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Looking at some of the details of the 2018 Americas Rugby Championship reveals how and why the USA Eagles were able to win all five matches and reclaim the trophy.
Here are some of the most noteworthy details:
- The Eagles both scored the most tries in the tournament and conceded the fewest.
- The Eagles were the highest scoring team, overall, in the last 20 minutes of matches.
- The Eagles had the best lineout both in terms of winning the lineout, and in turning lineout possession into tries.
Here are the final standings for the tournament.
The nine tries in their final match, against Uruguay, meant that the Eagles came within one of matching last year’s 29 try total.
The final standings match up according to tries scored for the top four teams, but not for the bottom two teams: Brazil and Chile. Despite losing to Brazil, Chile did score two tries to Brazil’s one. Chile’s struggles in the tournament were more in defense than attack.
The six tries from scrum possession and three tries from quick taps is a reflection of how Argentina XV played overall. Beyond the dominant scrum platform, the Argentina XV played an open, up-tempo style.
The USA scored the most tries in the last quarter of matches: eight. This is a continuation of a trend that suggests either USA is fitter than the other ARC sides or deeper. Hopefully, it is a combination of both.
It is worth noting that while Uruguay scored six tries from turnovers, a fair indication of attacking skill, the side also conceded seven tries from turnovers.
As stated above, the Americans had the best lineout in the tournament both in terms of winning the lineout, and in turning lineout possession into tries. Additionally, the Eagles's defensive lineout was the most disruptive. They stole 23% of opposition lineouts.
Throughout the tournament, there were 95 lineouts taken from the 22 or closer. The possessions that came from those 95 lineouts led directly to 26 tries. That means that the average return from those lineouts is 1.4 points, excluding conversions. The Eagle performed better than that, with 1.8 points returned per lineout.
The Americans had the most attacking lineouts withing 40 meters and were also most likely to score from an attacking lineout within 40 meters.
Taking all things into account, the worst scrum of the tournament was Chile’s, while Argentina XV’s scrum was comfortably the best.
Yes, Canada was able to win 95% of its own scrums, but also ended with a negative Plus/Minus over the five games. The scrum plus/minus is all penalties and tightheads won minus penalties conceded and scrum feeds lost. The best scrum provides the strongest attacking platform while also providing the most trouble on opposition feeds. That was Argentina XV.
One surprise was the relative inconsistency of the Uruguay scrum. While the success rate on attacking scrums was low for Uruguay, the side still finished firmly on the positive side of the Plus/Minus rating.
Penalties and Kicking
For the USA, the lineout was good; execution following penalties won in the attacking half was better. Through the five matches, the Eagles scored 2.58 points per penalty won in their attacking half--best in the tournament, but also high when compared to past USA performances. That 2.58 points per penalty is one measure indicating how well the Eagles turned pressure, in the form of winning penalties, into points
Canada was the side with the best discipline, conceding the fewest penalties overall, including in the opposition's attacking half.
The goalkicking remains at a relatively low standard. The kicking average, tournament-wide, was 71.4%. No individual kicker with more the five attempts stood out as all that impressive.
One of the things of note is how relatively few penalty goal attempts there are in the ARC. Part of this comes from lopsided score lines, which themselves are connected to less-than stout defenses. There were 50 penalty goals attempted. For comparison, there were 86 penalty goals attempted in the 2017 Six Nations, a tournament with exactly the same number of matches. Brazil, without trust in an ability to score tries, kicked the most penalty goal attempts: 13. Of the 63 points Brazil scored in the tournament, 27, 43%, came from penalty goals. That is the highest percentage in the tournament.
Only kickers with three or fewer attempts kicked at a rate better than 75%.
Below is an interactive map of the kicks from the 2018 ARC.