Opposition beware. Scott Barrett has officially arrived and he is here to ruin your night.
Though brothers Beauden and Jordie steal most of the headlines, it was tight forward Scott that deserved all the accolades after his outstanding performance against Les Bleus.
With 68-Test stalwart and resident second-row superstar Brodie Retallick missing the series with a pectoral injury, Barrett had some huge boots to fill. But the man they call ‘Lloyd’ stepped up and did more than just fill in. A key cog in a Crusaders pack littered with All Blacks, he grabbed his opportunity to start in the black jersey with both hands and never looked back.
After a pair of fine efforts across the first two Tests, it was the finale at Forsyth Barr Stadium where the 24-year-old really separated himself.
Equal parts heart and hunger, the innovative lock was seemingly involved in every play, covering every inch of astroturf in a tireless 80 minutes.
The Taranaki native absolutely stuffed the statsheet in his seventh All Black start. He made 19 tackles with just one miss, and won three turnovers – bringing his series total to an impressive 32 tackles, which he converted at a rate of 94%. His 19 tackle effort in the third Test – an astounding seven more than his nearest teammate – was the highest single game tally of any player from either team across the series.
His impact on the series was undeniable. If he wasn’t stopping someone dead in their tracks with a bone-rattling tackle, he was getting over the ball to recycle or steal, or he was delivering a silky offload to put a teammate through a hole – showing ball skills he surely honed playing in the backyard with his brothers.
After starting the third Test with an early error – an errant pass that sent Damian McKenzie scrambling backwards – Barrett quickly shifted gear and made four tackles inside the first minute of play.
When the All Blacks kicked off after conceding an early try, Barrett was there to snuff out any momentum by dragging Teddy Thomas down and into touch.
Some of his best work in the third Test was done in contact. Early in the second spell Barrett showed off a clean pair of heels and some soft hands in chasing down a Damian McKenzie chip before deftly offloading in a tackle to Ben Smith. He was then straight back to his feet as an inside support option for Matt Todd a phase later. When Todd couldn’t find him, he cleared the ruck by himself to allow for quick ball.
Upon stripping Kelian Galletier in contact later in the match, Barrett was able to calmly turning upfield and recycle, instantly giving his side great field position that led to Rieko Ioane’s second try of the night near the 60-minute mark. He ripped Felix Lambey ten minutes later to spark another All Blacks surge.
He rounded out his performance with some impeccable work at the lineout. He delivered quick and clean ball when called upon, and spent the rest of his night disrupting the French lineout, grabbing a crucial steal inside his own 22 with such ease that it looked like the ball was intended for him in the first place.
Barrett’s collective efforts against France put his wide-ranging ability and well-rounded skill set on full display. Proving himself equally effective on both sides of the ball and displaying a thirst for work that is tough to match, performances like this – dubbed by coach Steve Hansen as his best in the jersey – will make the dynamic forward tough to ignore for both selectors and opponents moving forward.
Scott Barrett has arrived, and he’s here to stay.
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