Stat Attack: Round Three, 2016

By Pete Fairbairn, 09.03.16

Welcome back to Stat Attack, a new feature RUPA has introduced in 2016 where we look at our members’ performance in the Super Rugby competition with more than a little help from our friends at Opta Sports.

Following two rounds of competition, the Brumbies lead the Australian conference with two wins, ahead of the Rebels, Waratahs and Western Force on one apiece with the Reds looking to taste their first victory this Saturday night in Melbourne.

The Waratahs have a bye this weekend, with the Rebels hosting their first match at AAMI Park for 2016 and the Brumbies away from the comforts of home for the first time this year; let’s preview both games by the numbers!

Western Force vs. Brumbies, Friday March 11th, 22:05 AEDT - #FORvBRU

As if coming into the game on top of the competition ladder wasn’t enough for the Brumbies, they also boast an enviable record against the hosts having won seven of their last eight matches, including four in a row. However they come up against a buoyant Force team led by Jono Lance, kicking at 100% for his new team, and a scrum that’s ranked amongst the best in the competition.

Both these sides have great records for turnovers per game, with Scott Fardy individually leading the way for the Brumbies with 5 but the Force coming off a mammoth 14 turnovers against the Reds, led by Matt Hodgson and Solomoni (Junior Rasolea) with 3 apiece.

Speedster Semisi Masirewa (78 and 6) led the way out wide for the Force last week, clocking up some serious metres and beating defenders seemingly at will, while Dane Haylett-Petty had an equal team-high 11 carries for the Force against the Reds. They’ll need Haylett-Petty and Masirewa to again step up against the Brumbies, as well as last week’s lone try scorer Luke Morahan, with the back three crucial if the home side has a chance of reaching 30 points for the first time ever against the Brumbies.

In the Brumbies corner, Joe Tomane is one of five players to share the competition in clean breaks and is second overall for offloads, and last week he scored a try of his own and set one up as well. Lance may be kicking beautifully to be equal highest point-scorer in the competition with 34, but Christian Lealiifano is just behind him on 32.

He’s attempted more shots than any other player, with the Brumbies having scored a competition high 11 tries (3 more than any other team). 4 of those tries have come after 7 or more phases, so the Force will need to ensure they maintain concentration as the patient visitors attempt to grind them down.

Melbourne Rebels vs. Reds, Saturday March 12th, 19:45 AEDT - #REBvRED

The Rebels have only ever beaten the Reds once at AAMI Park, securing a 23-15 win last season, and come into this match on the back of a 45-25 defeat against the Bulls in Pretoria on the weekend. They will, however, take plenty of momentum from a second half comeback which saw them score 22 of the final 25 points, Ben Meehan snaring a double.

The Reds went down 22-6 to the Western Force in Brisbane on Saturday, however for the second straight week they were impressive in the set piece. Their lineout is operating at a competition-high 97% and their scrum at 100%, with second year hooker Andrew Ready hoping to keep the momentum going in what looms as his first Super Rugby start following injury to Saia Fainga’a.

The Rebels are averaging a competition-high 12 turnovers per game, with former Red Adam Thomson one of the leaders in that area: he is one of up to 6 former Reds likely to be in action for the home team alongside James Hanson, Meehan, Jonah Placid, Dom Shipperley and Laurie Weeks, while Cadeyrn Neville is likely to become just the second ever former Rebel to represent the Reds against his old team after Jono Owen (2014).

For what it’s worth, a further 9 players have played for the Rebels having first represented the Reds: Rodney Blake, Adam Byrnes, Sam Cordingley, Mike Harris, Scott Higginbotham, Julian Huxley, Lloyd Johansson, Richard Kingi and Radike Samo, with the majority of them playing against their former franchise.

Harris is one of many Rebels unlikely to be available for this game as a sizeable injury list means that the Melbourne side have already used 27 players this season, with only Tom English, Mitch Inman, Luke Jones and Thomson playing the full 160 minutes in the opening rounds! The Reds also have just four players to have played every minute of their campaign: Chris Feauai-Sautia, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi and Jake Schatz.

Last week he was tied for the mark, but heading into Round Three Reds backrower Hendrik Tui is the outright competition leader for carries per game, with 30 across the two games. He and Kerevi were the only Reds in double figures for carries last weekend as the Force starved the hosts of the ball, while the Rebels had four players reach that mark in Pretoria: English, Inman, Sean McMahon and Jonah Placid.

McMahon (17), Inman (11) and Steve Cummins (10) all reached double figures for tackles as well, with the latter two at a 100% success rate, but a total of 26 missed tackles made it tough for the Rebels as they conceded six tries.

The Rebels stats suggest they are slow starters, yet to score a try in the opening 20 minutes of a game this year, however they finish well with a strong bench helping them keep the opposition out in the final 20 minutes. The Reds ‘ best work has come directly after half time; they’ve not conceded a try between the 40 and 60 minute marks, and scored their only try of the campaign thus far during this time in Round One.

Historically, the Rebels have led the Reds at the half time break on four occasions but have never won from that position with both their wins against the Reds coming after being level at the break; the start of the second stanza looms as crucial in the outcome of this clash.

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Pete Fairbairn
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