Was Ardie the Worst?
So, I re-watched the game - thank god for Sapporo Hana-bi-yabi beer (try it!)
I focused upon Ardie Savea, so I'll get there soon, but first I want to talk about some team issues, and who - IMO - were the worst players out there (Hint: Not Ardie!)
Overall, what I see on the rewatch is a lot of individual skill errors leading to turnovers, penalties, and opportunities missed. I also see us not responding to opposition tactics (like attacking our ball) with players not making any attempt to clean effectively, meaning shit ball, meaning less opportunities.
We got done around the break down because no one appeared to give a fuck about cleaning appropriately - or being on hand to secure the ball after the cleaners have gone over. This was the primary problem on the edges, where the French put men in and we had only one or two men making ineffective cleans (or sometimes only one). ALB was one of the few making strong cleans, but seemed to be alone to often. A few examples:
34:20 - Scott Barrett non attempt followed by weak Moody clean out leads to French turnover on our left flank.
39:15 - Squire and Cane blow over to the ball, but there’s no one there to help. S Barrett and S Whitelock are backing off, not seeing that we are losing the ball.
42nd minute - Cane breaks through, L Whitelock with no feel for the counter attack, leaves Cane isolated, result is turnover and opportunity gone.
76:23 - Players only setting for the next play, no cleaners. Fifita just watching
I only really remember two dominant tackles (Squire once, L Whitelock once) in the whole game, indicating we aren't really putting in the effort.
A related concern was the lack of urgency on defence, most obviously seen by defenders not making a big enough effort to roll away. Examples: S. Barrett, S Whitelock, N Harris
A Lack of patience
We'd start breaking them down outside, only to push it, rather than reset (no cleaners for that anyway, I guess) and go again. Some examples:
First half - Cody Taylor attempted offload in traffic on the sideline, leading to a turnover
46:40 - Unnecessary offload by Ioane leads to metres lost and Dmac to kick for the corner, which uuuust goes out on the full.
Later on - Ioane in space, pushes the late pass (rather than passing earlier or holding) leading to a turnover.
Worst of the night: Sam Cane The worst I've ever seen him play. Behind the play, and when he caught up, he'd penalize (three times), and missed almost as many tackles as he made (4-3). Totally off the pace.
Second Worst: Owen Franks Holy shit, when he wasn't waving people through (first French no-try) he was hitting the ground faster than a 10 dollar hooker. Offered no ball running, hardly any cleaning, and was exploited for his lack of pace at least twice - made as many tackles as he missed (3-3). May have been injured, but he's also completely out of form.
Third Worst: Vaea Fifita You'd struggle to know if he was out there. One turnover, but was just constantly ball watching. It's incredible. He may have been injured, but he was terrible. According to ESPN, 3 carries and no metres gained. Supposedly made 9 tackles.
Joe Moody In his 50 minutes, he scored a good try, but also was packing on his knees, and missed two tackles that I saw. He also dropped a sitter 5 out when we were on attack. A numbr of poor clean outs and just looked tired.
Nathan Harris Terrible. One not straight when we are hard on attack, plus one overthrow, plus a missed tackle in the build up to the second French non-try (68:30), followed by a rolling away penalty. I'm not sure he made a positive contribution.
Codie Taylor Terrible offsides to give French ball in our territory
Aaron Smith Consistently bad passing, including the forward to Jordie
TJ Perenara Handling, kicking, and passing all not good enough. Worst of all, no patience when we got opportunities.
Dmac Bad drop 5 out when we were hot on attack Bad short pass to Franks, who promptly goes down like a 10 dollar hooker, which is followed by a bad clean out from Dmac and S Barrett, while Squire backs off rather than coming to secure possession Stupid chip kick at 53 mins Cracking box kick at 65:28, best of the night be a player in black McKenzie quick tap at 70:50, needed to get territory, we went quick and ended up turning it over (Crotty drop)
Ardie Savea (14 tackles, 3 misses, 1 clean break, 7 metres, 1 offload, and I think 3 turnovers earned)
Not good, but busy.
I think he gets (mostly) a hard time from us, mainly due to his inaccuracies (3 misses), and some problems with the way he gets himself back in the defensive line - in one case running past the obvious pillar spot to the other side of the ruck, leaving a gap for the french (which they exploit). I think this is the point @Bones makes a lot.
Having said that, he was busy as fuck, particularly in comparison to Fifita. However, his tackles don't tend to be dominant, and he tends to be busy as fuck for 1 minute, then unsighted (even though he's right there watching ) for the next minute. My notes below:
First tackle stops Basteureux (ND) Stands up and helps next tackle (ND) Cover tackle on Thomas (ND) Another after the line out (D) then competes for ball, slowing it down Misses tackle at 53 mins but gets up and tackles the following player (ND) and follows that by almost securing a turnover
Then goes missing during the next 5 minutes, always the guy holding off the tackle, then misses the fullback on the cut and looks worn out? Follows up and covers by getting the turnover when the ball comes out, then loses it, then he and Fifita tackle together (and Fifita gets hurt).
Is missing at 61 when TJ and Laumape can’t clean Basteureud quickly and we concede another breakdown penalty, even though he's coming across. Maybe I'm being unfair to ask him to get to that breakdown as others are closer, but backing off to set up, in accordance with our shitty cleaning strategy all night.
He stands by as we go backwards at 62:20, then makes a (ND) tackle, gets up, runs to the other side of the ruck, rather than setting a good pillar. That creates a gap that the French break through. TJP goes to the bin at the next ruck.
Makes a stopping tackle at 63:30 after getting stepped by Basteureud, followed by a (ND) tackle at 63:40, then is straight back up and makes the next tackle, but gets carried along, loosing metres.
Turns it over (or L Whitelock does) at 68:30, from a line out drive, and that allows the French to break for the line - it's ruled out due to double movement - note Harris shaken off by the Frenchie there too.
Makes a (ND) tackle at 70 mins, followed by a non-completed tackle at 70:29 that allows Frog to crawl a few metres. Nice miss though, because the Frenchie gets penalized.
Makes a good tackle on Thomas at 71:41, followed by a reasonable tackle with L Whitelock at 71:55.
Makes a tackle at 74:41, followed by turnover, relieving the pressure on us. Again, he makes a tackle at 78:28 followed by a turnover won, which goes five out, and then Perenara throws it away. Fuck.
Ardie makes a tackle at 79:5, while Fifita has been watching on, then Ardie concedes penalty adv trying to attack the ball, stands up and makes the next tackle, and the next one, while Fifita never comes across to cover the blindside pillar - even though he is clearly a passenger at this point and could use his body at least, leaving the blind open for them to open us up. They break through and everyone is too tired to run them down, and that's that.
Overall, I think Ardie is just still too inaccurate, and too busy without being purposeful. He seems to wear himself out then drop out for a few minutes, then jump in all blood and guts, then go missing again. It looks like they need to give me better strategic directions about how to apply himself.