10 takeaways from week two of the Summer Tours

Iain Morrison gives his verdicts on a weekend which saw the northern hemisphere achieve an unprecedented summer clean sweep over the south

Ben White was a star performer for Scotland in their victory over Argentina. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ben White was a star performer for Scotland in their victory over Argentina. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

1. History was made

And more than once. Not only did Wales beat South Africa for the first time ever in the Republic but Ireland did a number on New Zealand for the first time down under. In fact, it was a great day for European rugby with five wins in all … France, Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. Just the fillip the somewhat stale rugby world needed. Kudos especially to Ireland. Although helped by a red card shown to Angus Ta’avao, the men in green looked the better team for long periods of this match. It will be interesting to see if the All Blacks can recover their winning ways, not to mention that aura of invincibility that has clung to them like a Ready Brek halo for decades now.

2. Kiwi fans should know better

The Dunedin crown booed referee Jaco Peyper after that red card but goodness only knows why? Lab rats learn faster than some rugby players and Ta’avao made zero attempt to lower his point of contact on Garry Ringrose. It wasn’t just a red card it was a dumb, avoidable, slam dunk, nailed down and obvious red card. Ta’avao didn’t just ruin his own day, and that of the legion of Kiwi fans, but he also ended Ringrose’s game and perhaps the Irishman’s tour? Rugby has a duty of care to its players and the Dunedin fans should know better.

3. Scotland improved

Although arguably only because they could not get any worse. Are you a glass half full or half empty sort of person? I only ask because the former will rave about Scotland’s clinical second half and the running lines of Sam Johnson and Mark Bennett. The latter will instead concentrate on the fact that, at least for the first 40 odd minutes, the Scots appeared unable to pass the ball or, when they did manage that feat, to catch the stupid thing. Some players appeared to have met in the sheds five minutes before kick-off. And if they can play that well in the second half why on earth were Scotland so bad for the opening 40? A coach’s only task is to persuade his charges to play to their potential every time they step on the field and Gregor Townsend is failing badly on that count. Twin opensides Hamish Watson and Rory Darge made a big impact on both sides of the ball and their back-row buddy Matt Fagerson was very much busier than last weekend. But they are, to some extent, papering the cracks.


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4. You can only beat the team in front of you

How ordinary were Argentina? Nothing like the giants who beat New Zealand just two short years ago. You fear for them in the upcoming Rugby Championship.

5.  Ben White catches the eye

I have argued before that Ali Price doesn’t offer enough threat with the ball in hand and the point was underlined when his replacement, London Irish scrummy Ben White, showed him how. In the lead up to Mark Bennett’s crucial score just after the break, White made not one but two half breaks, offloading to Rory Darge the first time and Bennett, for the score, the second. A threat from nine means that defenders have to watch two or more attackers which is obviously more difficult than one and White made good use of Scotland’s quick ruck ball.

6.  Sorry, but Blair Kinghorn looks happier manning the last line

He was a fly-half at schoolboy level and I couldn’t understand why the powers that be switched the leggy 10 to a full-back when he turned pro way back in 2015. Fly-half is a big ask and young players need years of experience in the hot seat to produce the goods at the highest level. But now, after years of playing in the 15 shirt, Kinghorn looks far more comfortable as the last line of defence and the SRU have only themselves to blame for messing him about in the first place.

7. Japan falls short.

I was a little condescending about Japan last week and wrong to be so because they should have won their second match against France at the weekend after leading 15-7 at the break. It was an emotionally charged game coming so soon after the assination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and 57,000 odd fans packed the National Stadium to cheer on the Cherry Blossoms. Japan played much the better rugby with their backs’ ability to keep the ball alive in the contact zone contributing to two superlative team tries. Check them out on YouTube. Japan ultimately lost by 20-15 but they had the ball over the French try line six minutes from time with a simple kick to win the game only for the TMO to inform Scottish referee Mike Adamson that Japan’s breakaway Tevita Tatafu had dropped the ball in the act of scoring. Or, to be more accurate, in the act of not scoring. Japan won’t win anything next year but no one will take them lightly. They play fast and loose but their rugby is far more accurate than some other teams that have tried that route and failed. Only the set scrum allowed France to win this one.

