Friday, October 6, 2017

Sale review (including the all important Statistics) and Northampton preview

Over the past few years, football has increasingly become a game of statistics. Percentage points of possession, territory, shots on goals, completed passes have become nearly as important as the only statistic that really matters. The score line.

Rugby has followed this trend to some degree and whenever one watches matches on TV, you are bombarded by statistical analysis. Scrums, Lineouts, line breaks, tackles (made and missed), how many times the fly half kicked or passed are all now shown on screen. But like football, the most important stat is the one in the top left hand corner.


204 out of 229 (89%)
Tackles (% made)
85 out of 110 (77%)
Penalties conceded
Turnovers conceded
6 out of 6 (100%)
Lineouts won
13 out of 19 (68%)
2 out of 2 (100%)
Scrums won
5 out of 5 (100%)
75 out of 78 (96%)
Rucks won
158 out of 159 (99%)
0 out of 0
Mauls won
3 out of 3 (100%)
Clean Breaks
Defenders beaten

Sale Sharks 57 – 10 Gloucester

A casual glance at the table above without knowing the result would probably suggest that it was a close game possibly edged by Gloucester. Unfortunately for the few hardy souls who travelled to the Northwest last Friday it wasn’t the case. The Cherry and Whites somehow contrived to gift try after try to a Sale team who had previously looked vulnerable and had started the season pretty poorly.

Simply passing and catching a rugby ball appeared to be too much for the Gloucester side at times. Consistently getting into fantastic areas, only to lose the ball in contact or have it intercepted. Time after time lineout ball in the opposition 22 was squandered but rather than change tact and go for points, every penalty awarded ended in a similar result.

Injuries to key players have robbed Gloucester of their strongest line-up for much of the season. Charlie Sharples is now out until the New Year, Matt Scott, Ross Moriarty and Fraser Balmain are also likely to be some way off returning. But this result was not down to missing players, but simply put poor play, poor decision making and poor skill. There is no doubt the players are trying, but this is the third occasion where some on the field seemed to have left their brains in the changing room. The solutions aren’t easy. Some members of the squad are going to have to drastically improve their performances to retain their place. Johann Ackermann knew he had a tough job on his hands before the season started and the excitement and delirium that accompanied the opening weekend win against the Champions is now being replaced with the grim reality that Gloucester are still an inconsistent side who make too many errors.

Gloucester are creating lots of chances but currently lack the patience and ability to turn these into points. What is particularly galling at the moment, is seeing how well departed winger Jonny May is doing at his new club, Leicester. 5 tries already this season, for a team who are not controlling games and whose pack has been struggling for parity let alone dominance. His ‘X-factor’ is something that his former club are missing.
Sale took their chances all night. They worked well without the ball, forced mistakes and pressured the Gloucester lineout in particular. They will lose games where they play better than this, but for most of the fans in attendance that will be of little concern.

Once again there were some bright spots, but it is difficult to praise any team that ships 50 plus points. The next match against early league leaders Northampton will not be for the feint hearted. Richard Hibbard, speaking on Radio Gloucestershire this week, noted that Northampton in particular have the ability to blow teams away with their strike runners and intensity. Defensive structures have been at the heart of training this week, but some would suggest that simply making the correct decisions in the opposition 22 would be the area that home side should be working on.

If Gloucester do win on Saturday, they will have won 3 from 6, all their home games and be ‘on par’ for many peoples early season expectations. Should they lose, the perception will continue to be one of a club in decline once again failing to reach the next level required.

If nothing else, last week has reminded everyone that statistics are a great tool to focus the mind and to direct training and improve problem areas. But territory and possession only give you the ability to score tries, you need the skill and patience to actually do it. 

1 comment:

  1. As a Sale supporter I have to say we played very well, but against a better performing team (on the night) we wouldn't have probably scored 4 of those tries. I Honestly didn't see any bright points for Glaws, and that in itself is unusual. What isn't shown in the stats is that we scored 21 points whilst Twelvetrees was in the bin and had we failed to score those, the scoreline would have been closer...but I can't see the end result being any different.