Depicting sports matches with area charts

I overslept this morning and missed the first half of the Rugby World Cup Final between New Zealand and Australia. I grabbed my phone and opened the New Zealand Herald’s Live Scoring page to catch up with the score. It greeted me with this baffling timeline.

NZ Herald Rugby Timeline

The graphic shows the score clearly, but otherwise I am uncertain how to interpret it. The reader must work hard to figure out what the icons represent. (A try has the same symbol as a drop goal?!?). Yet even when you work out what those little pictures represent, it is difficult to get a sense of the rhythm of the game.

This evening I started mucking about with an alternative way to represent how a game plays out in a compact space using good old fashioned area charts. The test graphic below needs considerable work, particularly in terms of annotation and colour, but it already provides a better sense of how the game played out. [Source code.]

Alternative Rugby Timeline
An alternative timeline chart for the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final.

The All Blacks scored an early penalty; the Wallabies equalled a few minutes later. The All Blacks pulled ahead in the 26th minute and built a formidable halftime lead. The Wallabies mounted a comeback in the last third of the match, coming to within four points with 16 minutes remaining on the clock. After some tense moments, the All Blacks pulled away again with two drop goals and a converted try.

One reason why I think this chart is successful is that I could write that last paragraph without referring to a match report. The only other place I have seen sports results represented this way is in this excellent Guardian the history of the Ashes Tournament. I don’t read a lot sports journalism, so this may be a very common way of representing results and I am just blissfully unaware.

Tour of England in AustraliaAustralia 2013 - 14
2013-14 Ashes Tournament.

As a bonus, here is the score timeline for the extraordinary Pool B Japan versus South Africa game. Another incredible match.

Japan versus South Africa
Pool B Japan vs. South Africa, Rugby World Cup 2015.

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