First blood (part one)

First Blood is a movie about a Viet Nam veteran who wages war against the local police that run him out of town. The vet justifies his actions with the famous line “They drew first blood, not me.

This post examines the affect of scoring first in rugby 7s. Does the first score predict the eventual match winner or margin of victory? Do the same patterns hold true in knockout and pool play?

A recent analysis of scoring data from the first 5 rounds of the 2014-2015 World Sevens series reveals the following statistics:

  1. The first try scorer won 72% of all matches.
  2. The advantage was less decisive in the top eight, where the first try scorer won 65% of Cup round matches.
  3. Converting the first try improved the odds of winning by more than 10% in the Shield, Plate, and Cup rounds.
  4. In Pool play, the average victory margin for first try scorers was 22 points versus 8 for come back winners. First scorers were more likely to advance from pool play than comeback winners.


While the myth of the peaceful hero who gets pushed too far is common in movies like First Blood, our numbers show the team that winners usually throw the first punch on the rugby pitch. The team that scores the first converted try wins almost 75% of all matches. Winning sevens teams start hot and score first. What does this mean for starting 7s coaches?

  1. Find a pre-match routine that helps you hit the ground running. There is no feeling out period in sevens.
  2. Play to your strengths early in the match. A talented attacking team might try to reclaim the opening restart. A defensive team might give a long field to minimize their opponent’s chance of drawing first blood.
  3. Convert the first try — especially in tournament knockout rounds! Converting the first try in the Cup round pushes your chance of winning to almost %80. Don’t settle for a sideline conversion attempt. Support every line break in numbers.
  4. Finally, if you fall behind early, remember that ~%30 of international sevens wins are comebacks. There are 13-15 comebacks per tournament. Yours might be one.


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