I'm sure any of us could watch a game on TV or on the sidelines at Spring Hill and identify a team which defends well or a player who is a dangerous runner in open field. And on any given Saturday I've always believed the result of the game is attributed to the physical and tactical abilities of every member of the team over 80 minutes and nothing more. Technical proficiencies, tactical nous and physical skills will win no matter how many cliché are wheeled out in team talks about "we want it more" "this is our house" or "we have the momentum". 

However even simple straight forward folk like me must also face the facts. The only reason why cliché and phenomena are repeated over again is because they prove to be true over and over again. Those of us who preach in the religion of science carry the doctrine that a trend of results produced in a satisfactory sample size must lead to conclusion. A great number of times I have found myself under the posts after just conceding a try, this is usually followed by the usual talk featuring the phrase "get straight back at them." Despite the change in the scoreline, I don't feel different or the gameplan usually doesn't change. However immediately afterwards I often go on to make mistakes like someone who has been drugged in the break of play, my team mates also seem to be effected as if it's a disease that has spread. While the other side which we may have been previously been beating or closely competing against suddenly appear to be a far superior team. The explanation which is offered is Momentum,   this thing that can't be practised or trained but appears like some sort of magic spell. The only reason it can't be dismissed along with invisibility cloak spells and attraction potions is because its results are there to be seen regularly in every game we play.

If you take the classic cliché/phenomena of home field advantage; the rugby world seems especially obsessed with home side skew whether it is Munster's unbeaten run until 2007 in European rugby or Leicester tiger's impressive record at Welford road. At our level we don't have to worry about flights to a foreign country or overnight stays in hotel rooms, however in our 1st and 2nd XV leagues this year the win percentage of the home sides is 62% which is above the expected 50%. A study into football players at various levels found that testosterone levels in the home side players were noticeably higher during games and in local derbies this effect was even more. It suggests that they are tribal / territorial instincts that still exist in our hormones despite the democratic nature of everyday life. American football freakonomics offers the theory that as human beings we have in our nature an intrinsic social bound to the host. So as hard as referees try to be impartial they will, according the theory, have a minor bias to the side which has provided he/she with a place to change in and will probably feed them after the contest. The proof for this is in a breakdown across sports; it is shown that those featuring more room for official interpretation of laws/rules have a greater proportion of home victories (with rugby union having nearly the biggest home field advantage statistically).

As winter turns into spring and the middle of the season becomes the end, every league will feature results where teams fighting relegation will beat teams in mid table who are unlikely to be promoted / relegated. The common explanation is the winning side simply wanted to win more, however I doubt very much that this concept was ignored by the apparent "complacent" side before kick off. As many times as we bang our heads against the walls in the changing room or repeat phases such as "We have to want the victory more the opposition" it won't work as the psychological feeling of desperation can't be taught like a good spin pass or preached like the tenancy to play risk free in your own 22. It may be a case that we control the controlables and get better as a team rather than worry about the uncontrollables, even if they may exist in our own psychology.