Territory and Tries: Data Exploration

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dan-carter1-1200PHILADELPHIA, PA – It is time for the first Rugby Wrap Up data review from World Cup action.  In addition to looking at the tries from the first 8 matches, we’ll introduce a new stat.  This new stat is part of the desire to better understand the decisions and outcomes from penalties.

The stat is Territory Gained Average (TGA) and its sibling Adjusted Territory Gained Average (ATGA).

TGA measures kicks to touch from a penalty.  The mark for the penalty is recorded.  The spot of the lineout is recorded.  The territory the team gains from the kick is then a matter of simple subtraction.

When teams are looking to apply pressure from a lineout, or when the game is really away from them and they are desperate to end with a try, they will kick to touch relatively close to the try line.  A player who is kicking to touch from 5 meters out will do precisely the job asked of him and still gain 0 meters of territory, for example.  The adjustment in ATGA is removing from the average kicks taken with 25 meters of the attacking try line.

Errors like kicking to touch when you think the game is over but it really isn’t (Hello, Georgia!) and not finding touch at all are not removed.  The brain and the boot factor into the ATGA.

Here is what we can see from the first 8 matches.

Follow this link to the interactive chart and you can sort the information however you’d like and hover over each team to see the number of kicks (still working on the successful embed).


In terms of individual players, Scott Spedding is a man with a reputation for a big boot and he has a personal ATGA of 31.6.  That is near the top, so far, but Dan Carter is right there with him 31.7.  The Argentinians had a great day of punting, but from the televised match, it isn’t entirely clear which kicks were taken by Nicolas Sanchez and which by Juan Martin Hernandez.  We will adjust their individual TGA if we can confirm those kicks.

In terms of total meters gained, 5 of the top 6 teams  won.  Japan had the least territory gained, but also had the top ATGA.

Rhys Priestland is the current anchor for ATGA at 20.5.  His average was hurt by a kick which did not find touch.  He was not alone in that regard.  A touch-finder that doesn’t find touch receives a territory score of 0.

As the tournament moves toward the quarter finals, it will be interesting to see if team ATGA is correlated with wins.  It will also be interesting to see which individual player ends with the highest personal ATGA.

Here is a look at the tries scored so far.  Click on this link for the interactive chart.  Sort by team or by start of possession.  Hover over the triangle for more information.

RWC tries

All teams are attacking left-to-right in this graphic.

The larger the triangle, the more phases leading to the try.  Tonga had the longest build up with 19 phases.  The average number of phases was 3.8.

The average starting distance for a possession that ended with a try was 28.9 meters from the try line.

Even without doing any sorting, the thing that the chart shows is how empty the middle of the field is.  All of the triangles on the touchline are tries that started with a lineout.  In the first 8 matches, there have been 41 tries.  25 of those tries started with lineouts.

Surely, that rate cannot continue.  Can it?

The graphic also reinforces the value of territory.  And if territory is valuable, then a team’s and player’s ATGA seems pretty important as well.

All data collected by me and by Somye Goyal who has joined the Rugby Wrap Up cause of data collection and analysis.  Plan to hear more directly from Somye soon!

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About Jake Frechette 125 Articles
Jake Frechette lives outside of Philly, where he is engrossed enough in rugby that he sometimes forgets that when he talks about the Eagles, most people assume he means the NFL flock. He once played both tight head and inside center in the same game, which shows that he is strong, handsome and has nice hair. One of the things he finds most enjoyable in the rugby world is that Andrew Hore is a Hooker and he can't wait until his sons are old enough to giggle at that one with him.