Having analysed the work rates in recent Tests of Puma star lock Guido Petti, faithful Wallaby stalwart lineout king Rob Simmons, fired up All Black lock Scott Barrett, and disappointing Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu, I asked Nick Bishop who my next 2020 southern hemisphere Test lock look should be.
“Matt Philip in the win over the All Blacks.”
To recap, Tuipulotu, Petti, and Barrett had between 0.62 and 0.66 involvements per minute (Petti went over 84 minutes, while Simmons set the standard for being busy, although he had the shortest shift).
How did Philip fare? The best, thus far.
Philip contributed the most discrete involvements (non-scrum actions directly attributable to him) of all five players: 68.
Philip played 81 minutes, so his rate was 0.84 per minute. Phenomenal.
He had more involvements after oranges (32-36).
More importantly, 36 per cent of his involvements were positive in my system: clearly influential and effective. Only one involvement hurt his team: a missed tackle on the elusive Reiko Ioane.
Take a bow, Matt. Here’s how he went.
First chukka (seven involvements)
Positive: Matt claimed a loose ball in a crowd, a thing he seems to do.
Neutral: He pressured a box kick, tackled Sam Whitelock and two other carriers, and joined two rucks forcefully.
I observed that Philip had free rein to roam along the defensive line.
Second chukka (nine involvements)
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Positive: Matt made two heavy, dominant tackles, including turning Sam Cane; no easy feat.
Neutral: He swam in and defended two mauls, got in the air on two decent lineout contests, tackled Beauden Barrett, and attended two rucks.
His high pace to rucks stood out.
Third chukka (nine involvements)
Positive: At two critical phases, Matt kept attacks going. He caught a ball in traffic, withstood contact, and successfully passed. He steered a maul to win a penalty.
At 28:15, he corralled a loose ball and carried it hard.
Neutral: He attended three rucks, took/transferred in two more maul drives, and made a clean lineout take.
At some point, he lost his headband.
Fourth chukka (seven involvements)
Positive: Matt slowed All Black ball at 34:08 with a solo counter-ruck. He dominated another tackle. He stopped a maul drive, cold.
After a passage of play in which Nic White was tossed all over the pitch by various and sundry All Blacks, and only five metres away from a Kiwi try, Matt stole a lineout, almost two minutes after the halftime hooter.
Neutral: He defended one maul, sacked another (illegally, but not caught), and contested a lineout closely.
At halftime, a third of his 32 involvements were positive. His production never dipped (7-9-9-7 by chukka). Strong!
Matt was even more ubiquitous after oranges. He was a free roaming defender.
Fifth chukka (nine involvements)
Positive: He slowed and messed up All Black ball with a strong lineout challenge. He deep-cleaned Whitelock off a ball he was about to snaffle. He made a vital seal.
Neutral: He attended three rucks, properly. He slowed tackle ball without being penalised. He played scrumhalf and did it well.
Negative: He missed a tackle, or fell off a tackle, of Reiko Ioane, at 45:04.
Sixth chukka (five involvements)
The first thing Matt did in this period robbed him of oxygen.
Positive: Matt scrambled all the way back to the corner flag, making it difficult for Sevu Reece to pass inside. Heroic.
Neutral: he tried (in vain) to defend the ensuing maul, counter-rucker twice with venom, and pressured an exit.
Seventh chukka (12 involvements)
This was Matt’s best phase. He was just about the most dominant player on the pitch.
Positive: Matt pilfered a ball at 62:38, won a tricky restart ball over multiple All Blacks, made a crucial and crashing clean-out at 65:20, and then an even bigger one at 66:21, and claimed a bouncing ball in traffic at the very end of the chukka.
Neutral: He joined three rucks, motored a maul, did solo maul defence, took a clean lineout and fed it well, and tackled Reiko Ioane.
Eighth chukka (ten involvements)
He never slowed down.
Positive: A monumental cleanout for an isolated Michael Hooper, a catch and pass (to Noah Lolesio), and a hard carry over an All Black.
Neutral: He made a decent tackle, attended three rucks, did a pivot pass, made a low cleanout, and came close (1 m) to a try, setting up Taniela Tupou.
With 22 super involvements, 45 satisfactory ones, and only one missed tackle, Matt Philip was fiery, dynamic, and a warrior.
He never stopped shouting encouragement, directions, and sledge. He’s a keeper.
The numbers Involvements (by chukka): 7–9-9-7-9-5-12-10. Rate per minute: 0.84. Breakdown (positive-neutral-negative): 22-45-1. Percentage of positives: 32. Percentage of negative: 1.