We spent some time tracking the work rate of the USA team in their 32-25 win over Russia Saturday. We looked at who made and missed tackles, and who made a solid contribution at the breakdown. From that we came up with a number that measured a player’s work rate. It wasn’t enough to show up at a ruck, you had to have made an impact (won a turnover, made sure jeopardized ball was safe, or push someone back).
Six players stood out in this measurement: John van der Giessen, Scott LaValla, Shawn Pittman, Paul Emerick, Nese Malifa, and Nick Johnson.
Van Der Giessen had by far the highest work rate. If we factor in big plays, where van der Giessen stole at least three Russian lineouts, you’ve got a heck of a game from the lock.
LaValla was the second-most active, and he too had a couple of big plays, mitigated by the odd mistake. His biggest play, in our book, was late in the game when Blaine Scully made a try-saving tackle that prevented a Russian overload. LaValla passed several other Eagles to get to that breakdown and ensure (along with Paul Emerick and Tai Enosa) that the Eagles won that ball.
Shawn Pittman was outstanding. His scrum work was quite good (look at the tape, it wasn’t Pittman’s side that had trouble), and his tackling and activity at the breakdown shamed his front row mates (like LaValla, running past other static players to get into a ruck that needed getting into). On one of Russia’s many long-range attacking moves, the backs stopped the Bears, but the first forward to show up on the scene was a prop – Pittman.
Emerick may not have passed the ball a great deal, but he ran hard, made his tackles, and was in a lot of rucks, too. Here his 7s experience helps, because as a back he’s not above diving to the floor to snap up a loose ball, a la a flanker.
Malifa wasn’t really a factor in the breakdown – that’s not his job. But his defense, combined with his offensive contributions, justified the Sky Sports Man of the Match award he received. Malifa, by our count, made seven tackles. Of those, three of them (three!) prevented tries. On one of them, he took down a Russian at full pace with no one behind to help.
And finally Nick Johnson. He came on late in the game and put in more work (five tackles and five big rucks) in 20 minutes than some players put in all day
Now this doesn’t mean other players didn’t put in work, just that those players put in the most. Several others had good moments, or worked hard but made a few big mistakes. A few others didn’t work enough.
But we go back to those six players: van der Giessen, LaValla, Pittman, Malifa, Johnson and Emerick as guys who really stood out in terms of work rate. Four of them scored no points, but earned plenty of points in our book.