With Twitter now reaching double digits in its tenure, more and more sports lovers are taking to the social media site to discuss, speculate on, rant, bewail, and brag about their teams’ performance during a big match or game.
This is no less true for the Six Nations, an annual rugby tournament that takes place between Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France. It kicks off every February for seven weeks, and for many rugby lovers it’s the highlight of the sports calendar.
Let’s Talk About It
The popularity of the Six Nations tournament is clear from the nearly 1.5 million – or 1,473,588 – mentions of the tournament and the teams involved that we measured in Sysomos Heartbeat between the first and last week of the tournament.
Using Sysomos MAP, we can also see a high volume of chatter around the Six Nations, as evident by activity last Saturday, the last day of matches in the 2016 tournament. Irish and Scottish fans were desperately urging their teams to win a spot in the top three.
Italian fans bemoaned their team’s five losses and eleventh collection of the wooden spoon. England and France played in their famous “le Crunch” match. Much to this Irish blogger’s sorrow, this year also brought an even more dramatic prospect in that England were playing for the Grand Slam, achieved when you win every match.
Please just let it be our night England. This is such a huge match. A Grand Slam in France! Come on England!
— Stephen Drew (@StephenDrew72) March 19, 2016
In this blog, we’re going to take a look at “le Crunch” – the last match of the tournament – through the prism of Twitter. Which events of a match or game really got people talking online? Did more Twitter users send a celebratory tweet when their team scored a try (touching the ball over the endline for 5 points) or did they prefer to complain about a referee’s decision when a penalty or card was given?
Spotlighting Le Crunch
One of the major features of Sysomos MAP 2.0 is the ability to search Twitter minute-by-minute. This allows us to analyze the conversation around a sports event down to very specific incidents.
Let’s take a look at the first half of the match using this interactive chart.
If you hover over Point A in our chart, at 20:00, you can see that kick off saw the highest volume of Twitter conversation in the first half. This includes tweets of encouragement from both English and French supporters, as well as of nerves, excitement, and hope that nothing would interrupt some fans’ watching of the match.
— Fairy Des Folies (@FairyDesFolies) March 19, 2016
Tomorrow I have to share an office with three Frenchmen. Please don’t let me down tonight @EnglandRugby
— Ian Wheeler (@ianwheeler) March 19, 2016
Going to be on edge for next 80 mins. Come on @EnglandRugby !
— Graeme L. Close (@close_nutrition) March 19, 2016
During the rest of the first half, the highest bursts of conversation tended to take place immediately following a score, whether it be a penalty (a kick for 3 points) or a try, as you can see from the graph. These are particularly worrisome for England fans as each penalty is scored easily by prolific French scrumhalf (or kicker, for any North American readers), Maxime Machenaud.
When halftime was announced (at Point J) you can see another brief burst of tweets. These were mainly from users either lamenting, or delighting in, the number of penalties England was giving away, and tweets from users expressing surprise at how well the French players were performing. This burst also included tweets from armchair analysts giving advice on how either team could improve their performance for the second half and comfortably beat their opponent.
Le Second Half
The second half saw a far more varied volume of tweets:
This interactive chart depicts Six Nations tweets sent during the second half of the match.
If you click and drag to zoom in on the first 30 minutes of the second half, you’ll see that most of the spikes in conversation took place after scores. There is a particularly sharp increase in mentions occurring at Point D when Machenaud scored yet another penalty to bring France within two points of England.
From Point G, when Dylan Hartley collided with the knee of French player Uini Atonio and was knocked out cold immediately, to 21:45, when he was stretchered off, we can see a slowly increasing volume of tweets as viewers realized via replays just how serious the collision was, and how badly Hartley could be injured. Posts around this time included hopes for Hartley’s speedy recovery, and laments that he could miss lifting his team’s Grand Slam trophy.
— Robyn Jordan (@Robyn_Jordie) March 19, 2016
14 year wait for a grand slam and he might not be able to receive it.
— shannon (@ShannonMatth3ws) March 19, 2016
From a penalty at Point H to a yellow card for French prop Xavier Chocci at Point I, users were increasingly tweeting about Grand Slam starts becoming more and more probable for England…
If you click and drag the interactive chart from 21:50 to 22:00, we can see this trajectory, up to Point J, when the full-time whistle was blown and England fans realized that their team had won the Six Nations tournament.
The following two minutes then saw the highest spike of the day, with 3,190 tweets at 21:59, as England fans congratulated their team, celebrated, and news sites let the world know that England have won their first Grand Slam since 2003!
To add an extra feel-good factor to the celebrations, Captain Dylan Hartley recovered from concussion to lift his team’s trophy.
— BBC Rugby Union (@bbcrugbyunion) March 19, 2016