AND THEY’RE OFF!
The 19th and (possibly) last Heineken Cup has rounded the first bend and after all the boardroom bickering, we had a rugby weekend to be proud of.
So, after the ERC geeks were let out of the truck, here are some of the more interesting stats they had data-mined from the bottom of a ruck.
The sound set-piece award
Six teams will hit the training field this week confident that they’re calls are sound after claiming 100% of their own line-out ball.
Connacht and Montpellier ended with the most impressive set-piece, they each claimed 14 on their own throw with one steal for good measure. Nobody claimed more than 15 line-outs; Toulouse’s 100% set-piece took 11 throws plus stole four from Zebre.
Edinburgh (8 + 4), Ospreys (11 + 1) and Llanelli (10 + 1) were the remaining exemplary line-outs.
A smooth set-piece doesn’t guarantee success, but it would help. You’d imagine Munster could be targeting victory number two next weekend rather than licking their wounds had they not coughed up a third of their own touchline ball – Rob Penney’s men took just eight of their 12 attempts.
Leinster and Ulster did not make the 100% mark either, but as the eastern province reached that top mark of 15 completions (out of 16 throws) they won’t be groaning too much in UCD this week. Ulster had a reassuringly steady 11 takes from 12 line-outs – plus two steals for luck.
Richie’s top tacklers
It’s testament to the rigours Connacht put them through that Saracens’ Kelly Brown is the top tackler of the weekend with a whopping 19 of the 110 tackles the visitors made in Galway. Edinburgh’s Cornell du Preez put his shoulder to 18 of Edinburgh’s 125 against Munster.
There’s a surprise name next in the pile this weekend (though we’d guess that a few of these are missed tackles): Dan Biggar was forced into 17 tackles against Leinster – not where you want your out-half to be, but exactly where Leinster wanted the key man in the Ospreys’ line-out. Justin Tipuric was right behind him with 16.
The top tacklers from Ireland’s four provinces were; Robbie Henshaw (13), Jamie Heaslip (12), James Coughlan and Dan Tuohy (both 11).
Facing Toulouse was always going to be a mountainous struggle for Zebre, but missing 28 tackles didn’t help matters. A glance at Cardiff’s 27 in Exeter and we’re beginning to understand how cricket scores come about.
Young guns of the west
We mentioned above that Robbie Henshaw was Connacht’s top tackler against Saracens, but the young Kiwi flanker Jake Heenan wasn’t far behind.
The New Zealander (who could play for Ireland should he see out his three year contact in Galway) made 11 tackles alongside 11 carries for his side – for perspective, bot figures are just one shy of those managed by Jamie Heaslip on an impressive night for the Leinster number eight.
The ‘Jeez I miss that guy’ award
Losing an up-and-coming star is something that Connacht have gotten used to down the years, but they’ll surely still cast a jealous glance over at their ex with their surf-haven rivals, Exeter Chiefs.
Fetu’u Vainikolo made 11 carries for a total gain of 113 metres against the Cardiff Blues.
The Sweet Chariot award for carries
Vainikolo may deserve this, but we’re going against the spirit of statistics and giving it to Montpellier number eight, Kelian Galletier who destroyed Treviso with 110 metres made in his 14 carries.
The honourable mention goes to another Chief, Dave Ewers, who trucked the ball up 18 times, but if it’s metres gained you want then Cardiff’s Alex Cuthbert is your man; his 10 carries earned 140 metres for his team.
Ireland’s top carriers this weekend were; Casey Laulala (14 carries for 103 metres), George Naoupu (13 carries*), Jamie Heaslip (12 carries for 40 metres) and Jared Payne (11 carries*).
*No exact figure for metres gained, not in his club’s top three.
The smash and grab award for efficiency
Llanelli Scarlets are in their team room this morning looking back on a game where they secured a winning bonus point away to one of last year’s favourites for the trophy having claimed just 39% of possession.
It’s not unusual to win a game with less possession than your opponent – actually, it’s quite common – but 39% doesn’t leave you much room to manoeuvre
In this game Harlequins were made to put in just 60 tackles, they missed 14 of them. Another Premiership side joined them at the foot of tackling stats, though Gloucester came away with a win after being completing only 63 tackles against Perpignan. Billy Twelvetrees was their top tackler with eight, though you could a few of those down to the fact that his opposite number was Perpignan’s top ball-carrier – James Hook took the ball on 10 times.