Trying times?

Still getting over the Knights’ comeback of the season.

Three minutes to go and Sisa Waqa scores his fourth try for the Storm to take their lead out to 30-20. Then Travis Waddell scores for Newcastle under the posts in the 78th leaving maybe not even two minutes to score a try to tie – converted try to win.

No problem. Akuila Uate scores in the corner and Kurt Gidley knocks over the conversion.

Biggest comeback of the season? Maybe.  To be fair, the Sharks downing Brisbane after being down 22-0 with 27 minutes remaining could be more improbable haven gone pointless in their previous three games.

But still I was left wondering how hard it is two score two tries in three minutes. Turns out that right now games are running at 7.27 tries per game. Being kind that makes for about a 1/20  chance of a team scoring in any minute of the game.

It’s debatable just how long the Knights had between scoring the first and second try but pretty much it was turn around and score again within a minute. Roughly speaking, I’m sticking with a super tough one-in-four hundred chance of winning from where the Knights were – and that’s assuming Gidley makes the kick.

I got a bit worried about where in the game teams score tries. My sample of the last 50 odd games shows it’s surprisingly even over the 80 minutes. The last ten shows more tries as teams tire.

NRL try scoring picks up a little in the game’s last ten minutes

triesLong may the Warriors try-scoring streak continue

But the stat I love the most is that the Warriors are in the middle of a 121 game streak – scoring at least one try since early March 2010. Long may it continue! 121 games without going tryless


The long and winding road to the super 15 playoffs

Looking forward to a cracking final but thought I’d take a look back through the season and see just how long and windy that road is.

Sharks were in the box seat for the lion’s share of the season before the Waratahs over-hauled them. And at the wrong end of the table, the Rebels just flatlined with six games to go.

Click on the image below to get the full monty interactive version. Select game 1 and press move through the season. Oh, and feel free to select each conference on its own to see how the competition within the competition played out.

Winding road

Drilling into the individual team performances is intriguing too. A second visualisation allows you to point and click through the blow-by-blow for each team . It’s all set up to show the streaks vs the losses and just who were the bogey team for your favourite side. Again click through for the visualisation.

One game at a time

Next week, time for rugby league.


Playoff time: home sweet home?

How much does home advantage count come the Super 15 playoffs?

Phew. Super 15 has made it to the business end of the season. Some 120 games and 546 tries later we know the four semi-finalists.

There’s no doubting the Super 15 schedule is arduous. For sure. But the fact of the matter is some teams get a raw deal. They have to play much more fancied teams while others get to play the Reds and the Rebels every other day of the week.

That makes calculating just who is the best team in the league a bit tricky and that includes working out just how much playing at home means over the course of the season.

Do the Crusaders really put the opposition to the sword at home?

We do the numbers by predicting points scored by each team in every match over the season and let the data tell us how much playing at home matters.

What do we find? Playing at home makes for  a nine-point head start on the opposition. Go the home fans!

Brumbies grow an arm and leg at home, the Crusaders not so much

OK, but not every team did so well at home. The table below shows that of teams still in the comp the Waratahs have the best home record although the oppositions was comparatively easy – no Crusaders and no Sharks.

We think the Waratahs get about six points from home advantage not the nine that other teams get. The Waratahs win at home because they are a good side not simply because they are playing at Allianz.


But the Brumbies are just like Antaeus – they can win at home but can’t win (well, much) away from home soil. We calculate a whopping 20 point home advantage for Canberra across 2014 compared to if they played the same side away.

The Sharks profit from playing at home but only by a single penalty. The reason? Stirling away form that saw them suffer only three losses and beat the Crusaders away.

The Cruaders? Statistically home advantage took 4 points off the Crusaders at home. Could be something to do with all them horses.

What does that all mean for the weekend?

The Brumbies to lose – not just because NSW are at home but because the Waratahs are the better side.

And the Crusaders? Don’t put down your house on them winning at home. Home form has been woeful and the Sharks classy away  – and not just at Rugby League Park.

Whatever the result, we can look forward to some spectacular rugby this weekend!




posted by Kirdan Lees

The 6 best Super 15 teams – are they in the playoffs?

Super 15 rugby – one weird comp

Super 15 rugby is more than a little strange. Each team plays 16 games a season but not every other team in the competition.

Instead the kiwi teams bash themselves silly playing every other New Zealand team in local derbies while the Aussies get an armchair ride to the finals by beating the Rebels and the Reds week after week.

Super Rugby Rd 15 - Blues v Sharks

Take the Crusaders for example. No game against the Waratahs or Bulls. But home and away against the ‘Canes, Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs. That makes it far from clear who the best team in the comp is from simply reading the table.

So we run the numbers, playing close attention to just who plays who over the course of the season. We use our in-house method that assesses performance across wins, points scored and bonus points achieve. Other methods are certainly possible such as using a probit model which Seamus Hogan uses here at offsetting behaviour.


Our findings?

The ‘tahs come out tops but the Hurricanes move up into a playoff slot. The reason?  One of the hardest draws in the comp including playing (and beating) the Crusaders twice and playing the ‘tahs and the Sharks away from home.


Strongest conference?

New Zealand. By a country mile. The Sport Loves Data ranking system gives 0 as a par score. Do better than that and you punch above your weight. Our system accounts for who plays who, and shows  the kiwi teams are all average or better, making the New Zealand conference the hardest in the super 15.


posted by Kirdan Lees