Ulster Rugby are 2/2 from their opening two league fixtures. Both games were proverbial cliffhangers where the side had to show resiliency and skill to win late against Scarlets and Edinburgh Rugby. John Cooney was the hero with his game winning penalties in recent weekends but the statistics show the good start made by the side with the new arrivals particularly shining.
The one thing that leaps out on the meters gained statistics is how potent the Ulster Rugby back line has being early doors this season. There was fear given the retirements (Bowe, Trimble, Payne) and departures (Piatau) that there would be a massive void in the attacking side of the team. Think again, as the likes of Craig Gilroy have made serious statements of intent early doors. Gilroy’s ability to create with ball in hand seen in his statistics; averaging 9.06 meters per carry last weekend alone. Speight and Addison look astute signings early doors and their numbers are incredibly strong. John Cooney’s ability to support the ball carrier seen with his excellent numbers; the form nine in Ireland at this time.
The tackle count statistics will be music to the ears of national team coach Joe Schmidt as Ireland internationals Iain Henderson and Rob Herring were sensational in this aspect of play last weekend. Eighteen tackles is exceptional from Henderson along with Herring’s performance last weekend with sixteen tackles (considering it was his seasonal debut).
Kudos also to Nick Timoney as well; the back row even at this early stage of the season has elevated his game to another level this term with some key contributions. His tackle count here is excellent along with Cave and McCloskey.
The game plan from Ulster Rugby is clear to see from this statistic; expansive style, look to pass / offload at every given opportunity. Cooney’s numbers are sensational and his quick passing has provided Burns with the time to launch his three quarters who have also looked to keep the ball alive with offloads.
Will Addison’s passing stats are particularly noteworthy, looking to bring players into the play with swift offloads. The half back numbers are well and shoulders above the other Irish provinces and if Ulster Rugby can continue to develop their defense structures and squad depth throughout the year, they could be a dark horse to make a serious push for the playoffs.
Three tries scored and conceded in the first two rounds of the league, all scored against Edinburgh Rugby in the second half from the starting lineup. Scarlets game was a tight affair with defenses on top. John Cooney’s form in open play and kicking has being sensational and if / when he is called up by Ireland in November, it will be interesting to see who from the squad will fill the void. Squad depth is the concern right now for Ulster Rugby because the starting lineup at the moment are playing with determination, hunger and skill.