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The Eagles looked much sharper in attack winning the Can-Am trophy and scoring four tries on Saturday than against the Argentina XV in round one. With the first two rounds of the 2018 Americas Rugby Championship complete, there are some more numbers to look at
Here is the table after six matches:
The Eagles in getting to the top of the table continued the trend of out-scoring the opposition in the final 20 minutes, this time with an 8-0 edge over Canada. However, they were outdone by Argentina XV, who outscored Chile 14-0 in the final quarter, and by Uruguay, who controlled the end of the match against Brazil to the score of 17-0. From an American perspective, though, the positive trend, which suggests fitness and depth, continues.
Last week, I noted that the Eagles were not their sharpest on first-phase attack, including from lineouts. Round two was quite different. The Eagles had three attacking lineouts inside 40 meters against Canada, and all three led to points.
The first was early in the match, and the Eagles mauled 20 meters--into the Canadian 22--setting up Nate Augspurger’s opening try of the match. The second attacking lineout inside 40 meters was not until the second half. In the first phase, the Eagles moved the ball 10 meters over the gainline, again into the 22, and, again, set up a try. The third opportunity led indirectly to a try. After several phases, Will Hooley chipped into the Canadian 22 where the Eagles then immediately won the ball back leading to the second try for Ryan Matyas.
Three lineouts within 40 meters, and seven total lineouts, in a match is not a lot. However, the results the Eagles extracted from those chances are excellent.
Here is the information for the tries scored so far in the ARC.
Chile's two tries from lineout were both long-rang, each starting in the defensive half.
The goal with any statistics should be understanding. There have been too few scrums in this ARC to quantitatively understand the difference in effectiveness between the Eagles' starters and replacements. Against Canada, the replacements did not struggle, and there was no change in outcomes when James Hilterbrand replaced Joe Taufete’e. However, against Argentina XV, there was a key penalty conceded at a scrum with the replacements all on. Huluholo Muongaloa and Angus MacLellan only made it onto the field in the eighty-second minute, and that was time enough for Argentina XV to try and steal the match via scrummaging.
Below are figures for each side for both attacking and defensive scrums. Additionally, there is the plus/minus rating for each team. The scrum plus/minus is all penalties and tightheads won minus penalties conceded and scrum feeds lost.
Looking at the plus/minus from scrums, the strongest performance through two rounds is the Argentina XV. While the Eagles have a good success rate and are winning their own feeds, on opposition feeds, they have won no penalties and conceded three. That is an important factor in the negative rating. Meanwhile, Uruguay’s success rate on its own feed is relatively poor; however, the team has won six penalties from scrums and conceded two.
All of the teams have lineouts functioning reasonably well. Looking at both success on attacking lineouts and minimizing success of the opposition, Canada has the strongest lineout through two rounds.
Overall, through the first two rounds, there have been 12 attacking lineouts within 10 meters, and those have led to four tries. That is a try every three lineouts. That rate is slightly higher than expected. Brazil, in defeating Chile and losing to Uruguay, has not had any attacking lineouts inside 10 meters in two matches. They did have one lineout 11 meters out, and that led to a try. If Brazil is going to win another match in the tournament, that scarcity of lineout attacking opportunities must change.
The shifting rosters of the teams throughout the tournament make round-to-round comparisons tricky. However, these roster fluctuations have been part of the ARC since its first year and will likely continue indefinitely. The performance of a national side is always influenced by player availability and the balance between short- and long-term objectives. In that respect, the ARC is like most other international tournaments.