Field Theory by Hadyn Green


Numbers Game

While senior citizens are being attacked (sort of) on our sports fields, Tom Watson came along and showed the kids how it's done; beating back all the vigour and passion of youth with the determination and knowledge of age.

Tom Watson became a hero, over the weekend, for those in a certain age bracket and for those who love seeing true feats of sporting brilliance. That last putt though was incredibly hard to watch.

And while Watson was doing his thing, Alberto Contador was doing his; saying to Lance Armstrong: "Next time, stay retired." Or at least that's what I hope, because I always like to think that there are actually great rivalries in sport and not just the platitudes we usually get at press conferences.

Of course it could also mean that Contador is taking better performance enhancers than Armstrong, we'll see.

And speaking of ‘roid rage David Beckham was taunted by LA Galaxy fans and decided the best course of action was to [pretend to] leap the barrier and attack said fans.

Also of note, the English beat the Aussies in the Ashes test at Lords. I really don't understand the appeal of the Ashes: test cricket in the middle of the night between two teams I don't support. But it still seems to be awfully popular.


How to know the All Black's win over Australia was important: for a brief time on Saturday night, "All Blacks" was trending on Twitter.

Let's take look at the numbers, but first, let's look at Nathan Sharpe with his headgear down his pants.

Ok, ok, numbers.

We lost three lineouts (in the first half) with Andrew Hore not able to find his jumpers mainly due to throwing the damn ball to mid-field.

We also missed twelve tackles (16%) compared to Australia's seven (9%). And we turned the ball over 17 times, compared to their 12. But the good news is our handling errors were relatively low (7), relatively for an All Black team.

But what were we like at roughly this time last year against roughly the same team (using Tracey Nelson's stats plus the official stats from the NZRU and the really quite awesome Pick and Go). We played Australia last year at Eden Park on August 2. The All Blacks won the 2008 game 39-10, a much stronger performance.

Back then McCaw was a machine. He was in the first three to the breakdown 43 times, well ahead of the next two, Hore and Thorn (29 and 24). This weekend the top three were Thorn, McCaw and Woodcock (35, 34, and 30) with no other player even reaching 20 for that stat.

There were 117 rucks this weekend and we had more players getting there than we did last year and the forwards (loose and tight five) were more involved than last year. Here's the first three to the breakdown, averaged by position (and put into a very crappy table):

Loose Forwards18.016.8

Bob Dwyer notes in his column that the Australians were kicking the ball more (note that he also calls the team "Deans' work-in-progress" which is interesting in that he seems to have the same view of Robbie Deans that journalists here do of Graham Henry).

After first phase, we do not have an attacking ‘line' at all. We have an attacking ‘zigzag'. "Pass and back-up" appears to be a phrase from a foreign language not understood by our players. Consequently, we are incapable even of taking the overlap - and there were plenty available.

Cross-field running complicates even the most simple opportunity and one almost certain try was butchered because of this lack of understanding.

Our worst tackler was Corey Jane (attempted four and made one, with no assists) not a good look for our fullback cover, while McCaw and Thorn were, once again, the work horses with only a 14 percent miss-tackle rate (missed tackles/total attempted).

Now in fairness the team last year was already three games in to the Tri-Nations (including one against Australia). So they would have shaken a bit more rust off by then.

So it wasn't a good win. But it was a win. Really the difference was that Australia cheated more. But overall I think we're in an interesting spot.

Directly after the last World Cup the score for an average All Blacks game was roughly 35-17 to the All Blacks. This average has steadily declined since then and is now roughly 27-10 in favour of the All Blacks (not including the last game). So we score fewer points but our opponents also score fewer points.

The Aussies have a similar trend except that they had an average of 25-20 just after the World Cup and have moved to 23-16. So while their points are declining they are doing better in defence. (The relative slopes are -0.4788 for NZ and -0.1589 for AUS for those who need to know).

As for South Africa, while they are looking very strong at the moment, their trend isn't. Post World Cup they were averaging 32-14, now it's 22-19. Of the three Tri-Nations teams they are the only ones whose opponents are gaining. They were also the most variable team with scores oscillating from high to low from week to week.

The general downward trend of points-scored for all three teams can possibly be attributed to external factors like senior players leaving for Europe or the recent rule changes. But it's clear that Australia is closing the gap on their opponents, New Zealand is keeping fairly stable and South Africa is possibly in trouble.

So now what? Well first, Henry is going to enjoy that beer.

Sorry for the late post, had a nasty bout of hearing loss that was causing me no end of fun. So hopefully you've all gone and read Emma's post and given your donation to Women's Refuge

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