Glasgow Warriors v Ulster, PRO14 playoffs 2018/19: Team stats head to head

Friday’s PRO14 playoff semi-final between Glasgow Warriors and Ulster is fast approaching so here’s On Top Of The Moon’s guide to how the two teams’ key stats stack up against each other (and the rest of the league).

NB Stats only include regular season PRO14 matches and are the average per game unless otherwise stated.

83 (2nd in PRO14)   Total tries for   58 (9th in PRO14)
48 (3rd)   Total tries against   54 (5th=)
80% (2nd)   Kick success rate  77% (6th)

Glasgow have broken their club record for tries scored in a league campaign for the second season running. The high octane style introduced under Gregor Townsend and refined during Dave Rennie’s tenure is key to this. Of late there’s been a bit more of an edge to the Warriors though and with the forwards upping their contribution to 33% of tries scored (from 27% last year) there’s a sense that the club have the ability to go through teams as well as around them.

Opposition sides have scored just 17 tries in 11 PRO14 matches at Scotstoun this season. Despite that the Glasgow coaches will be well aware that but for late interventions by Tommy Seymour, Ulster would have had a couple more when they travelled to Danes Drive back in April. The defensive intensity will need to go up another couple of notches now that the playoffs have arrived.

462 (1st)   Metres run   433 (4th)
10.9 (1st)
  Clean breaks   9.6 (3rd)
25.1 (1st)   Defenders beaten   23.5 (3rd)
14.0 (12th)   Turnovers conceded   12.8 (9th)

Dave Rennie asked for an improvement in the number of turnovers and they have come down from 17.2 per game last season. It’s still a work in progress though. Even allowing for the fact that the Warriors have more possession than most teams they would still only be a middle-ranking side for turnovers per carry – and coughing up the ball 28% more often than Leinster who are top dogs for this stat.

Ulster’s numbers illustrate that it’s not lack of opportunity or ability to stress a defence that has constrained their relatively low number of tries. Without some key men their forwards have struggled a little bit to finish opportunities close in. With Henderson, Coetzee and Best all in situ though their pack is a different beast and Glasgow will have their work cut out to get the ball back off a team who like to retain possession and play lots of phases.

139 (6th)   Tackles made   160 (12th)
87.5% (10th)   Tackle completion   88.2% (5th)
8.7 (10th)
  Clean breaks conceded   7.8 (3rd)

There’s been a bit of a shift in the clean breaks conceded numbers for Glasgow. Last season they gave up the fewest per match in the league but their opponents have been averaging 3 more line breaks a game during 2018/19. That’s an area that will need to be tidied up against the heavy-hitting centre pairing and lightning quick back 3 that Ulster are likely to field.

Both these teams are capable of putting together long attritional phases of tackling but ultimately neither is among the very best defensive sides in the league. Even with the history of playoff matches suggesting they may be at a premium it still feels like there will be some tries in this game.

97.3% (2nd)   Ruck success (own ball)   97.1% (3rd)
3.9% (3rd)   Ruck success (opposition ball)   3.0% (10th)
91.7% (6th)   Maul success (own ball)   93.1% (3rd)
16.8% (1st)   Maul success (opposition ball)   8.8% (8th)

Neither of these teams is likely to be starting with a traditional jackalling openside (although both should have masters of the art at hooker). Turnovers are likely to be at a premium and instead there will be a contest to see who can keep as many men off the floor at the breakdown (or get back to their feet quickest) to win the numbers battle in attack v defence.

Glasgow’s maul has been transformed from last season when they had a success rate of less than 80% on their own ball. They’ve also been the top side in the league for disrupting their opponents. Interestingly all four of the Irish sides are below average for turning over mauls which suggests their approach is more likely to be to try and bring it to a halt and force the opposition to play rather than risk penalties by getting to the ball.

87.7% (14th)   Scrum success (own ball)   95.2% (4th)
8.7% (5th)   
Scrum success (opposition ball)   12.2% (1st)
87.0% (10th)   Lineout success (own ball)   85.1% (11th)
14.0% (5th)
   Lineout success (opposition ball)   8.9% (13th)

The scrum numbers feel a little counter intuitive with Glasgow slipping from 3rd best (statistically) last season but, when at their peak, having looked much stronger during the current campaign. There’s been an improvement against the feed though which suggests the issue isn’t power but a little bit of technique and possibly even just painting the right picture for the officials. Oli Kebble in particular has had some dominant nights at scrum time but also games where he has attracted a number of penalties.

Neither Glasgow nor Ulster have particularly great lineouts. The advantage may well go to whichever side can keep their error count lower in this facet of the game. Certainly both teams will want to attack off lineout ball so every lost throw will really rankle the respective coaching staffs!

8.7 (6th)   Penalties conceded   8.3 (4th)
10.0 (2nd=)
  Penalties won   10.0 (2nd=)
5 (3rd)   Total yellow cards   10 (8th)

Both teams have also had 1 red card each. These are definitely not the league’s bad boys so it will be interesting to see how referee Mr. Lacey approaches the game on Friday night. Will he just let the game flow and let the two teams sort things out?

The keys to the game then for Glasgow:

  • Turnover count as close to single figures as possible
  • Disrupt Ulster rucks to stop them dominating possession
  • Win the scrum battle
  • Minimal errors at the lineout
  • No cards

Ultimately all these points come down to the simple goal of allowing Glasgow to play their game – and score tries. It will be a tough test and the crowd will need to do their bit to get maximum benefit from being at home and give the Warriors the best chance of making next week’s final.

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