GREENWICH, CT – The race between Ohio and Denver for the Pro Rugby Championship is in its final weeks and both teams had strong showing this past weekend. The Aviators are now on a 5 game winning streak and the Stampede are making a final attempt to regain the top spot in the league standings. Let’s break down the matches by the numbers, but first check out our handy-dandy PRO Rugby Stats Glossary:
- Average Penalty Points (APP) – Number of times points are scored off of penalties in the attacking half of the field divided by total penalties awarded in attacking side
- Defensive Hold Average (DHA) – Number of times a team repels its opponent within it’s own 22 meter divided by the number of times opponent enters within 22 meter line.
- Red Zone Point Average (RPA) – Number of times a team gets points when it goes inside the 22 meter line divided by the number of time that team is inside the 22 meter line.
- Attacking Plays – Offloads plus line breaks plus runs >20 meters plus plays of >50 meters
- Penalty Difference – Penalties awarded divided by penalties conceded
- Turnovers – Times the ball changes possession not including penalties. Ex. counter ruck, interception, stolen lineout, etc.
The Aviators hit the road to take on the Express at Bonney Field on Saturday. Ohio played in its typical fashion of utilizing its dangerous wings, Spike Davis and Alex Elkins who had 3 tries combined. In the second half, the Aviators took off and touched down for 7 tries on the day. Once again Ohio played very efficiently on offense with a 67% RPA and 18 attacking plays with most of those points coming from its 8 runs of >20 meters. The Aviator’s 5 offloads and 4 line breaks opened up the defense for the ball carriers to fly into open space. However, Ohio did have an unimpressive penalty differential of -9 which kept Sacramento in the game in the second half. The Express had a significantly lower APP of 20% compared to Ohio’s 33% which accounts for why Sacramento was not able to pounce on the Ohio’s few error this game.
Midway through the second half, the Aviators were up by 31 points but the momentum shifted and Sacramento finished the game with tries in the 66’, 69’, and 74’ minutes. This closed the gap, but it was not enough as the Aviators finished ahead 41-31. Throughout the game, Sacramento was in the red zone on two more occasions than Ohio, but its RPA was 45% compared to the Aviator’s 67%. It’s all about finishing in rugby.
The Stampede rushed out for its biggest win of the season on Sunday against the Breakers. Denver was on the attack the entire game and there was little San Diego could do to hold back the Stampede’s 9 tries by 5 different players. As usual Denver’s forwards were dangerous and set the tone for the game with some devastating runs. The Stampede registered 23 attacking plays but what was most impressive was the 3 >50 meter plays it had which is tied for the most in the league in the past 7 weeks. With 6 line breaks, it seemed that Denver was constantly putting San Diego on its back foot. Once the Stampede got into the red zone, they were nearly unstoppable with at 70% RPA. Denver also had a strong defensive match with a 43% DHA and it had a turnover differential of +7. While was a complete team win by Denver, 19-year-old USA U20 captain Hanco Germishuys really stood out this match. He was a physical runner and played solid defense. Denver easily took the 59-23 decisions.
San Diego just was not able to get the momentum rolling this game. It had moments where it was able to capitalize on Denver’s few mistakes like the ill-advised kick that the Breakers ran back in the 49th minute. However, after the kickoff, Denver always responded with a try to put a lid on any possible comeback. San Diego was not able to hold back the Stampede on defense with only a 30% DHA in Denver’s 10 times inside the red zone. What will always kills a team is it’s turnover differential, and this week San Diego was at -7. In the past 7 weeks, the team that had the positive penalty differential won the game 10 out of 11 times. In this game of efficiency, a negative turnover differential will crush your chances.
Denver surfed past the Breakers in an attempt to try to catch up to the soaring Aviators. San Diego will travel north to take on San Francisco this weekend in an attempt to end its 5 game losing streak. However, I’m going to put my money on San Francisco. The Express put up a good fight against the league’s #1 team and almost made a comeback against a very good defense. When a team has momentum on its side I tend to get behind them and I make no exception for Denver coming off it’s big win when it takes on Sacramento. I think that Denver’s forwards will be able to control the game and win the turnover battle.
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