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Stat Analysis - the USA Improvement in 7s

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Stat Analysis - the USA Improvement in 7s

Perry Baker making some of those meters. Martin Seras Lima photo.

It's evident that the USA Men's 7s team is playing better now than it was at the beginning of the World Series.

After three tournaments the Eagles were 10th in the World Series. Currently they are 5th, bearing down on 4th. That is the easy stat. We've got a few mor to look at thanks in large part to our friend Matt Trenary at http://trenarian.com

We decided we'd delve into some of the stats that might illustrate what the Eagles are doing better, and where they are performing especially well.

First off, Singapore. Looking at the stats from Tranarian.com, we can see that the Eagles are within the norms on a number of metrics. However, they are very good at certain aspects of play.

For example, on defense, the Eagles give up a fairly normal strike rate (how often an opponent converts a possession into a try), but they give up fewer opportunities. The USA was the best at denying opponents possession. There were 48 instances in which the USA opposition could reasonably expect to get the ball, and they got it 36 times, or 75%. That 25% ruin-possession stat was the best in Singapore.

How did they do that? Restarts. The Eagles, with Danny Barrett, Ben Pinkelman, and Perry Baker chasing Folau Niua's kickoffs, were easily the best at retaining their own kickoffs, winning 46% of their kicks. Only Kenya and England were over 35%.

The Eagles were also really strong at the point of contact. They had the second-best success rate in a contact situation. When the USA was on offense, defenses had a very tough time getting the ball away from them. This includes the rucks - the Eagles won 94% of their own rucks, second only to Argentina. Interestingly, they didn't contest much at rucks, allowing the opposition a very high success rate when the opponents took the ball in. 

But that leads us to the final outlier stat - penalties. In Singapore, teams averaged about 15 penalties for the tournament, or slightly under three per game. The Eagles committed six penalties the entire tournament, one per game. This seems to be a direct correlation - don't try to poach at the rucks, and you don't give up penalties. The USA, in fact, was much more interested in counter-rucking over the ball to steal, rather than using the hands. It's an old-school tactic, but it's less likely to produce penalties.


The Season

From Dubai to Las Vegas, the first five tournaments of the Series, here is the USA record (we also break it down based on the current ranking of the opponent)

USA 7s Record 2016-17 Rounds 1 through 5
Total 15 12 1 563 459 104 6
v. Top 4 1 8 0 136 214 -78 3
v. 6-10 5 2 0 136 105 31 1
v. Others 9 2 1 291 140 151 2


CL= close loss (within a try)


As you can see, while the USA was performing fairly well (tied for 5th in the Series at the time), the Eagles were loading up on teams ranked lower than 10th, and struggling against the top 4.


Now here's the record in the last three tournaments:


USA 7s Record 2016-17 Rounds 6 through 8
Total 12 6 0 461 284 177 4
v. Top 4 2 4 0 123 118 5 2
v. 6-10 7 2 0 241 140 101 2
v. Others 3 0 0 97 26 71 0


As you can see, they played more tough teams, and started beating them. And of the six losses to Top-10 teams, four were within a try.


Comparing some of the Trenarian.com stats - in the first five tournaments, the USA was still very, very good at retaining kickoffs, and strong at ruining opposing possession (21%), while being the second-best team to get a positive result in contact on defense. The other outlier was that they were the top ball-stealing team in the rucks. The top one! And yet now they don't do it at all (look at how often Andrew Durutalo was on the field in Singapore and maybe you've got a reason why that is).

In the last three tournaments, the numbers don't change all that much. The Eagles are a shade better at ruining opposition possession. They remain dominant on restarts and kickoffs, winning 54.7% of all kickoffs (receiving or kicking), far and away better than any other core team and good for at least one extra possession a game. They have markedly increased their line breaks, and their yardage per game is up 13.6% and defensive meters per game is down 7%, giving a net gain per game of about 50 meters per game.

In the rucks, the Eagles improved from winning 85% of their own rucks to winning 95%. They dropped their percentage of stealing the ball in the rucks significantly, but that also led to ...

... fewer penalties. The USA and Canada are tied with the fewest penalties among core teams in the last three tournaments, with 42 each. The next lowest is Fiji, but they have, notably, seven yellow cards in that time, which is a lot. The worst penalized team? New Zealand, with 63 penalties and seven yellows.

For the Eagles, that's 14 penalties per tournament, down from 15.6. In Singapore it was 6 penalties.