Rising)
6 – Jarome Mackenzie (Rams), Lopeti Timani (Rising), Jarrad Butler (Vikings), Nic Stirzaker, Jack Debreczini (Rising)

Eleven other players crossed five times each, including another three Melbourne players.

Queensland Country had just 14 different try scorers, while the team with the highest number of try scorers – 24 – was Perth. Unsurprising really, they would’ve used the most number of players as well.

Tries conceded
The bottom three teams – Sydney, Queensland Country, and North Harbour – also held the three highest tallies of tries conceded, while third-placed Brisbane City actually conceded the fourth highest amount.

The best defensive teams as at the end of the rounds were Melbourne (26 tries conceded), and NSW Country and Perth (both 27).

Yellow cards and penalty tries
One of my biggest concerns about reducing the value of penalty goals from three points to two was that teams would just cynically infringe more. The solution had to be an increase in the number yellow cards handed out, and happily, that looks to have been the case.

Including both semi-finals, 61 yellow cards have been handed out in 38 NRC games, or 1.6 per game.

SANZAR confirmed for me yesterday via their stats partner, Opta Sports, that there were 108 yellows handed out across 125 Super Rugby games, or 0.86 per game.

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So the two-point penalties can work, if referees are prepared to come down hard on the cynical stuff, which they most certainly did in the NRC.

The NRC has also seen five penalty tries awarded this season, or roughly one every eight games. From memory, and I’ll happily stand corrected, I’m pretty sure all of these were for scrum infringements.

In Super Rugby, there were nine penalty tries awarded, or one every 14 games.

Goal-kicking
Perhaps I’m being harsh here, but this has been one disappointing aspect of the NRC for me. The overall accuracy for the competition to date is just 70 per cent – 250 goals from 355 attempts. Included in that are just 9 two-point penalties from 13 attempts.

My thought on goal-kicking has always been that good kickers land three-quarters of all shots, but that the really elite are going at better than 80 per cent.

In the NRC to date, I have 28 different kickers recorded, and of them only 11 have gone at 75 per cent or better. Of those eleven, only five have had more than five shots at goal: Quade Cooper (13/15, or 87 per cent), Hamish Angus (Rays – 20/25, 80 per cent), Ben Volavola (Rams – 25/32, 78 per cent), Jack Macklin (Stars – 14/18, 78 per cent) and Matt Brandon (Queensland- 19/25, 76 per cent).

The two leading kickers in the competition were NSW Country’s Sam Windsor, who kicked 30 from 41 attempts (73 per cent), and Melbourne’s Debreczini, with 39 from 55, or 71 per cent.

North Harbour was the best-performed side, landing 27 from 32, or 82 per cent. Sydney and Canberra landed just 20 shots at goal, from 32 and 31 shots respectively.

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Seven of the nine teams attempted a penalty goal at some point in the competition, with both Greater Sydney and NSW Country landing three from four attempts. Melbourne and Brisbane City never pointed to the posts once when awarded a full arm penalty.

Some useful or useless tidbits to finish (because I’ve become a stats nerd)
• Crowds for the nine rounds averaged out at just over 2200 per game, ranging from an estimated 500 at the Sydney versus North Harbour game in Round 9, to the mammoth 13,700 people at the Brisbane City versus Canberra game at Suncorp Stadium in the same round, and who then stuck around for a novelty international match afterwards.

On the topic of crowds, I still don’t have a number yet, but I get the distinct impression there wasn’t even 500 on the Central Coast on Friday night for the NSW Country-Brisbane City semi.

However, I’ve had mail that there’s already a good crowd brewing for the final at Ballymore on Saturday night, and that’s wonderful news.

• The most common score? 37 or 34, it seems. Both were recorded seven times each for the competition, including a 37-all draw between Sydney and Canberra in Round 5, and a 34-all draw between North Harbour and Greater Sydney the following week.

• The most common halftime score? Well, I’m glad you asked. 15 teams went to the sheds having scored two tries but only converting one, including Canberra and Queensland Country who were locked at 13-all in Round 3, and then Sydney and Canberra as well in Round 5.

And yes, I probably have spent a bit too much time on this.

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