Did Scott Barrett just win Ian Foster one more year?

As promised to wellwishers, detractors and assorted Roar characters, here is my look at the eldest Barrett brother’s involvement in the 38-0 spanking of the tired, undercooked Pumas. I looked at one whole match performance each of Guido Petti (Argentina), Patrick Tuipulotu (New Zealand) and Rob Simmons (Australia) in this year’s Tri Nations tournament. As […]

Did Scott Barrett just win Ian Foster one more year?

As promised to wellwishers, detractors and assorted Roar characters, here is my look at the eldest Barrett brother’s involvement in the 38-0 spanking of the tired, undercooked Pumas.

I looked at one whole match performance each of Guido Petti (Argentina), Patrick Tuipulotu (New Zealand) and Rob Simmons (Australia) in this year’s Tri Nations tournament. As a reminder, Battling Basque Petti was best (and went the distance), with much-maligned centurion Simmons just behind him (but over 67 minutes, running on fumes at the end). Tame Tuipulotu lagged significantly and was dropped for the second All Blacks-Pumas Test in favour of Scott Barrett.

Barrett looks like he could be in any decade of the All Blacks, even in the 19th century. Not a freak. A bit blockish. Strong but not ripped. Always zealous but often clumsy.

Before the match I observed Barrett shake every teammate’s hand the old school way – No hugs, no snaps, no jive.

Would he match up against the super-smooth Petti?

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Tighthead lock Involvements/min Minutes on field Positive-neutral-negative Percentage positive Percentage negative
Simmons 0.75 67 9-41-0 18 0
Petti 0.66 81 23-30-1 42.5 2
Tuipulotu 0.61 70 11-24-8 25 19

For the purposes of this analysis, I’ve divided the game into eight ten-minute chukkas.

Petti had 0.66 discrete involvements (outside the scrum) per minute but never lost pace over 81 minutes except for a lull in the fourth chukka after being hurt in a tackle by Jack Goodhue. He finished with nine involvements in the eighth chukka, the fourth busiest of any chukka by all men.

More importantly, while only two per cent of Petti’s involvements were negative (my assessment), 43 per cent were positive (meaning more than just what is expected of a Test lock; actually putting his team on the front foot and creating the chance for red zone entry or a score or morale boost).

Simmons was busier (0.75 actions per minute), but his positive involvements were only 18 per cent of the whole. I must point out he had zero negatives, but overall we can observe the historic critique of the big old Queenslander, even in one of his best games in years, is grounded in some sort of reality, even if unfair if he is called lazy or soft – he does not dominate a game. He works, he grinds, he keeps possession, he does not take a lot of risks and he gets his hands dirty.

Tuipulotu was a liability for his team. He dipped in production. He was slow to even his neutral ruck attendances. He was much more likely to concede possession. He did more positive things than Simmons but committed eight more mistakes: a coach-killer in a tight Test match.

How did Barrett do?

Watching it live I felt Barrett brought more energy, urgency, and biff than Tuipulotu did in the loss.

On review I found the following.

First chukka (seven involvements)
No forward flowed because a kicking duel and brother Jordie’s penalty attempt chewed up four early minutes. This was followed by a long review of brother Beauden’s non-try.

However, Barrett got stuck in.

Positive:
Barrett tackled the first deep restart (with brother Beauden) and made two hard cleanouts of Argie jacklers.

Neutral:
He did a passable clean at 6:30, challenged well – illegally but not whistled – at a 7:54 lineout, carried and presented tidily and pressured a Pumas carrier on his try line.

Second chukka (seven involvements)
Barrett started with a bang, but the last five minutes of this chukka were consumed with interminable Richie Mo’unga kick routines (he takes 80 to 90 seconds) and scrum resets.

Positive
Barrett got a piece of a Nicolas Sanchez exit, keeping the Pumas pinned, made a hard carry over the gainline at 10:37, another strong carry at pace on a good 45-degree angle deep in the red zone, leading to Dane Coles’s try and, finally, a beautiful six-metre run almost to the line after chasing a 50-metre-plus kick.