 

8.  Gareth Anscombe earns plaudits

Anscombe kicked the touchline conversion that gave Wales their monumental win over the Bokke. He had taken over the kicking duties when replacing Dan Bigger and he also takes credit for the floated miss-pass that gave Josh Adams the few centimetres the winger needed to score in the corner. Anscombe’s kick was never going anywhere other than through the middle of the posts from the moment it left the tee.

9. And so does Andrew Porter

Ireland can occasionally struggle against power teams (France and South Africa especially) but while Andrew Porter is on the field they have a fighting chance. The giant prop scored two tries against New Zealand and he was a wrecking ball at the set scrum. He can play both sides of the scrum, which is gold dust, having started out at loose, moving to tight-head before being shunted back again. Still only 26-years-old, he has been living in the shadow of Tadhg Furlong but not, I suspect, for very much longer. Is there a better loose-head around?

10. England impress

Australia are another team that can be bullied at the highest level and in Billy Vunipola England boast one of the biggest bullies in the game. I mean that as a compliment. He was looking stale a while back but having sat out the Six Nations, Billy V looked like he was enjoying himself mightily on Saturday, certainly when compared to one week earlier. The England pack upped the ante and bossed the possession stats 54/46%. Perhaps even more importantly, England showed some composure when Australia threatened a comeback in the third quarter, and the 10/12 axis of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell finally looks like it’s coming together. Might England yet make a late bid for World Cup glory? They have the easiest group of all (Japan and Argentina are the other seeds) although whether an easy pool is a help or a hindrance come the World Cup is a moot point.


Argentina v Scotland: tourists bounce back to take Test series to the wire

About Iain Morrison 148 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

18 Comments

  1. Have to say , whilst I accept it is appropriate to give the players exposure , I can’t agree that Price’s position should be under threat from White.
    Price’s consistency in performance has been impressive , both for Lions and through 6 nations , always one of our better performers.
    There have been some very odd calls for me , BK can play 10 but is not what I would suggest is a natural 10. So many of these scenarios have been somewhat manipulated and manufactured by the odd decisions to leave Hogg and Russell behind. To me it’s as if Townsend is trying to change the guard by stealth from those involved in the 6 nations “drinkgate” episode to a slightly less high maintenance group of players. I would not be surprised at all if Hogg doesn’t retain the captaincy he had during 6 nations , that Russell doesn’t get the nod for 10 in the Autumn internationals and that White is preferred to Price. Tuipolotu as well has also found himself on the periphery since “drinkgate”it’s all a little bit too coincidental for me. I think they are being disciplined by stealth and I think there will be more surprises in the Autumn series.
    Performances other than the second half on Saturday have been average against what is a fairly uninspiring Argentina outfit.
    Will be interested to observe how these “experiments “ progress , if indeed that’s what they are. I think Hogg , Russell and Price’s days are numbered in Townsend’s eyes ….

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  2. Only saw the highlights of the SCO match, my lasting impression was the quick ball White was producing.

    RE: the NZ red, I saw some people complain the game is being dumbed down. The tackle was clumsy in a ‘I am a meat wall, I stop you’ kind of way, no room for it in the game.

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    • White was really very good. I think he has put pressure on Price for his position for the first time in a very long time.
      I will just add, while not disagreeing with you, that he got far better ball from the forwards than Price got last week. Pack were not perfect but so much better this week

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  3. I also don’t think Andrew Porter is a great scrummager. Incredibly consistent and hinging and planting his face on the ground when under any pressure; both sides of the scrum. Besting the odd Kiwi prop isn’t a rare thing if the refs refs them! An awful lot of feed the ball to the back then collapse the front tow in NZ, refs says play on ball available
    He is very good in every aspect of loose play I’ll grant you

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  4. I watched Kinghorn play 10 at Scotland age grade. He was really poor, had the same problems he has today. No game management, poor to non existent kicking game. When he went to 15 in those age group games, different player, very good (not great) and could see the potential. It was back then I felt he would never be a 10. Been ok against poor sides for Edinburgh last season, but he still does not convince.
    The reality I think is if he is “ok”, then Townsend can get away with only 2 10s plus utility back Kinghorn for the RWC squad. I get that.
    OTOH, Kinghorn isn’t one of the best 2 10s, isn’t one of the best 2 15, and doubtful he is one of the best 3 or 4 wingers

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    • Been reading the comments on the match report thread and simply cannot believe there are people who thought BK played well at 10 on Saturday. I thought it was his worst game as a 10 I have seen yet – and there are a few to choose from. I agree with the contributors who suggest he played better and looked more comfortable when he was moved back to 15.

