Caolan Dooley’s 30 points from the goal kicking guided our clients, Terenure College RFC to a 50-24 victory in the AIL Final. An incredible total with 8 from 8 penalties and 3 of his 4 conversions, with the one conversion hitting the post.

This led to praise from another man with experience of kicking goals in Lansdowne Road with Ronan O’Gara tweeting on the subject.

Average Points Scored from Goal Kicking

In an average AIL1A regular-season match this season, 7.4 points are scored by the boot (including penalty tries). Those 7.4 points make up 30.9% of points scored in the AIL.

The highest figures achieved by the boot/pen try conversions in the AIL regular-season was 16. A feat achieved 4 times.

  • Aran Egan, Trinity (H) vs Garryowen Round 18, 8/10 conversions
  • Michael Cooke, Shannon (A) vs Lansdowne, Round 9, 5/5 conversions, 2/2 penalties
  • Greg Hutley, Ballynahinch (H) vs Shannon, Round 2, 5/5 conversions, 2 penalties
  • Evan Cusack, Young Munster (H) vs Garryowen, Round 2, 1/1 conversion, 4 penalties + 1 pen try conv.

Adjusting for Location

The most impressive element of Dooley’s 30 points is the distance he kicked all the goals from, almost flawlessly.

Terenure's Caolan Dooley's Goal Kicking AIL Final

Right footed Dooley only had 1 gimme in his 12 kicks. He had 2 from the left touchline, 1 conversion on the right touchline and 5 halfway across the pitch to the right. The only kick inside the 22m was after Craig Adams’ chip kick try under the posts.

Traditionally goal kickers are judged on their % success, 92% for Dooley, but at BF Sports Analysis we like to adjust this for the difficulty of the kick.

We do this through our “Versus Expected Points” (Vs xP) metric. Our goal kicking database contains over 2500 kicks from a variety of leagues including AIL, Super Rugby, International, Nat 1 and MLR.

The xP metric works by creating an expected value for each location on the pitch, which then adjusts for whether the kick is a penalty or conversion. In the case where in our database, a kick is traditionally 67% successful, if a player scores a penalty from this position they would earn 1 “Vs xP”.

Calculation: Actual Points Scored – Expected Points
3 Actual Points Scored – (3 potential points x 67% success rate) = Vs xP.
3 – 2 = +1 Vs xP

If the kicker had missed the kick, they would then have -2 Vs xP against them.

Caolan Dooley Goal Kicking AIL Rugby

What can happen with a solely historic based xP is that, the rarer kicks, can often end up with the xP equaling either 0 or 100% due to there only being 1 or 2 kicks in the database from those spots. Also, a lot of kicks taken from long range, are only attempted by kickers with big boots and/or with a wind behind meaning it shouldn’t be comparable for an average kicker on an average day.

Here we need to use an estimate measure in the low sample size areas of the pitch such as the one that Dooley above is kicking from.

We do this by estimating the averages over a larger area. So we investigate what seems to be the biggest impact on the kick, the distance towards the touchline or back from the posts.

Goal Kicking by horizontal distance from posts rugby BF Sports Analysis

Figure 1.

As we can see in figure 1, and can tell intuitively, the difficulty of a kick is largely dependent on how far across the pitch you are. This information comes from our master database.

Interestingly, it’s not linear how the difficulty increases. We can see it is largely the same difficulty until you get 12.5m away from the middle of the pitch where the drop begins slowly. Then as we cross the 15m line, that cliff edge becomes apparent. Interestingly there isn’t huge evidence of difference between 27.5m and 32.5m away from the posts.

Caolan Dooley's xP

Dooley’s Vs xP for this game was a whopping +10.23.

We estimate an average kicker in our database would have 19.77 points with the same kicks compared to Dooley’s 30.

Considering that the average points scored for a team in AIL1A this season was 24.1, Dooley’s +10.23 Vs xP would be 42% of a win with his impressive goal kicking. Of course, it is Dooley and his team mates’ general play that provided the opportunities for an average kicker to score 19.77 points (82% of a win).

Caolan Dooley conversion AIL Final vs Clontarf 2023

Congrats again to our clients, Terenure and Dooley on their fantastic Energia AIL win.

If you would like to see under the hood of more of our work with Terenure, click on those links or read some more of our articles.

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