Stats show forward platform key

Zingari-Richmond prop Chris Preddy passes the ball to hooker Karl Still while being tackled by...
Zingari-Richmond prop Chris Preddy passes the ball to hooker Karl Still while being tackled by Dunedin fullback Cameron Hay at Kettle Park last Saturday. Photo: Linda Robertson.
How many times have you heard someone say "It all starts up front"?

It gets VERY tiresome and it has always seemed overly simplistic. There is more to rugby than a couple of big bookends and a lanky lock or two, right? Or is there?

The good folk at  Otago Polytechnic have been braving the elements each Saturday and have produced some interesting statistics from the games they have covered.

Some of the information contained on their spreadsheets will not come as a huge surprise.

Everybody with even a passing interest in premier rugby could tell you Southern has a mighty pack this season.

The statistics have validated that assumption. The Magpies have the most accurate set pieces in the competition. In the 10 Southern games the team from Otago Polytechnic has covered, the men from Bathgate Park have snaffled 88.57% of their own lineout ball and 98.21% of their scrum ball.

With that success, it is probably no coincidence they lead the competition with 45 points.

Josh Clark is one of the best lineout forwards in the tournament, and Craig Millar and Hisa Sasagi have set a solid platform for the likes of No8 Mika Mafi to launch.

That dominance up front has also given talented first five-eighth Josh Ioane the few extra seconds he has needed to kick his side into prime attacking position. And the statistics suggest the teams which kick more often get better results.Southern averages 14.8 kicks in play a match. Only Harbour (17.3), Dunedin (15.4) and Alhambra-Union (15.3) average more.

Harbour and Dunedin are firmly entrenched in the top four, while Alhambra-Union is in fifth place.

Kaikorai (fourth place) is bucking the trend. It averages a competition-low 13.3 kicks in play a game from the seven games measured.

Alhambra-Union is another team which defies some of the statistics. It has the second-worst lineout in the competition with a success rate of 75.31% (eight games measured), and the lowest scrum percentage success rate of 83.02%.

Only Taieri has performed worse in the lineouts with a dismal 71.60% success rate (eight games measured).

You might think goal-kicking is hugely important but success from the kicking tee is no guarantee of reward.

Thomas Johnson has been deadly for Zingari-Richmond. He has helped boot his side to a competition-high 78.38% success rate (eight games measured) yet the Colours languish in eighth place.

Dunedin, which has one of the form teams in the competition, has been just terrible, landing 44.90% of its shots at goal (seven games measured).

Harbour is performing well in most of the key statistics but it lets itself with its poor discipline. It concedes an average of 12.1 penalties a game but both University (12.4) and Zingari-Richmond (12.8) infringe more regularly, while Taieri is the best behaved, with an average of 8.6 penalties a game.

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