Tracey Nelson 's Opinion

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

The Stats Don't Lie: Clinical Crusaders show few weaknesses

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Richie McCaw had a big game with 14 ball carries for a gain of 78 metres. Photo / Getty Images
Richie McCaw had a big game with 14 ball carries for a gain of 78 metres. Photo / Getty Images

Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers from the qualifying finals where the Crusaders were at their clinical best in key most statistics.

CRUSADERS v BULLS (28-13)

The Crusaders' win over the Bulls makes this the 11th consecutive season that they have made the semifinals of Super Rugby - you need to go back to 2001 to find a semifinal they didn't feature in.

The Crusaders were back to their clinical best, conceding only 13 turnovers that included just five handling errors. They forced the Bulls into 19 turnovers, eight of those being handling errors with three coming from halfback Hougaard.

The battle of the breakdown was won by the Crusaders nine to four, with Richie McCaw the top player with two tackle turnovers. The ferocity of the Crusaders' defence and counter-rucking saw three of those nine breakdown wins come in the first eight minutes of the game.

The Crusaders made 90 tackles and missed just 14, while the Bulls had to make 125 and missed 26. Bulls flanker Jaques Potgieter was the top tackler in the match with nineteen, while Flip van der Merwe and Juandre Kruger missing the most tackles with four each.

Only seven penalties were dished out against the Crusaders - the least number of penalties they have conceded in a match this season - with the first one not coming until the 34th minute of the game.

The Bulls conceded a total of 13 penalties, five of which came in the first 20 minutes of the match. Dean Greyling was their worst offender, conceding three penalties.

Richie McCaw had a big game with 14 ball carries for a gain of 78 metres, stealing a lineout throw off the Bulls, taking one lineout for the Crusaders, and making 17 tackles along with his two breakdown turnover wins.

The Bulls put up 29 kicks from hand in this match. Israel Dagg was targeted with five high-kicks and gathered the ball on each occasion.

Dan Carter landed his third drop goal of the season, and by his own post-match admission probably the first one in his career off his right foot. He also improved his goal kicking stats for the season, going into this game on 68 percent for the season he landed six from eight kicks for goal.

REDS v SHARKS (17-30)

This is just the sixth time in Super Rugby history that an away team has won a knock-out game on the way to the Final, and just the second time a South African side has won a knock-out game outside of the Republic. It is also the third time the Reds have hosted a knock-out game and lost, the other two times being against the Sharks (1996) and Crusaders (1999).

In a bizarre mirroring of their Round 4 game the score was 0-17 to the visiting team after 20 minutes of play, but this time the home side did not recover and come back to win.

Handling errors cost the Reds dearly, with 10 knock-ons alone in the first half. In total they made 16 handling errors leading to turnover in possession, with Sai Faingaa and Will Genia both making two each. The Reds' season average going into this game had been seven handling errors per match.

The Reds conceded just four penalties in this match, with Digby Ioane responsible for two of them. The Sharks conceded 12 penalties, with nine coming in the second half and all for ruck indiscretions culminating in a yellow card for replacement lock Steven Sykes.

Despite having less possession and territory, and making less running metres and linebreaks, the Sharks defence was the difference making 83 percent of their tackles while the Reds were lower on 72 percent.

Marcell Coetzee showed why he continues to be the top tackler in the competition, with a total of eighteen tackles and just two misses.

Scott Higginbotham made 13 ball carries for a gain of 70 metres, and made two linebreaks - one of which set up Will Genia's try.

Will Genia was the top linebreaker in this game with three, and made three offloads in the tackle. But he was also responsible for throwing the intercept pass for Charl McLeod's try.

Michael Harris made the most runs in this game with 14, and his 121 running metres were the most gained by any player. He also kicked two conversions and one penalty to finish the 2012 season with 151 points.

Frederic Michalak was 100 percent with the boot, landing three conversions, two penalties and a drop goal. His tally of fifteen points saw him pass 100 points in Super Rugby, and he is currently sitting on 85 points for this season.

Tracey Nelson

Stats guru Tracey Nelson crunches the numbers

Tracey Nelson is a rugby statistician who looks closely at the numbers of every Super 15 and All Blacks test to give a concise answer to which players and teams are leading the way on the field.

Read more by Tracey Nelson

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