Neutral
He attended three rucks, forming a pillar.

Third chukka (seven involvements)
In this period Barrett contested lineouts and did his best impression of Brodie Retallick passing on a pivot platform.

Positive
He created a slow mess of a Pumas lineout with a dynamic contest and passed in stride to Anton Lienert-Brown in space on the run.

Neutral
He challenged another two lineouts (was undercut at one), passed to Ardie Savea in tight-loose, attended a ruck and defended a maul.

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Fourth chukka (nine involvements)
Aided by the breather of kick tennis, a long scrum dance and another 90-second Mo’unga swing thought mindfulness kick aim, Barrett had plenty in the tank.

Positive
He smashed over two tacklers and made a devilish low catch on the run on the 12th phase in the red zone.

Neutral
He attended three rucks, latched Caleb Clarke, made a settling carry, was a maul engine and pressured a Sánchez exit.

Scott Barrett met the Rob Simmons work rate in the first half: 0.75 discrete non-scrum involvements per minute. His 30 actions included 37 per cent positives. He outplayed the excellent (but surely tired) Guido Petti. Did he keep it up? (A question posed after so many honeymoons).

Fifth chukka (six involvements)
Play drifted away from Barrett in this short side period even though he routinely offered himself to Aaron Smith on the openside. Still, he was busy.

Positive
He made a hard yard on the All Blacks try line.

Neutral
He attended two rucks, hit a cleanout, carried and presented and tackled Marcos Kremer.

Negative
He drifted back into a leaping Clarke on the first play of the half, undercutting him. If he were a Pumas chaser, he’d have been red-carded. A lack of awareness.

Sixth chukka (five involvements)
Barrett had trouble in this one. His hands let him down just after the best lineout take of the match.

Positive
He extended in the lift at the back of a 51:30 lineout, feeding Ardie Savea on the way to a try that doomed Argentina. Soft hands, great take and smooth feed.

Neutral
A one-up tackle and a so-so lineout challenge.

Negative
He spilled a restart, saved by Clarke’s scavenge, and idly knocked back a bouncing ball in general play to Emiliano Boffelli (who isolated and was turned over).

Seventh chukka (seven involvements)
Barrett remained when Tuipulotu arrived (Sam Whitelock went off). He tired but kept grinding, like a young Simmons.

Neutral
Two tackles of backs, a two-handed lineout take to set a drive, a hard carry, a clean and a ruck hit.

Negative
A restart mixup.

Final chukka (six involvements)
As he started to blow, Barrett clapped and shouted encouragement. The thing about Scott Barrett is, unlike all the other big locks, his output was remarkably consistent (7-7-7-9-6-5-7 by chukka to this point). It was only at the very end that he slowed. The game went past 86 minutes. His involvement rate (0.66 per minute) was higher than any of his counterparts in this study except the stodgy soldier Simmons.

Positive
A wildly skillful pickup on the right wing at 84:56, leading to his lockmate’s try.

Neutral
Catch and pass in midfield at 74:08. Two decent rucks. A maul defend. A maul sack that should’ve been whistled.

Scott Barrett had 54 involvements, 26 per cent positive. That’s salty. He kept his error rate (seven per cent) down, but he was not as clinical as Petti and Simmons.

His 14-36-4 ratio is testament to his industry and zeal; only as he tired did he start to make mistakes.

At this point, he’s a reliable carrier and contester – a true blue-collar All Black.

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New Zealand wear down Argentina to claim yet more silverware

It seems a little odd that in a three-country competition a team can win the trophy with two wins and two losses while the team in second finishes has two wins, one loss and a draw. As we all know, New Zealand defeated Argentina 38-0 on Saturday night and, with the bonus point, are guaranteed […]

It seems a little odd that in a three-country competition a team can win the trophy with two wins and two losses while the team in second finishes has two wins, one loss and a draw.

As we all know, New Zealand defeated Argentina 38-0 on Saturday night and, with the bonus point, are guaranteed the Tri Nations trophy. I am of course discounting the possibility that Australia and Argentina will play out another draw. The odds are strongly against that.

