All Blacks

Austin’s TN6 Statistics and Review

Austin’s TN6 Statistics and Review

The final Tri Nations game of 2011 between the Wallabies and All Blacks on Saturday was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve seen for a while.

Other recent games that spring to mind are the final Bledisloe Cup game in Hong Kong last year and the two games between the Reds and Crusaders in Super Rugby this year.  All four games I’ve mentioned were close affairs with fluctuations in fortunes as the teams battled to the very end.

A common thread in all of those games is the closeness of the contest on the scoreboard but it was the contest on the field that made this game a stand out for me.  The breakdown battle was ferocious, both teams controlled their attack for multiple phases through tight forward play when required and then showed their potency out wide when the time was right.  The All Blacks control through twenty seven phases leading up to Conrad Smith’s try was brilliant but the Wallabies defence and discipline not to give away a penalty in that sequence was equally good.

Whilst it may seem an obvious statement given that he set up the winning try, the difference between the two teams was Will Genia. In attack it wasn’t just the winning try or the one he scored himself – he was a constant threat and the uncertainty he created in the All Black’s defence opened up a number of other opportunities for the Wallabies. His defence was really good and a couple of tackles he made in cover were crucial in shutting down half breaks by the All Blacks.

One of the statistics that shows why the Wallabies were more competitive in this match is the kicking statistics.  In the four games the Wallabies have played in the 2011 Tri Nations they’ve kicked the ball 43% of the time they’ve had possession.  I’ve rated 72% of those kicks as good kicks.  The Wallabies opposition in those four games has kicked the ball 46% of the time they’ve had possession and I rated 65% of those kicks as good. 

In Saturday’s game the Wallabies again kicked 43% of the time they had possession and I rated 67% of those kicks as good so it was a kicking performance not unlike the average for the series.  The big difference is that in the Wallabies game against the All Blacks at Eden Park earlier in the season the Wallabies only kicked 30% of the times they had possession and I only rated 50% of their kicks that night as good. The Reds won the Super Rugby title this year on the back of the second highest amount of kicking in the competition and the quality of the kicking game from Will Genia and Quade Cooper.  Whilst I’m all for attacking rugby that isn’t necessarily limited to running the ball – a good kicking game is just as important, particularly in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the big games in a World Cup.

The other major difference in the statistics from this match is the numbers committed to the breakdown by the Wallabies.  In the three games before this one the Wallabies involvements in attacking breakdowns was 579 (an average of 193 per game) and 248 for defensive breakdowns (an average of 83 per game) – a ratio of 2.33 for attacking breakdown involvements over defensive breakdown involvements.  In this game the Wallabies involvements in attacking breakdowns was 234 (21% higher than the average for the previous three games) and in defensive breakdowns was 155 (87% higher than the average for the previous three games).  The ratio of attacking breakdown involvements to defensive breakdown involvements was only 1.50.

The most effective strategies in defence are usually at one end of the spectrum or the other – you either decide to let the opposition win their own ball by not committing numbers to the breakdown and instead fan out in defence or you decide to disrupt the opposition’s possession by committing numbers to the breakdown.  When teams go somewhere in between they’re usually less effective as in the heat of battle players often commit to the breakdown when they shouldn’t and vice versa.

When the Wallabies played the All Blacks at Eden Park last month their breakdown involvements in attack were 217 compared to 71 in defence – a ratio of 3.05.  The Wallabies clear change in strategy in this game by committing so many players in defence proved very successful.  Whilst I don’t measure the effectiveness of each breakdown involvement it was clear watching the game that the Wallabies were much more physical at the breakdown than they have been recently with Dan Vickerman, James Horwill and Stephen Moore leading the way.

In terms of individual performances the Involvement Rate of each Wallabies player is shown below.

Click on the icon in the column headings to sort the data.