      But this is not to blame him. He is being put in a ridiculous position – and I suspect largely as a pawn in a game of personal politics between Townsend, Hogg and Russell – by others and I feel for him because you can see the confidence draining from him game after game.

      I have watched almost every game he has played at 10 for Edinburgh and I simply can’t see from that evidence where the idea that he can play there at international level comes from. A few special moments from your 10 simply does not cut it; those moments have got to come on top of a 90% accurate performance (and possibly higher against the really good teams).

      We now have a major problem because while he is never going to be a great 10 for Scotland, he may be the least worst option Edinburgh has there. But, while he could be an international FB (not wing IMO), he is way down the back three pecking order at Edinburgh.

      I really think it would be best for him to find a pro club outwith Scotland where he can establish himself as a starting 15 and start putting realistic pressure on Hogg as an alternative Scotland FB.

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    • Obviously Russell and Hastings are ahead at 10, Hogg at 15, Graham/DVDM on the wing. But who are the others you’d have ahead of him – Maitland seems to have been excluded from the squad after declining to join in the 6N.

      Fullback is a position we don’t have good depth in, wing we have some players coming through but relatively untested. I think Kinghorn does earn his place in the squad even if he’s a bit of a jack of all trades.

      • He is behind Immelman and Bofelli at FB, and Graham, Bofelli and Goosen at wing for Edinburgh I would say. So that means that while he could be an international FB (and some say wing), I don’t see how he gets much game time there for his club.

  5. I think it’s time pundits and fans lay off the Townsend bashing because it’s unfair! I get that the inconsistent performances can be frustrating but sometimes players need to take the blame,especially when their giving ridiculous penalties away or, like our CAPTAIN during the 6Ns, dropping balls and messing up scoring opportunities (see France and Ireland matches for them!). I would like to see Fin Smith get a cap in the autumn and perhaps Jack Dempsey too but first we need to take care of the decider next Saturday and be targeting a series win and potentially 6th in the rankings:D.

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    • Their is some merit in what you say regarding the players taking responsibility for poor execution. However that does not take away from the coaches responsibility over his long tenure in selecting the wrong players, playing the right players out of position, completely baffling tactics/gameplan which does not appear to suit those selected resulting in good players looking clueless as to their role and what they are trying to achieve individually and collectively. There are certain issues which are not Townsends fault for example no world class locks and he has to work with the hand he is dealt, but there is no excuse for the selection and malfuctioning of a back division which has a wealth of talent at it’s disposal. That sits directly at Townsends door.

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    • Completely agree, it’s becoming as tiresome as the anti Dodson nonsense you see all too often on here

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  6. Kinghorn seems to earn brickbats and plaudits in equal measure and I have no inter-city axe to grind. He is a nice enough lad and I used to watch him playing stand off for Currie Colts back in the day, with my nephew in the same side. Delighted when he does well and let’s face it there have been few alternative options on this tour. I am however a Scotsman first and foremost, desperate to see his team do as well as it possibly can – and that m4eans getting the selection policy right. For me Hogg and Jones are the best two 15s we could field, while Russell and Hastings have the 10 jersey sewn up between them. Anything else come the autumn internationals and I think I’ll lose the will to live.

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  7. “Dunedin fans should know better.” You are of course right, but they didn’t call Carisbrook the House of Pain for nothing!

    • Rugby fans at almost every other ground in the World should know better at one time or another.

      Then again a few vociferous fans at a ground do not generally act on behalf of all others in the ground and it is pretty lazy journalism to suggest they do.

  8. Kinghorn’s route to playing fly half is blocked by Russell and Hastings.

    Hogg is older than both of them so farming Kinghorn out to 15 was probably a bit of succession planning.

    I’m not sure it was a bad call.

  9. On point 4, Scotland aren’t exactly at the level they’ve hit in recent seasons either. If you can only play whose in front of you, don’t take away from them dominating last week because Scotland were poor.

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