THREE WINS FROM four mean that it was another successful weekend for the provinces in the Heineken Cup, even if the loss for Connacht was as comprehensive as they come.
We’ve picked out a few of the statistics from the weekend’s European action that caught our eye, all courtesy of the ERC. While we are of the belief that numbers cannot tell us the whole story of a rugby game, they can certainly back up impressions gained from watching the fixtures live.
Here are the standout figures.
- 11 offloads. Rob Penney wants every member of his squad to be comfortable in handling the ball pre- and post-contact and that was a little more evident yesterday. The Kiwi will have been encouraged to see Munster offload so effectively.
- 21 defenders beaten. Equally as important to the Canterbury-rooted game plan is the need for individual attackers to beat their men one-on-one. Those situations are exactly what Munster’s style is intended to produce, and Penney’s players took their chances.
- 1 ruck lost. Munster are one of the most efficient attacking sides in Europe in terms of attacking rucks, and that continued at Thomond Park, providing Conor Murray with lighting-quick possession.
- 69 metres gained. James Coughlan carried the ball 11 times, beating four defenders and doing a good impression of an outside centre in the wider channels. Add in six passes and the same number of tackles and you’ve got your man of the match.
Leinster’s line-out gave them a steady stream of possession. ©INPHO/Donall Farmer.
- 25 turnovers conceded. Several of those came from the wonderful Justin Tipuric at the breakdown, but far too many were from handling errors. Leinster’s five-day turnaround has been offered as an excuse for the sloppiness, but it was still concerning.
- 4 defenders beaten. Luke Fitzgerald is the eastern province’s greatest attacking weapon this season and he was sharp yet again at the RDS. Made 66 metres in his eight carries, as well as one clean line-break.
- 8 tackles completed. Martin Moore was another man to produce a puncturing of the Osprey’s defensive line, while also being solid at the scrum. His defensive effort saw him top the charts for Leinster.
- 100% line-0uts won. Sean Cronin has improved in this area as his contributions around the pitch continue to stand out. The Limerick native hit his man 16 times from touch, while the returning Richardt Strauss was on target with three.
Nick Williams was a physical presence for Ulster at Welford Road. ©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Fosker.
- 6/6 goal kicks. Ruan Pienaar was on target with all six of his shots at goal, ultimately proving the difference on the scoreboard.
- 1 linebreak. One of the few concerns from a largely excellent performance was Ulster’s inability to break down the Tigers’ defence in attack. This is not the first time Anscombe’s side have looked to Luke Marshall’s power as their main method of attacking with ball in hand.
- 3 turnovers won. Nick Williams was ferocious in contact even if he did knock-on twice in good attacking positions. His turnovers, along with those of his teammates, helped them to rule the in-contact situations.
- 15 tackles. Paddy Jackson has been perhaps the most effective defensive out-half in the Heineken Cup this season. As with the rest of his skills, his tackling is constantly improving and the 22-year-old is having an excellent season. Chris Henry made 20 tackles.
Connacht struggled to halt the big Saracens’ ball carriers. ©INPHO/James Crombie.
- 0 tries. Connacht just couldn’t get anything going in attack as they failed to get over the gainline with any regularity. With around 45% of the possession, they would have hoped to create more than 1 linebreak and beat more defenders than just 6.
- 30 missed tackles. Connacht were forced onto the back foot by Saracens’ strong ball carriers and simply fell off too many tackles to compete. That figure might have been higher but for the fact that Pat Lam’s side also struggled to get a scramble defence into place following many of Sarries’ 18 clean line-breaks.
- 58.3% line-outs won. Connacht coughed up possession on five of their own throws, several of them inside the home team’s half. Those opportunities to build scoring situations were ruinously wasted.
- 3 defenders beaten. A rare bright spark for Connacht in attack, Matt Healy managed to beat his man on three occasions, as well as making one offload. The winger has been Connacht’s most dangerous attacking player very often this season.
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