Sportonomics

So York has won yet another home Roses. The final scoreboard may have read 206.5-159.5, but a little digging around into the numbers reveals some interesting trivia behind the headlines. York came up trumps in nearly every category of sports at this year’s Roses, with the exception of aqua sports. In – or on – the water, Lancaster took home 27 points, or 54 per cent of those on offer. Every single event that we classed as “academic” (mooting and debating, for example), York won. The host university also appears to have a penchant for dance and combat sports, and to a lesser extent, racket sports. The share of both victories and points won between York’s men’s and women’s teams was pretty even.
The men’s teams won 52 per cent of their events, the women’s exactly 50 per cent. Those sides which seem to have made the biggest impact on the tournament’s final outcome were the mixed and open squads, who won 56 per cent of their fixtures. Moreover, those mixed/open fixtures that York triumphed in tended to be worth more points than those that Lancaster won in. The host university’s 29 victories in such events provided York with 80 points. Roses formally began last Friday with the first bowl at the men’s 2s cricket, but by that point Lancaster were already narrowly leading the Varsity 26-25. Prior to the weekend’s festivities, a series of ‘pre’ events took place, including rowing, canoe polo and ultimate frisbee, from which Lancaster emerged on top. Just.
However, for the remaining three days of the competition, York were the better side. Performances on the Saturday and Sunday were not quite strong enough for York to bag the trophy early, but a comprehensive showing on the Sunday, where York won 64 per cent of the available points, was enough to fend off the chance of a late Lancaster surge. A deeper look at exactly when points were scored reveals that Lancaster were the stronger side in morning fixtures.
York’s athletes may have had the advantage of longer lie ins, but they lost in over half of the events that kicked off before midday. York more than made up for this during the afternoon games, winning 59 per cent. Perhaps Lancaster’s athletes became victims of a mid-afternoon dip in energy due to those early morning bus trips across the Pennines. Lastly, much has been made of the fact that this year’s Roses was markedly closer than expected. Lancaster defeated York by a healthy 74 points last year, while the last time York hosted they won by 86.
Indeed, the 47 point difference this time around is smaller than we’ve seen in recent years. However, this year’s win margin was still someway off those of 2002 and 2008, when York pipped their rivals to the title by just one and two points. Unsurprisingly, those most slender of victories were achieved by York when competing as the visiting university, highlighting just how difficult a challenge it is to bag a Roses title on the road. This year, Lancaster were in with a shot of victory heading into the final day, only for the black and gold to run away with the crown come the afternoon. It’s not yet clear whether Lancaster’s impressive showing at the 2017 tournament was a one-off, or an indicator of what’s to come from a resurgent red rose.

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