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There's only one set of stats that count at the end, the scoreline


Ewen McKenzie

Flying start … the Sharks were quick out of blocks.

Flying start … the Sharks were quick out of blocks. Photo: Getty Images

The importance of a fast start was never more prominent than in the Super Rugby qualifying finals last weekend. You can't beat scoreboard pressure and the Sharks and Crusaders gained a crucial advantage by applying this pressure from the outset.

There are a number of lessons we will take from the Sharks match, where there was no greater demonstration of how statistics aren't always a useful measure of performance.

Despite the loss, we ran more than in any other game this season, with 1030 metres gained, broke more tackles (60), and had a dominant 65 per cent possession advantage. That translated into us having superior attacking territory statistics as we spent 17 minutes in the Sharks half compared with their five. We also won the penalty count and had double the number of phases, while both team's missed tackle statistics were similar and offload count the same.

However in the end you are rightfully only measured by the points you score.

The difference was the opening 25 minutes; the Sharks were more efficient and effective. Generally the Sharks produce their best just after half-time in a period we liken to the ''power play'' of other sports. However, on Saturday it was the intensity of their early raids that did the damage.

There is no doubt when you are playing catch-up you have to take risks and sometimes this limits opportunities. I'm proud we never dropped our heads and were eventually rewarded with a try on full-time.

There were certain moments in the game when we wish we had performed better, while we will also lament the machinations around the TMO decision to deny Liam Gill a try that would have brought us to within 10 points with 25 minutes to go. We felt it was a fair try and SANZAR has admitted so since.

The decision is academic now but after studying the game there were a couple of damning stats that might hold the key to the result. Our turnover rate in the opening 20 minutes was too high, especially in the first five minutes, where we had four opportunities in their half but turned it over on each occasion.

Their first opportunity in our half came in the eighth minute and they walked away with three points. That's finals footy, it's about converting chances.

So where now for the Reds? Well, it's not all doom and gloom. We fought hard to win the Australian Conference and in the context of our total season, this took some effort. No better tale sums this up than the sacrifice made by Beau Robinson and Adam Wallace-Harrison, who were unable to complete a full training week since early May due to chronic injuries. They pushed on for the benefit of the team and were influential in our six-game winning streak to end the regular season.

Depth challenges all teams and we all had it hard at times, but you need those diehard players that will keep fronting up. Beau and Adam are just two players who did this without much thought for self-preservation. Character will take a team far and if you have enough of it then more often than not you create little bits of history and take the team to places where they have never been before.

While we can get bogged down in the loss, we will remember the highlights along the way too. Five players reached the 50-game milestone while we had seven players make their debut.

There were also a number of individual achievements, and it's hard to go past Mike Harris breaking the all-time Super Rugby record with 24 successful shots at goal in a row, while we won't soon forget Dom Shipperley's efforts in round one when he dashed away 70-metres to ensure a win over the Waratahs after the final siren.

But maybe the best part is that the average age of this team for 2012, despite including two 36-year-old veterans, was only 24. Almost all will be back in 2013, hungrier than ever.

On this week's semi-finals, I guess it's fair to say we are the Crusaders favourite team as they avoided a trip to South Africa and will now play the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Their head-to-head record is one apiece this season, but my money is on the Crusaders. The Chiefs have struggled in their past six games, of which they have won just three and conceded more points than they have scored. The extra week can also play mind games but irrespective of the result, there is no denying it will be a cracker. The Sharks have the travel schedule from hell, but they have the game to challenge the Stormers' defence. However, I believe the Sharks will tire and the Stormers will outlast them.

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

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