Sunday, 27 September 2015

England 25 Wales 28

It seems churlish to distill down the most engrossing contest of the Rugby World Cup so far to a kicking contest, but so committed were the defence of both England and Wales that the try line was only breached once by each team and so kicking ultimately decided the fate of the first heavy weight encounter of rugby's initial experience of a "Group of Death".

Dan Biggar, a world class kicker with club and less often for country, save in the absence of Leigh Halfpenny was perfect from his seven penalty attempts and one conversion, while England's Owen Farrell was equally flawless from five penalties, a drop goal and a single conversion.

But the lingering controversy surrounds the penalty kick that never was from the right hand touch line, just outside the 22 which would have given Farrell the opportunity to kick the sides level with minutes remaining.

Instead England attempted to emulate, but failed to follow Japan's lead by kicking for the corner and the win, perhaps mindful of Wales' tendency to grasp defeat from glorious victory late in matches against the world's elite.

The generic chance of a kicker to succeed from where Farrell was required to kick the potential game tying penalty was around 60%, but Saracen's fly half raises the bar to just under 74% and until rugby stats become more widely available, we may only guess at how a points expectancy of 2.25 points from a touchline kick weighs up against a less likely haul of five or possibly seven points from a five metre lineout.

Ladies and gentlemen, your kicker for this evening.....Daniel Biggar.
Robshaw's decision to try to grasp the initiative in Group A partially eclipses the excellence of the kicks that were attempted and made on the night.

Both Biggar and Farrell were presented with a couple of difficult attempts mixed in with relatively straightforward tasks for kickers of their quality, but Biggar's extra opportunity, with the hindsight of knowing the failure of England's last driving maul makes Wales justifiable winners.

Simulating all kicks taken on Saturday, based around the position from where they were kicked on the pitch and the historical success rates of Farrell and Biggar, Wales win more points in 60% of simulations, with draws and wins for England roughly sharing the remaining 40% of outcomes.

However, if we throw into the mix Farrell's kick to the posts that wasn't called, England now win 41% of the simulations compared to Wales' 37% with 22% of the kicking simulations drawn.

And while context, such as the current score is inevitably missing from such an exercise, we can say that England did create the means to win Saturday's match slightly more often than they might have lost it, but they possibly chose not to use the fruits of their efforts to the best end......and Daniel Biggar's excellence did the rest.  

Additional research by @zanderk  :-)


  1. Would George Ford definitely have taken the kick, and not Owen Farrell?

  2. Yes you're quite correct, wwos, post and sims now changed to reflect the kickers. thanks to zanderk. Must watch with a more analytical and less emotional attachment !