The odds against either team winning the trophy are pretty high too. New Zealand now has 11 points – eight from two wins and three bonus points – with a points difference of 64. Argentina, which has six points and a points difference of -28, will have to defeat Australia by a margin of 93 points to win the trophy. In Australia’s case, as they have six points and a points difference of -36, that margin of victory against Argentina will have to be 101 points.

Somehow, I can’t see either option playing out.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

As an aside, when Michael Cheika left the Wallabies coaching role in 2019 he said he would never coach against his home country. Yet he has been helping out Pumas coach Mario Ledesma. There’s one difference in his attire when Australia is playing Argentina: he does not wear the official coach colours as Ledesma does. He wears civvies. Yet on Saturday night, when the Pumas took on the All Blacks, he was in official Argentine garb. Somewhat silly, one would think.

But to the game now, and New Zealand managed to curb a lot of their bad habits and respect the ball when they got it. They stayed in possession for long periods, making the Argentines tackle and tackle and tackle. By the end of the first half they did not have much to show in the way of points, but they had ensured that the Pumas had effected 107 tackles to the 21 they had had to pull off.

Even if the game had been played in cool weather, that number of tackles in 40 minutes would have worn down any side. Add to that the fact that this was a side playing its third game on consecutive weekends – when a team is that tired they tend to make mistakes they never would on another day.

The last three All Blacks tries were conceded by Argentina out of sheer weariness. A wayward pass from Santiago Carreras went to ground and substitute winger Will Jordan pounced on the ball and promptly turned on the afterburners. A couple of minutes later Carreras was again at fault as he threw a pass that Jordan this time intercepted and again raced through to score.

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The last try, by Patrick Tuipulotu, saw the burly lock charge through a gap as big as the Khyber Pass and close out the game. Until that point, Argentine’s line defence had been pretty good.

Argentina were poorly served by their star Nicolas Sanchez. Agreed, the man must have been somewhat tired after scoring all the 40 points that his team has recorded in their first two games, but even then he was terrible on the day. What kicking he did was poorly judged, and when he was substituted in the second half it was a clear indication Argentina had given up any hopes of overhauling what was then a 17-point deficit.

The Pumas badly missed the injured Thomas Cubelli. His replacement at scrumhalf, Felipe Ezcurra, was not even half as good, and with Sanchez also kicking poorly Ezcurra needed to be much better when he put boot to ball.

Their scrum, a strong point in the game where they beat the All Blacks, was monstered by New Zealand on more than occasion. Their lineout was also shaky.

Pumas All Blacks

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New Zealand were primed to avoid ill-discipline, not to lose patience and to keep possession through endless recycling until something gave. They followed that plan for most of the 86 minutes of the game, but there was the occasional lapse when either Beauden Barrett or else Richie Mo’unga would send the ball back to Argentina with aimless kicks.

There were also flashes of the old arrogance – when Tyrel Lomax took a swing at Lucio Sordoni as he tried to clean out a breakdown and earned a yellow card. Lomax was lucky that Sordoni was on the ground, else he would surely have been given a red instead.

Akira Ioane was the standout player for New Zealand. Whether it was pulling in the ball at lineout time, landing ferocious tackles on his opponents or using his tremendous strength to simply rip the ball out of an Argentine’s hands, Ioane excelled in every facet. He had previously had only about 25 minutes on the field – when he had to be substituted in the loss against Australia when Ofa Tu’ungafasi was red-carded so that another prop could be brought on.

For the record, this was the first time Argentina failed to score even a single point against New Zealand. The Kiwis could not have hoped for a better ending to what has been a strange year. No doubt they will watch with interest on 5 December when Australian take on Argentina. But as far as trophies go, the final Tri Nations game is of only academic interest.

One cannot end without mention of a classy gesture by the All Blacks to their opponents. Captain Sam Cane walked across the pitch before the haka and presented the Pumas with an All Blacks jersey which had the No. 10 and the lone word ‘Maradona’ written on the back in memory of Diego Armando Maradona, who died at the age of 60 during the week. A better tribute to that legend of the round-ball game I am yet to see.

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