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

Date

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.

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 4 3 1 0 59 15
Chiefs 4 3 1 0 28 14
Stormers 3 3 0 0 26 12
Cheetahs 2 2 0 0 7 9
Hurricanes 3 3 0 0 47 13
Rebels 3 1 2 0 -5 6
Highlanders 3 2 1 0 4 9
Sharks 3 1 2 0 3 6
View all
 
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