©INPHO/Billy Stickland
maths and stats

Size matters: Connacht fought a losing battle against European heavyweight

Was Denis Buckley really a whole 50 kilos lighter than his direct opponent? “Don’t believe the programme.”

FOR ALL THE technical details that are refined over and over again before a Heineken Cup fixture, most often, rugby is a simple game with simple solutions.

When all is said and done, the result will be decided by brute force and simple mathematics.

Huddled within the confines of Connacht’s post-match briefing Eric Elwood was offered the theory that Harlequins’ big-name players had ultimately proved the difference.

“Well, I think we might underestimate the word ‘big’. They’re big in a lot of senses.” Elwood said to draw a smile from the dictaphone wielding pack.

“Yeah, they’ve got big ball carriers. We’ve got young Denis Buckley (at loose-head prop) who’s 99 KGs. He was giving away 34 KGs to his prop.

“Michael Swift is one of our bigger players, (he) was giving away 20 odd KGs to Ollie Kohn and then you’ve Nick Easter locking out the scrum,”

Tight-head prop Nathan White had, minutes earlier, sat in the place Elwood now stood. Having just endured the pressure on his own neck shoulders and back, he was acutely aware first to call attention to Buckley’s impossible task.

Both White and Elwood agreed on Buckley’s weight (albeit with a one-kilogram margin for error) but the prop was only half joking when he said his loose head was “giving away damn near 50 kilos on that side of the scrum alone.”

Initially it sounded like hyperbole. ‘Quins tight-head James Johnston was listed in Connacht’s match programme as 138 kilos, but given that Buckley’s official weight was listed at 118 kilos, it was understandable that White would add with a wry smile: “Don’t believe the programme.”


White was asked to give a sense of how difficult it is to push with such a weight disparity. But he could only widen his eyes, shirk back a little in his chair and look around at the other faces as if to check he had heard the question correctly. You imagine him having the same reaction if asked how one plus one makes two.

“Denis is pretty talented to be playing loose-head at this level at 100 kilos. He does bloody well.” the captain added. “It’s part of being young, you learn and your body grows into it.”

Connacht don’t want your sympathy. They have a combative pack who are out to lay a platform for a back-line which only gets more exciting with each passing game.

“We went in with a strong strategy of how we wanted to play, ourselves. And we wanted to stay true to that. We want to challenge ourselves and that’s borne out.” Said Elwood before he annexed popular belief that he may have preferred wetter conditions.

“That was the challenge tonight, I was glad it was a nice evening, we had a full house and we wanted to play rugby.”

They certainly did.

Despite being starved of possession for vast swathes of the game; Connacht made 342 metres with the ball on Saturday, just 51 fewer than the Premiership champions. They made six clean breaks in the game to ‘Quins’ four. And they (presumably most of them thanks to Fetu’u Vainikolo) beat 17 defenders compared to 12 from Conor O’Shea’s men.

“We wanted to really challenge them and we showed that with the possession we got in the first half. Unfortunately,” Elwood added, “we didn’t get enough of it and we certainly didn’t get enough of it in the second half.”

It’s easy to complicate a simple game, but when possession and weight is stacked against you, the result is a constant.

Careful now: It’s Warren G’s slippery Lions ladder

In pictures: Our Heineken Cup Team of the Week

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