Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The concerning basic errors behind Canada's collapse to Fiji

A look at some of the concerning basic errors in what was a miserable Sunday for Canada, who suffered their worst defeat for three years against Fiji.

A few weeks ago, this site highlighted a few of the factors around Canada's recent losing streak. One of the things to consider was the side had never been blown away in any of those losses. The worst was really just drab 14 point defeat to Japan, and were unfortunate in a few of those games, particularly against Scotland and Samoa.

The same cannot be said of this weekend's match against Fiji though, where Canada were simply blown away early. That hasn't really happened since the November 2012 against Samoa.

To beat Fiji you need to make sure all the most fundamental areas of the game are sound. Strong set piece, kicking game, and starve Fiji of the counter attack, turnover ball situations they thrive on. Yet Canada, right from the kickoff failed to do this.

Against Fiji, a side with not such a good lineout record, but with some very effective counter attack runners, it is normally a good idea to take extra caution with your defensive kicking game not to just lump the ball down their throats.

In the very first 5 minutes there were three kicks from scrum half Gordon McRorie. None of which found touch, space, distance, or came with any pressure on the Fijians whatsoever.

Example on GIF below was the latter of those three, and best sums it up. A box kick from inside his own 22. It misses touch. It doesn't find space. It doesn't have the distance to peg Fiji back. It doesn't have the height for chasers to challenge. And does nothing but travel right into the hands of Nemani Nadolo, one of Fiji most dangerous players no less, who is allowed free space to run into, win the collision, and get front foot ball that next phase leads to an attack in the Canadian 22.

GIF: An example just 5 minutes in of a nothing kick from the 22 handing
Fiji front foot possession
Later on in the first half, again starting from the 22, Harry Jones just lobbed down a ball right to the Fijians who duly punished the kick scoring off the counter attack.

GIF: Another kick that was totally ineffective, no touch, no pressure on the
catcher, and Fiji counter attacked to score an impressive long distance try.
The second key to beating Fiji is controlling the set piece. Yet Canada continued to have issues in this area, and as a result were unable to relieve pressure effectively.

At lineout, although the stats will show 11 of 12 wins, they were not efficient clean wins at all, with numerous tap backs sending McRorie backpeddling, often returning a poor kick in return and Canada remaining under pressure.

Here are just 3 of Canada's first 5 lineouts in the match. McRorie kicking off the back foot, and Fiji getting counter attack front foot possession virtually as good as winning the lineout themselves. It's a poor kick from McRorie, but it stems from the messy lineout.

GIF: From the very first minute, a poorly won lineout was leading to the
scrum half McRorie kicking off back foot possession.
A few minutes later a similar thing happened 5 metres out from the line. With the ball being thrown onto the ground, and a backtracking McRorie kicking off his left foot into legs of his teammate and out of play. This resulted in a 5 metre scrum that Fiji scored their first try from.

GIF: A lineout under pressure 5 metres out results in miscommunication between
lock and scrum half and then a 5 metre scrum Fiji score a try off.
Another example, this time in an attacking position 40 metres out where again the same thing happened. Again is Nakarawa, who makes use of his ability to leap vertically, and his long arms who puts pressure on and a lineout inside the Fiji half results in back foot possession in Canada's own half, and eventually a turnover.

GIF: This was the fourth time a ball tap backed met the floor within the first
25 minutes, in this case putting Canada on the back foot losing 15 metres.
With Fiji's lineout on the otherhand. Canada actually didn't compete for a single opposition throw for over the first hour of play.

Considering this is a lineout that earlier this year, collapsed in the second half against the Maori All Blacks where they went on a run of losing 6 of 7 lineouts, and do not possess a hooker with one of the most powerful throws, nor is it a lineout that regularly leads to mauls.

So to not even really attempt to put any pressure on it was a curious one, possibly one with an eye on the four very strong mauling sides they face at the World Cup.

GIF: Fiji's lineout was not contested for most of the match
The set piece was in such a state that Fiji were not punished for fumbling possession and making errors, with defensive lineouts just bringing more pressure, whilst the scrum continues to have serious issues.

Canada actually lost 3 of their first 4 scrums against the head, including two penalties that directly cost 6 points (incidentally brings the points won/lost difference directly off scrums now to -52 since the current engagement).

Meanwhile Fiji, just like at the lineout, were getting clean ball. Which leads onto the other basic errors.

Last month this site commented on the frequency of Canada playing recklessly, making unforced errors in their own half, and how that will be punished by sides who will be considered very likely to be very dominant at scrum.

In this match though, unforced errors in your own half both from Nanyak Dala both led to Fijian points off turnover or scrum ball. If ball is dropped like that against Romania, a side who has gained match winning points tallies against Canada nearly entire through the scrum, it will be pretty inexcusable.

GIF: Nanyak Dala fumbled possession twice in the first half, both times
leading to Fijian points.
Obviously every team will make errors, but some of the unforced errors Canada made this match were comically bad though. Off virtually the one piece of clean lineout ball in the first half this play happened, with ball fumbled across the backline leading to huge pressure 5 metres out, and eventually led to a try.

GIF: One the worst passages of Canadian play this year.
The second half was better for Canada, but it still managed to produce one play that arguably topped that for its awfulness, as an attempted cross kick from Liam Underwood went backwards. Again, an unforced error putting the side under pressure, and Fiji scored off good attacking lineout possession.

GIF: Another case of pressure maintained on Canada through an unforced
error in their own half of the field.
This was Canada's worst performance of the year so far, and it concludes another poor week for Kieran Crowley. On top of this match injuries and niggles already mounting up to before the tournament has even begun, with captain Tyler Ardron a major doubt for the start of the tournament, Jeff Hassler, Jebb Sinclair nursing minor injuries, and two more players leaving the pitch injured against Fiji, which has left two tighthead props in the squad fighting just to make it to the first game.

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