Thursday 17 October 2019

RWC semi-final stats - Penalty count worry, but 97pc tackling success helps All Blacks reach final

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams celebrates at the final whistle.
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams celebrates at the final whistle.

Mick Kerrigan

The first ever all southern hemisphere semi-finals in Rugby World Cup history kicked off with South Africa and New Zealand in Twickenham. We have all the stats that mattered from this enthralling contest.

New Zealand set their stall out early in the first half, repeatedly using kicks in behind the South Africans to peg them back in their own 22. Heyneke Meyer’s side spent 72pc of the first 40 minutes in their own half with only 35pc of the ball.

The pressure told on the South Africans with 10 tackles missed from the 67 attempted. The Kiwis on the other hand kept a 100pc tackle success record making 33 from 33.

With the ball in hand, New Zealand made 65 carries in the first half with 61pc over the gainline and an average of 6.1 metres per carry. South Africa made only 30 carries for a miserly gain of 85m, an average of 2.8m per carry.

New Zealand players celebrate after winning their Rugby World Cup Semi-Final match against South Africa
New Zealand players celebrate after winning their Rugby World Cup Semi-Final match against South Africa

With those sort of stats New Zealand should have been expected to go in at the break with a sizeable lead. While Jerome Kaino scored an early try after six minutes from a questionable forward pass, it appeared that each time South Africa made it into the opposition half, they won a penalty in a kickable position.

Jerome Garces was alert to the All Blacks ill-discipline and they conceded nine penalties in the first half, four of which were in their own half. Handre Polland nonchantly kicked each of them over to give the underdogs a 12-7 interval lead.

To add insult to injury, try scorer Kaino went to the sin-bin just before half time for a cynical hack at a ruck ball from an offside position.

The rain teamed down as the second half began with New Zealand down to 14 men; however it was the All Blacks who upped the ante.

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A drop goal from Carter on 46 minutes closed the gap and Kaino returned to the pitch with no net gain for the South Africans on the scoreboard after his yellow card.

The New Zealand backline increased their pace and camped on the opposition line, they eventually put Substitute Beauden Barrett into the corner on 52 minutes and Brian Habana into the sin bin for slapping the ball down. 

With a lead of 12-17, this is where the All Blacks would normally kick on and put a game to bed, but two additional penalties kept the South Africans within range.

The New Zealand territory strategy ultimately got them over the line. Two points behind with three minutes remaining on the clock, the South Africans had the ball in hand, but they were trapped in their own 22 and a rain forced knock-on allowed Garces to blow the final whistle.

New Zealand finished the game with an impressive 97pc tackle success rate, double the gain-line carries of South Africa along with five clean breaks.

It was the 13 penalties conceded, seven of which were in their own half that could have cost them their place in the final.

It is an area coach Steve Hansen is well aware will need drastic improvement when they take on Australia or Argentina in the decider.

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