Kicking Statistics – The Battle For Top Spot

Published on: February 4, 2018

Filled Under: Analysis

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The Six Nations is here and as a result, discussion and analysis turn to the ”what if” and the ”could have been” moments. Never is this truer than when kicking a potentially game-changing penalty. When a high-level player puts it wide or comes up short the usual conversations start happening. Is X the right person for the job and if Y had been playing instead then the game would have been different. The answer it seems would be kicking statistics!

As per my last kicking article, updated this time last year, there appears to be a clear divide in kicking percentages between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The North statistically comes out on top with each team setup requiring an 80+% kicker in their squad.

Following a desperate outcry for information from a legion of fans (Hi Mum). I’ve decided to update my spreadsheets and compare statistically who is currently the top percentage kicker in the Northern Hemisphere.

Disclaimer: As with last time these are the lifetime stats for these kickers and do not take into account the difficulty of the kicks they take. We can make a small leap to assume that penalties and conversions end up being fairly random in their position and distance and therefore the difficulty may well be normally distributed across each kicker.

Onward and downwards to the stats!

 

Scotland:


Coming in for Scotland there are only two real options in Laidlaw and Finn Russell

Player Name

Attempts Success Percentage
Greig Laidlaw 754 650

86.21%

Finn Russell

346 272 78.61%
Stuart Hogg 64 37

57.81%

Chris Paterson

587 517

88.07%

As you can see from this table without Laidlaw on the pitch Scotland lack an 80%+ kicker which for a Northern Hemisphere side has become a must. Kicking statistics, however, were in no way the reason for their poor score in the Principality but if Scotland want to keep moving forward they need to keep searching for the perfect balance of attacking flair and control.

 

Ireland:

Ireland appears to only have the one option in Johnny Sexton and it’s a fantastic one at that

Player Name

Attempts Success Percentage
Johnny Sexton 890 787

88.43%

Joe Carbery

52 36 69.23%

Ronan O’Gara

1276 1097

85.97%

 

As you can see from the table he is at a phenomenal 88.4%. Historical kicker Ronan O’Gara well known for his reliability and control of a game ended up on 86% which is no mean feat. But it should really put into context the level at which Sexton is performing off the tee hitting 88% is truly remarkable.

France:

For the French,  based on kicking statistics we have a variety of choice for top spot but it seems Parra is coming out on top

Player Name

Attempts

Success

Percentage

Fredrick Michalak

487

427 87.68%

François Trinh-Duc

155

141 90.97%
Morgan Parra 606 531

87.62%

Machenaud 238 202

84.87%




As you can see from the table Parra and Trinh-Duc should theoretically being fighting it out for the top spot. But, with Trinh-Duc only having attempted 155 kicks you can see why Parra on 606 and even Machenaud on 238 are preferred to take over point scoring responsibilities. A fully fit Parra would likely be taking up his role in the French national side but with the French national team who knows what’s going on.

 

England:


Birthplace of Jonny Wilkinson. The man who changed the game when it came to kicking at posts and who definitely needs a better all round kicking statistics analysis.

Player Name

Attempts Success Percentage

Owen Farrell

1060 885 83.49%
George Ford 769 607

78.93%

Jonny Wilkinson

1700 1466 86.24%
Charlie Hodgson 1549 1258

81.21%

Marcus Smith 79 61

77.22%

 

From the table, we can obviously take away that Farrell is the man who should be kicking at goal for England. We have a handy backup on the pitch in Ford but with his form over the last few years he has dipped below the 80% mark. Farrell is the standout kicker with Jonny forever leading the way in terms of attempts and success. Marcus Smith may have to step up his game in this regard but it is very early in his career to be over analysing his kicking figures.

 

Wales:

The country that gave us Neil Jenkins the player and Neil Jenkins the coach is unsurprisingly providing the largest high-quality kicking depth of all the top nations. So much so I might need to make a second table as six out of eight of the analysed players come out with an 80%+ success rate.

Player Name

Attempts Success

Percentage

Dan Biggar

968 847 87.50%
Leigh Halfpenny 745 645

86.58%

Rhys Priestland

598 509 85.12%

Sam Davies

348 281

80.75%

Stephen Jones 1078 940

87.20%

Neil Jenkins

386 360 93.26%
Rhys Patchell 383 299

78.07%

Gareth Anscombe

334 262

78.44%

 

 

As you can see Dan Biggar actually has more kick attempts and a better lifetime percentage record than Leigh Halfpenny. A stat that may blow the mind of the lay rugby fan. Perhaps not one that has read my previous piece, but still, a difference not many would have guessed at. The other surprising fact is the comparison that can be made not only within Wales but to the other nations.

Since my very first piece on this topic, Sexton has maintained his extraordinarily high success rate of 88%+. Meanwhile, Biggar and Halfpenny have both dipped a few percentage points down to 87% and 86% respectively. This isn’t a massive change in fortunes or a seismic shift in form that we have seen from other kickers, namely George Ford, and shouldn’t be regarded as such.

 

It is however interesting within a sport that relies so heavily on fine margins and statistics that someone with Sexton’s consistency can be so underrated. Whilst Halfpenny’s status as the king of the kickers has been largely undisputed he may not truly be king. He is, not always unjustly, put on the top of the pyramid at times by commentators and pundits alike. He is a true iceman under pressure and makes kicks from all over the pitch his range often being cited as being kingmaker.

 

However, it simply isn’t as easy with the statistics as close as they are to call a winner. But if you have to choose statistically then Halfpenny comes in at fourth behind Sexton, Parra, and Biggar with Laidlaw and Farrell bringing up the rear. 

 Player Name  Attempts  Success  Percentage
Johnny Sexton 890 787 88.43%
Morgan Parra 606 531 87.62%
Dan Biggar 968 847 87.50%
Leigh Halfpenny 745 645 86.58%
Greig Laidlaw 754 650 86.21%
Owen Farrell 1060 885 83.49%



This is only a snapshot of the world of kicking statistics and is all down to interpretation as to whether a player is picked in any given position. As is always key to team building, the balance of skills comes first and shoehorning an 80+% kicker such as Laidlaw to the detriment of a wider dynamic can sometimes be viewed as a far worse option.

Read and interpret these as you want but if you’re going to argue the ‘’what ifs’’ and the ‘’could have beens’’ at least with this article bookmarked you might be more informed on kicking statistics.

 

Sav

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