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7 key stats from the weekend's Rugby World Cup semi-finals

Tackles, positive carries and line-out steals: every little helps.

FINE MARGINS. EVEN when semi-finals are decided by gaps of 14 points like yesterday’s Australia v Argentina contest, the fine margins and individual efforts make all the difference.

Britain Rugby WCup New Zealand South Africa Source: Christophe Ena

Here are some of the stand-out stats emerging from the weekend’s clash of the world’s best four teams.

Clean breaks hard to come by on Saturday

New Zealand v South Africa was an absorbing contest, but probably wasn’t the best game to tempt in new supporters to this game.

Drew Mitchell gets past Julian Montoya and Santiago Cordero Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Clean breaks were in short supply thanks to the tension and the rain between the All Blacks and Springboks. There were just eight compared to the 20 conjured up by Santiago Cordero (3), Adam Ashley-Cooper (2) and pals yesterday.

Sweet gains, bro

What we love most about the stats on RugbyWorldCup.com is that they put a number on carries across the gainline. After all, there’s a big difference in carrying across the gainline and simply running with the ball in to contact.

Britain Rugby WCup South Africa New Zealand Source: AP/Press Association Images

Facundo Isa was only on the field for 31 minutes against the Wallabies yesterday, but he took full advantage of the tired bodies in front of him, racking up eight positive carries, more than anyone else this weekend. Ma’a Nonu put the ABs on the front foot seven times.

Big tackles from the row

We have a tie for the weekend’s top tackler, but before we hand the unsung hero of Australia’s back row some plaudits, how about a hand for the Springbok second row. Eben Etzebeth (16) and Lood de Jager (14) got through 30 tackles between them.

Britain Rugby WCup Australia Argentina Source: Christophe Ena

Back to the winners’ enclosure where Scott Fardy has an ice pack on after his 16 tackles yesterday, marginally ahead of ex-Leinster lock Kane Douglas who also put in a serious shift to rack up 14.

Wrong side of the ref, right side of the result

Both World Cup finalists will head into this preparation week saying they need to get the penalty count down, but if you can win despite getting penalised twice as often as your opponent why bother?

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Semi Final - South Africa v New Zealand - Twickenham Stadium Source: David Davies

At half-time on Saturday we suggested that the 9 – 3 penalty count against New Zealand would balance up. It didn’t. The All Blacks closed out the narrow two-point win with a chasm between teams on the penalty scene. New Zealand conceded 14 penalties, seven of them in their own half, to just six given away by the ‘Boks.

Argentina also ended up on the losing side after what seems like the minimum penalty score. However, all six of the Pumas’ infractions were in their own half and the one converted by Bernard Foley kept the Wallabies nicely out of striking distance until they managed to pull clear for good.

Seven of the 12 penalties given away by Australia were in their own half and Nicolas Sanchez kicked five of them.

Set-piece steals

We can see above that the Springboks were forced to make many more tackles than New Zealand – the full stat was 131 to 83 – and the Kiwis’ targeting of the ‘Bok line-out was a big factor in that.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Semi Final - South Africa v New Zealand - Twickenham Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

New Zealand’s line-out functioned smoothly and in defence they stole four balls from what is usually considered a South African stronghold. They shared the duty of spoiling the ‘Bok ball too, with Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read all poaching one apiece in the air.

King David

If Australia pull off a shock next week then David Pocock is a shoe-in for player of the tournament and the year. Maybe he should get the gongs anyway.

Britain Rugby WCup Australia Argentina Source: Christophe Ena

The Wallaby captain was magnificent again yesterday, not only making 13 of Australia’s 142 tackles, but also scoring double the number of turnovers anyone else managed this weekend.

Richie McCaw and Francois Louw managed two apiece but Pocock is, quite simply, the king of the breakdown and his four turnovers against Argentina will have Steve Hansen devising a plan to counter-act his brilliance as we speak.

Living large in Pommie Land!

New Zealand will be favourites in the final and they’ve even managed to break Australia’s World Cup hoodoo (albeit on home soil four years ago) but the Wallabies have won two World Cups in Britain.

So, because nobody has ever lost a match on the way to winning the Webb Ellis Cup, Scott Allen’s assertion that they are unbeaten in Britain is spot on.

You can expand it to Rugby World Cup matches in Britain AND Ireland if you prefer.

Here’s The42′s Team of the RWC semi-finals

Finishing was the easy part, AAC’s tries were thanks to three sensational assists

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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