Six Nations: Stats tell tale of Ireland superiority
ANALYSES: Jan de Koning turns to the numbers to find reasons for Ireland’s 22-13 win over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
When Ireland and Scotland next go head-to-head – in Yokohama in a World Cup pool match on September 22 – the Irish will know they have the measure of their Celtic cousins.
The Irish were simply more clinical than the Scots, who were prone to sloppy errors when it mattered most – the second half.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw suggested that French referee Romain Poite “did not like them”.
That simply is not true.
Yes, Poite, as we have come to expect, was prone to phantasmagoria and made some off-the-wall decisions that left the Scotland players perplexed.
But the same can be said of Ireland.
Ireland simply dominated possession and once they had a comfortable lead, were happy to sit back and let the error-prone Scottish make all the play.
Scotland vs Ireland: Attacking stats
For starters. Ireland had 60 percent of the possession and 55 percent of the territory.
Add to that Scotland’s high error count – through poor passes, defensive errors and shocking decision-making – which gifted Ireland additional possession.
Scotland’s error count crept up significantly after the half-time break – coughing up hard-earned possession.
They had made 12 handling errors by the 60-minute mark and it didn’t stop there.
A couple of prime examples were Blair Kinghorn dropping a Conor Murray kick cold, with nobody near him, and Fraser Brown failing to hold onto a simple pass at a crucial stage late in the second half.
The penalty count is another pointer to Scotland’s decline in the match.
Scotland conceded just one, and Ireland three, penalties in the first half. However, by the hour mark, Scotland was penalised another six times.
Perhaps you can point to Stuart Hogg’s early departure – after a later charge overlooked by match officials – in the 15th minute, as one of the reasons for Scotland’s failure to make inroads into the Irish defence.
However, for the most part, Ireland dominated possession.
At the end of the first quarter, Ireland had 60 percent of the possession, even though they had barely 50 percent of the territory – playing a lot of rugby inside their own half.
At half-time, the possessions stats had evened out, yet Ireland again dominated after the break and at the hour mark had increased their possession to 60 percent again.
Perhaps Scotland’s decline after the break and their failure to get into the game can be found in the enormous number of tackles they were forced to make.
Scotland No.8 Josh Strauss had made 12 tackles in the first quarter. By the end of the match, he had made a match-high 26 tackles.
He was closely followed by locks Jonny Gray (25 tackles) and Grant Gilchrist (24), as well as flank Jamie Ritchie (23).
In all Scotland made almost 200 tackles and Ireland just 150. Jack Conan (18) and James Ryan (15) were Ireland’s most prolific tacklers.
At half-time, the tackle stats were pretty even, but by the hour mark Scotland had made 160 tackles to Ireland’s 125.
In a nutshell, Scotland’s big men were working themselves to a standstill on defence and it showed in the second half.
The tiring Scots started to waste more opportunities as the game wore on
The surfeit of possession allowed Ireland fullback Rob Kearney to run riot with the ball in hand.
Scotland vs Ireland: The rest of the stats
Kearney made 91 metres from his 13 carries. He beat five defenders and made three clean breaks.
Irish wing Jacob Stockdale was equally prolific – 59 metres from four carries, beating six defenders and making one clean break.
The only Scottish player with significant attacking stats was flyhalf Finn Russell – 54 metres from eight carries, three defenders beaten and one clean break.
Those numbers tell a story all of their own.
By Jan de Koning