‘Our aim is to get promoted’ – This is likely what 6-8 of the teams in each AIL division will be saying for the upcoming season.
So what does a promotion winning season look like in the All Ireland League?
What Winning The League Looks Like?
Based on the last 3 seasons of all 5 divisions, the least amount of points a team has scored and finished top of the league was 399 (22.2 points per game (ppg)), unsurprisingly this came in this season’s division 1B for Ballynahinch RFC where the league was incredibly tight up until the last 2 games of the season.
The highest amount a team had scored in a season was Highfield RFC 18/19 with 671 points (37.3 ppg).
The average is 530.9 points (29.5 ppg) in a season for a regular season team to finish top of the table.
There is a few interesting things to note from this data.
- Unsurprisingly, there is big differences between the top and 2nd team and the 2nd bottom and bottom team although strangely, there is a huge 50 point average difference between 4th and 5th. My educated guess is that this is due to 4th place getting a play off place in the league and the potential that 5th place ends up with a dead rubber last game or two and 4th is chasing a higher placing for a better play off.
- The team in 9th has on average scored more than the team in 8th. This could be something to do with the sample size. Potentially this is also play-off influenced with the team in 9th trying to escape the relegation play-off. Note that the match results only include the 18 regular season games.
“DEFENCE WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS”
In the All Ireland League… this is not true.
Points conceded (47%) has a lower correlation with league position than points scored (62%).
The higher correlation for points scored is likely attributable to the bonus point system.
The lower correlation for points conceded remains true when you compare your league position to how your points conceded ranked against the rest of the league. Ranked means if you conceded the least amount in your league, you would rank 10th for points conceded as per the diagram below.
Who would have thought that you could have the 3rd least points conceded in the league and finish 9th? That is what happened to Bruff in the 2017/18 season. In that same division that year, Omagh finished 2nd in the league conceding the 3rd most points conceded in the league.
The most relevant points stat (highest correlation) is combining defence and attack in points difference.
Ranking points difference has the highest correlation on what position you will finish.
So in conclusion. If you want to finish top of your AIL division, you will likely, on average need to score 530 points or 29.4 points per game, only concede about 286 points or 15.8 points per game. See the rest of positions in the table below.
What Does Winning a Match Look Like?
Winning a match obviously takes many forms but we’ll investigate an average win.
This data is a little more limited than the league table data. The sample size is from;
- AIL 1A from September 2016 – January 2019
- AIL 1B and 2A from September 2018 – January 2019
The average amount of points scored by a team in an AIL rugby match is 21.
As you can see, the point at which the blue overtakes the red and winning becomes more likely than losing is at 21-22 points. To illustrate that more directly, have a look at the chart below.
So my first question from this point was, is there any difference between the warmer and colder months as conditions improve or deteriorate.
For the warmest 3 months of the season according to Norwegian weather and climate website, yr.no (September, October and April), the scoring was higher on average by 1.1 point per game up to 22.1 points per game/team. Teams that won scored on average 28.3 points up from 27.1 and teams that lost scored 15.9 points per game vs 14.8 for the whole season.
In the coldest 3 months (December, January and February), scoring went down to 19.4 points per game, with winning teams scoring 25.6 on average and losing teams 13.2 points per game.
With points at more of a premium during the winter months, this could impact attacking strategy or penalty kick to the corner vs kicking points decisions.
Home vs Away
Home teams on average score 22.4 points and away teams 19.5. Of the 321 fixtures recorded, 184 were home wins (57.3%), 132 away wins (41.1%) and 5 draws (1.5%).
12.3 points is the average margin of victory, with 2 being the most frequent margin of victory, closely followed by a margin of 1 and 7 (Bonus Point margin).
Home teams average margin of victory is 13.4 and 11.2 points for away teams.
There is a large variance between clubs, Clontarf won 2% more of their away matches (68%) compared to their home matches (66%) and Cork Con had a 39% higher win ratio at home (91%) vs away (52%).
It is obviously unsurprising that home teams win more in the AIL. Knowing these win rates at home and away, teams can now know if they struggled more on the road or at home relative to the rest of the league. The average team (finishing 5th/6th) should be winning 3.7 games on the road per season and 5.2 games at home.
Knowing this information may or may not impact any on field decisions but will allow you to measure yourselves in defence and attack more accurately, which can influence your priorities for training, recruitment, logistics and retention.
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