Chiefs 2022. A case of playing to their ceiling?
Did they underperform or simply reach their peak based on the players they had? Were fans over expecting given the limitations that were obvious from the start?
There is no doubt the the Chiefs assembled a formidable forward pack with depth this season and despite injuries to big name players along the way, more than held their own in the trenches and set pieces. The scrum was not only solid but, at times, dominated some big names. There was no excuse for the platform provided to the backs and no blame can go the way of the front rowers at all.
Depth at lock is seriously good and only the pending retirement of BBBR will keep others from being snapped up elsewhere. Even then maybe McWhannell’s agent might be shopping around.
The loose forwards managed all sorts of shuffles well and all had their moments. They never really had a chance to settle on a first choice combination with different players either in form or not available at different times.
Disruptions and depth. In general this was handled well by the coaches and the ‘Chiefs Mana’ approach and culture served them well. That’s what a season and a squad is all about so no excuses there.
Selections. While we aren’t party to all niggles and training ground performances there have been a few head scratchers along the way. The reluctance to try Reihana at fullback even though he showed out in a very brief cameo from the bench was one. The preference of Roe as reserve halfback at the pointy end of the season despite the find of the season being Ratima, another. Most of the fan questions have been around the back three and I don’t doubt that it was the same for the coaches.
If forwards were the strength of the side, backs were the weakness. Weber didn’t have his best showing in the semi but overall for the season deserved his place as first choice halfback. Ratima took every opportunity that came his way and is a must keep and Roe, while not doing anything wrong, didn’t do much. An ‘achieved’ pass mark for the smallest backs.
Midfield rates as a ‘could have done better’ on this report card. While things weren’t helped by the loss of the experience and class of ALB both Tupaea and Nankivell had some very good performances marred by some poor ones (QT notably in the biggest game of the season). Maybe some blame could go on ALB not being there as an old head but personal responsibility is what we need.
The real problem areas are the playmaker and the outside backs.
At the key pivot position there were high hopes going in that Josh Ioane would regain form and bring some spark along with good decision making. However, when Gatland was given a chance he surprised everyone to start with by adding some running to his game and keeping defences honest. He put in some good showings and looked like he may be good enough to scrape us home. Ioane then tried too hard to come back and lost his spot at first receiver, becoming a DMac lite off the bench. However, Gatland seems to have poor patches during games that he can’t overcome and once he hits that wall he reverts to being a shoveller and throws pressure on those outside him. He isn’t the long term answer but won’t be going anywhere while dad is around.
No one can win this comp without a class 10 and the Chiefs need DMac back refreshed and wiser badly.
The back three were always the big question from squad selection. ENS has never kicked on and looks for the step instead of the line or gap way to much. Narawa had flashes but never screamed selection while the other options put in nothing more than the journeyman performances at their ceiling. As mentioned, there was a possibility of Reihana being a Perofeta like option that was never explored.
Stocks on the rise
Ratima, Finau, Vai’i (still),
Stocks that plummeted
Trask, ENS, Narawa, Reihana (for reasons unknown)