Game MinsCarriesTotal Tackles MadeTotal Breakdown InvolvementsTotal InvolvementsInvolvement Rate
Sekope Kepu7531225400.53
Stephen Moore7581627510.68
Ben Alexander807835500.63
Dan Vickerman5331240551.04
James Horwill80111736640.80
Rocky Elsom7161531520.73
David Pocock8081856821.03
Radike Samo5981325460.78
Will Genia751371210.28
Quade Cooper801613200.25
Digby Ioane805113190.24
Pat McCabe805199330.41
Anthony Faingaa801929390.49
Adam Ashley-Cooper8071211300.38
Kurtley Beale801074210.26
Saia Faingaa5317112.20
Salesi Ma'afu5127102.00
Rob Simmons271413180.67
Ben McCalman214714251.19
Scott Higginbotham9210121.33
Luke Burgess51340.80

Of the starting team David Pocock and Dan Vickerman were best and Ben McCalman’s involvement in the last twenty minutes was good – exactly what’s required from a player coming off the bench.  Scott Higginbotham wasn’t on the field long enough for his Involvement Rate to be compared to others but again he did what you’d want a player off the bench to do. 

Radike Samo was fantastic whilst he was on the field but I thought he was left on for ten minutes too long.  If you watch the game again you can see how tired he was in that long possession sequence leading up to the Conrad Smith try and I think once that try was scored he should have been replaced.  It looks like he may only be able to go for 45-50 minutes at the pace he was working in the first half but there’s no doubt in my mind that he should be the Wallabies starting #8 during the World Cup.

James Horwill got through a mountain of work – he was the primary ball carrier for the team, made only one less tackle than Pocock and was heavily involved at the breakdown.  Rocky Elsom had a good game but there’s still improvement left in his game.  It looked like the change of captaincy actually lifted the performance of both players – Horwill lifting his game even further to lead from the front and Elsom freed up to focus on his game.

Anthony Faingaa, Pat McCabe and Adam Ashley-Cooper were good contributors in the backs with Faingaa and Ashley-Cooper topping the dominant tackle rate with 44% and 33% respectively.  Having two very similar players in McCabe and Faingaa in the centres reduces the Wallabies attacking impact but then again you can attack a lot more effectively through defence with that combination.  If I was making the selection decisions I’d leave the backline as it was and bring James O’Connor onto the bench for the Wallabies first game of the World Cup against Italy.

The old adage that games are won up front certainly applied in this game but so did that other adage – defence wins big games.  The Wallabies attempted 210 tackles in this game which was 23% higher than the average of their first three games in this series. They made 91% of their tackles, missing only 19 tackles, which was a strong performance.

The other pleasing aspect of the statistics was much better ball control with only 7 errors.

With the conclusion of the Tri Nations series I thought you might like to see the Involvement Rate of all the Wallabies over the four games they played in the series.

Click on the icon in the column headings to sort the data.

Game MinsCarriesTotal Tackles MadeTotal Breakdown InvolvementsTotal InvolvementsInvolvement Rate
Sekope Kepu31510371091560.50
Ben Alexander32022401231850.58
Salesi Ma'afu5127102.00
Pek Cowan912360.67
Stephen Moore2843747821660.58
Saia Faingaa365622330.92
Nathan Sharpe10481843690.66
James Horwill29646431061950.66
Rob Simmons16072763970.61
Dan Vickerman8041857790.99
Rocky Elsom28730411011720.60
David Pocock30525591712550.84
Ben McCalman157153042870.55
Scott Higginbotham117121349740.63
Matt Hodgson1587151.00
Radike Samo7981534570.72
Will Genia30054223790.26
Nick Phipps1523160.40
Luke Burgess51340.80
Quade Cooper3208515131130.35
Anthony Faingaa11731338540.46
Pat McCabe3202861331220.38
Adam Ashley-Cooper283223337920.33
Digby Ioane3204342201050.33
James O'Connor240262221690.29
Kurtley Beale3115523281060.34

Edit: I forgot to award “Man of the Stats” which would be Vickerman for this game. The candidates for the series – Pocock and McCabe – number 1 and 2 in numbers of dominant tackles – number 1 and 2 in number of tackles – both had 97% succesful tackle rate both only missing two tackles – Pocock’s breakdown involvements were way above McCabe as you’d expect and he was so far ahead of anyone else in this area I’ll go with Pocock for the series.

Click on the relevant icon below to download the Team Statistics or Player Statistics for this last game.




All Blacks

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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