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So, how was the weekend? Who won and lost? And how were the predictions?
Well, below shows how our predictions compared with how the games actually panned out.
As you can see, we got 6 correct results from 10 (60%) – so not great really – and an average score difference of 12.8. This is actually our worst performance for weekend predictions since … well … ever! Pretty much all the 50:50 calls went against our projections and some of the score differences were huge.
From a strictly results perspective, things weren’t too bad though. All the games that were called to be the closest – Romania v Tonga, Namibia v Uruguay, Scotland v Australia, predicted to be decided by 3 points or less – all went against the forecast result. Calling a match to be close, and then having it go the other way is not too concerning, merely annoying. The French draw with Japan was undoubtedly the biggest upset of the weekend, but not many people would’ve called that one. A concerning result for French rugby but a brilliant one for the Japanese. A team well and truly on the rise.
From a score perspective there were a few anomalies as well. Scotland’s demolition of Australia was foreseen by few but, in fairness, the size of the deficit was at least in part due to the Australian red card shown shortly before half time. Italy and South Africa was the prediction that was next furthest out. South Africa are the statisticians demise at the moment, and delight in following up a barnstorming week with a truly dire performance. They are, in fact, almost insistingly consistent in their inconsistencies, and succeeded in putting Italy to the sword rather more easily than was anticipated.
Our model feeds in games from the previous 4 years and works out an expected score for each team based on location and current ranking. Broadly speaking, this means each score represents how well each team is expected to play against the opposition, relative to their performances over the previous 4 years. Any significant difference to the predictive score could therefore indicate over or under performance relative to their previous matches.
England v Samoa was our closest prediction, and Eddie Jones’ men ran out comfortable winners as predicted against Samoa. They made rather tough work of it at points, but scored some good tries at the end to stretch the scoreline out to around the projected margin.
Ireland v Argentina also went broadly according to our pre-match review. A late try for Argentina rather flattered the scoreline in the end as it was a match Ireland dominated throughout. Ireland have been in impressive form recently and will be, as usual, main contenders for the 6 Nations along with England.
Romania v Tonga and Namibia v Uruguay were close matches that were not that far from our predicted result, with the final score unfortunately, for us at least, going the other way to the predictions. Namibia and Uruguay was actually an end to end thriller with the result in the balance right up until the final minute.
Wales v New Zealand was an unusual match, one in which the Welsh seemed to be in with a chance throughout the whole game, but suddenly, come full time, you realised they were in fact more than 2 converted tries down. It is something New Zealand practice almost uniquely, the ability to absorb enormous pressure and then hit back with consummate, soul-sapping ease, and they did so several times when necessary against on Saturday to take the game away from the Welsh.
Canada v Fiji was, as predicted, an easy win for the Fijians on neutral ground. Canada seem to have been in freefall a little recently and could do with a few better results next year to boost their confidence. Fiji’s enormous backline ran riot and if they continue to play in similar fashion could cause some problems for teams next year.
Georgia made hard work of their eventual victory over the USA. Despite the predicted score difference being closer than some of the others, due to the result being in the balance relative to predicted we are including this one in being wide of the mark. It is unclear whether Georgia were below par, or if USA are on the rise, but it will be interesting to see how the teams progress next year.
As already mentioned, South Africa made much easier work of Italy than was expected. Both teams are relatively unpredictable so we are unsure what to make of this one – it is perhaps, just one of those results.
Scotland again, probably put in the match that bucked the expectations the most, with the Scots demolishing 14 man Australia by the largest margin in their history. Australia conceded the most points ever against a Northern Hemisphere side, and the 3rd most points against any side. As already noted, Australia had a man sent off, which would have contributed significantly to the result, but the manner of Scotland’s performance was notable in itself and one that Murrayfield has not seen for many years.
However, Japan’s draw with France was probably the result of the weekend. Les Bleus have endured a pretty miserable run of results over the past few years, but this one will undoubtedly sting the most. Japan, on the other hand, are the Tier 2 team on form at the moment and delight in upsetting the established norms. Although this won’t top their World Cup win over South Africa in 2015, it is thought that this result will be a close second.
The Autumn Internationals are not quite finished, there is still one match to be played. Wales take on South Africa this weekend in Cardiff, and both sides will be looking to finish off their seasons with a flourish. Watch out for our preview of the game later on this week.