After an outstanding round one victory over the reigning champion New South Wales Waratahs, it seems the Western Force have taken a slight turn for the worst.
However, do not stress, Force fans. The team had a shocking start to their 2014 campaign, and look where that got them. The best season in club history, and only a few bonus points away from making the finals.
With this small issue in mind, letís take a look at the stats that are letting the Force down at the moment (spoiler alert, itís the set piece and tackling).
Letís start with the worst stat first, just to get it out of the way. The Forceís lineout success is 78.8%. They use Sam Wykes as their main option, and when Steve Mafi is on the field they use him almost all the time.
In first two rounds, the Force lost four of their own lineouts out of 14 attempts, and against the Reds lost five lineouts out of 18 attempts.
The lineout did seem to be working a lot better on the weekend against the Hurricanes, with 17 lineouts won, and only losing one of their own lineouts.
This may have been because the two top attacking lineout jumpers in the team were starting in the second row, but it is still great news. For all the mathís geniusí out there, that is a 94% success rate. The Highlanders currently lead the league is lineout percent with a 94% success rate, so it shows the lineout is going to be strong very soon.
In the two previous rounds, the Force lost four of their own lineouts out of 14 attempts, and against the Reds lost five lineouts out of 18 attempts.
The scrum was obliterated in the first two rounds. The Force were getting pushed back on their own feeds, and pushed back more on the Waratahs and Reds feeds. On the weekends against the Hurricanes it was a different story, with the scrum packing extremely well.
The forward pack at least held their own on most attempts, and was able to push the Hurricanes back on a couple of occasions.
This may have had something to do with the return of Pek Cowan, but it also showed a highly motivated forward pack that are determined to correct their own mistakes. They were packing low and looked like a pack to be reckoned with.
Currently, the Forceís scrum success percentage sits at a shocking 58%, but look for this to only increase.
The Force keep falling off tackles, and it may continue to be a problem against strong backlines like they faced on the weekend in the Hurricanes. Their tackle success percentage currently sits at 82%, which is 15th in the league.
This is a below pedestrian number for the Force, especially when last season they were so strong in defence, and known for the brick wall they would put up, week in and week out.
Thirty-seven tackles were missed against the Hurricanes, with the majority of those coming in the first half. This allowed an almost all All-Black backline to run rampant over their helpless defence.
The Force of old is going to need to return, and they are going to need to defend their channels like they did last season. Who knows, they might win five games in a row or something.
In the words of Michael Foley at the post-match press conference last week, the Force needs to improve in their contact areas. The set piece was re-formed last weekend against the Hurricanes, so that is one area that has been checked off, but hopefully there has been some hard tackling drills going on, and a bit of study on the way the Brumbies attack their opponents channels, because they do it very well.
Stay tuned to the Wild West this week for a Force fans perspective on how much it sucks to lose, and some info on how the Force can improve their ball carrying.
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