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Last Minute Blues

Being a Blues fan can often be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. The first three matches of the 2018-19 season left me with my head in my hands as the team repeatedly managed to throw games away in the dying seconds. I therefore decided to examine just how disapointing these results were.

The graph below shows the “lead/deficit” that Cardiff had at each minute of each game this season. Home games have solid lines and away games have dotted lines, you can hover over the graph to get the details of each time someone scored in the match.

Additionally you can choose which games you want to display by clicking on them in the legend (the default is currently games Cardiff lost).

When you look at those first three games there are two things that are very apparent.

  1. In each game the Cardiff Blues were ahead in the 77th
  2. Against both Leinster (15 points) and Zebre (21 points) the Blues managed to throw away considerable leads

Is this unusual? Last season (2017-18) the Cardiff Blues had one of their best seasons in recent memory with some very good league performances, qualifying for the European Champions Cup and winning the European Challenge Cup (memorably beating Gloucester in Bilbao!). However they still only finished 4th out of 7 in their conference of the Pro 14 league, winning 11 games and losing 10.

Below is a plot showing the matches in the 2017-18 season (by default it shows the first three games of the season but you can edit this by selecting games from the legend).

This graph seems to provide a couple of interesting comparisons, in 2017-18 the Blues only lost two games where they were ahead quite late on:

  1. Cheetahs away where a penalty try was awarded after 80 mins were up
  2. Ospreys “at home” in the millenium stadium for judgement day when Dan Biggar scored a 77th minute drop goal to win against a weakened Blues side (lots of players were rested ahead of the Challenge cup final).

Secondly the biggest leads that the Blues had in games they lost was 10 points (against Glasgow at home and against Glasgow away).

The fact that 2018-19 has already seen 3 late defeats and leads of 15 and 21 points thrown away hints that the team is not as good at closing off a game as they were last season. However this is a very small sample and random noise (and simple bad luck) could easily account for these findings. The important thing is that the team is playing good rugby and, more than ever, you don’t know how the game will end until the final whistle goes.