With the new PRO14 campaign just getting into it’s stride On Top Of The Moon takes a look at some of the key individual stats from last season. A new number each day to cover defence, attack, work rate, discipline and scoring for the top performers in the league from 2017/18 – and the danger men for 2018/19.
First up is the defensive side of the game and the percentage of successful tackles made. Across the season 713 players played 352,744 minutes, attempting 43,870 tackles and completing 86% of them. Here are the top 10 for each area of the teams:
Edinburgh got some pretty decent service out of the short-term presences of Michele Rizzo and Jordan Lay – which eased the pain of having 4 Scotland-capped loosehead props out injured! In general the big lads who hold up the scrum racked up high tackle completion rates. This was in no small part due to spending most of the time defending pick and goes from fellow front rowers who are normally just looking to get to ground for another breather anyway…
The freakish consistency of Jonny Gray endures no matter the competition. PRO14, Champions Cup, Test rugby – it’s all the same to the Glasgow and Scotland lock. Across his entire career he’s only missed 36 tackles (out of 1,625 attempted). The three certainties in life are death, taxes and the younger Gray making his tackles.
12 out of 20 names from the lists covering the back 5 of the pack are players from Welsh clubs. Coincidence? Or the trickle down effect of coaching and standard setting at the national team level (take a bow Sean Edwards) that has elevated stifling defensive pressure to an art-form.
Out of 60 names on these lists Oliver Zono is the only player from a South African club to feature. This may well be one of the key differences between Northern and Southern hemisphere rugby writ large with the Springboks and their supplying entities possibly seduced by the run and gun style favoured in New Zealand. Success against European clubs may require a bit of a reversion to more traditional South African blood and guts (and not slipping off tackles).
It’s become a well-worn trope in the last couple of seasons – but how good is Hadleigh Parkes? His decision-making, distribution and game-breaking interventions get most of the plaudits. In an era when being good in either attack or defence can be enough to make a player a superstar (and mostly it’s the attention-grabbing stuff going forward) the Scarlets’ centre is an old-fashioned all-rounder and great on both sides of the ball.
Wingers and full backs tend to get a hard time when it comes to tackle percentage. They’re always going to be the most exposed one on one though and if they’re having to make a lot of hits it’s probably a sign that the defence is breaking down further in – Connacht in particular can be relieved that Matt Healy was so consistent.
So what would a team look like if it was purely set up just to tackle anything that moved? Taking the top performer in tackle completion % in the PRO14 for each position would give a XV like this:
Minimum qualification – 240 minutes played
Stats source – http://espn.co.uk match reports