Brumbies lineout v Waratahs running
March 12, 2014
The Brumbies host the Waratahs in another big derby fixture, the biggest of the season to date, with the sides having picked up two victories apiece to indicate they are the chief contenders for top billing in the Australian conference. We ignore all the pre-match barbs and talk of 'dobbers' to examine where the match in Canberra on Saturday will be won.
The Canberra side undoubtedly have fonder memories of this fixture in recent times, but last season saw home advantage count in both of the meetings.
Not only did the home side triumph in both games last season, but they did so having dictated possession. That said, the Brumbies may have had more possession in March but it was their attacking quality in the backs that won the game. They made more than twice as many breaks as the Waratahs despite making just 13 more carries. Their defence was also more stringent, and they were rarely threatened despite some indiscipline.
The return bout in Sydney in June was more of an even game, but again the hosts dictated how the ball was used. This time, it was the turn of the Tahs' backline to run their opponents ragged, while their discipline and respect of the ball was good. Their offload game was extensive, and that could well have been a game changer given the extra work it created for the Brumbies defence.
Given the home sides prevailed on both occasions last season, and given the teams have looked good in their starts this season, indications are they are well-matched. We take a look at their season averages from last year to see if this was the case, and compare them to their number for this season to see if we can establish changes in tactics or improvements.
There is little to choose between the sides judged on their average points scored, goal-kicking and tackling, while they were both immense at the scrum. But the Brumbies had the clear edge at the lineout - perhaps due in large part to Ben Mowen, as have noted previously in our comparison of Australia's No.8s - and their set-piece statistically has taken another step up this season. The Tahs typically spent longer in possession of the ball, though, and they were far more effective when it came to breaking the defensive line.
The Brumbies this season have commanded possession for longer, but they are still struggling to match the attacking potency of the Waratahs. The Sydney side have been irresistible so far, and their opponents have been unable to contain them; their average gain of 545 metres is better than any side to have played at least three matches.
The Brumbies' lineout, on both their own throw and when defending, is extremely strong, and we expect them to target this set-piece in Canberra. Will they be able to limit the Waratahs to fewer carries, metres and breaks than they've been accustomed to? That's the question, but they'll need to if they are to make home-ground advantage count.
Follow @OptaJonny, the official Twitter page for Opta's coverage of rugby union and rugby league, and @OptaJason, the official Twitter page for Opta Sports' coverage of sport in Australia and New Zealand.
© Opta Stats
"If England flounder in the next World Cup the knives will be out - six-year contract or not." Tom Hamilton on the new contract for the England coaches
With the deadline for World Cup ticket applications now over, Tom May outlines his hopes, gripes and wishes for next year's global gathering
Floundering Leicester, exquisite Exeter and two old England players tearing up trees - it's the Monday Maul
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship and all the domestic action from the northern hemisphere