2018 Autumn Tests: Scotland player ratings versus Fiji

Debutant Sam Skinner was named man-of-the-match, while winger Tommy Seymour also shone with a magical hat-trick of tries

Jamie Ritchie
Jamie Ritchie scored a try and was Scotland's top tackler against Fiji ***Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk***

AFTER a dominant second half performance, Scotland emerged as comfortable 54-17 victors over Fiji, to exorcise at least some of the demons from the defeat suffered against the same opposition in Suva during the summer of 2017.

15. Stuart Hogg – 7 out of 10

The important news is that he made it through the full 80 minutes in one piece. There was never any danger that head coach Gregor Townsend was throwing the full-back in before the ankle injury which had sidelined him for the last seven weeks had fully healed, but it was impossible not to worry about Scotland’s talisman being able to hit the ground running. There was not much he could do about it when an overthrown line-out launched a cavalry charge of white shirts in his direction for Fiji’s first try. Carried with his usual menace when he got a chance (his 50 metres gained was more than anyone else except Peter Horne) but generally well policed by Fiji, which perhaps opened up opportunities for the wingers (who scored four tries between them).

14. Tommy Seymour– 8

An easy run-in for his first try in nine matches (since Italy in March 2017) got him off the mark, hit a clever and brave line at heroic pace for his second just before the hour mark, and scooted over in the corner for his hat-trick in the 61st minute. Surpassed Hogg to become the most prolific international try-scorer in the current Scotland squad wth 19 from 45 Test matches.

13. Alex Dunbar – 6

Strange moment 15 minutes in when he hacked a loose ball ahead then made no real attempt to chase the kick. Seems to play in fits and starts at the moment after a tough couple of injury-ravaged years. Had a couple of powerful surges with ball in hand, but was lethargic at other times, especially in defence, before being replaced by Chris Harris in the 48th minute.

12.  Peter Horne – 8

Had an early hiccup when he was rounded fairly easily by Semi Radradra for a length of the park break in the fourth minute, and went from the sublime to the ridiculous in 17th minute when he ghosted through Fiji’s defence with a lovely change in pace and direction, but then ignored Seymour on his outside and was halted in tracks by a shuddering tackle from Setareki Tuicuvu – fortunately for Horne, the ball was recycled and Brown rumbled over a few phases later. Generally, showed terrific work-rate throughout, and asked a lot of positive questions with the ball in hand. Was Scotland’s top carrier with 52 metres gained. A busy and effective afternoon before being replaced by Adam Hastings with ten minutes to go.

11. Sean Maitland – 8

Try at the start of the second half was exactly what Scotland needed to fully take control of this contest. This was the fourth consecutive match at Murrayfield he has crossed the whitewash. Dangerous whenever he was on ball and a solid all-round performance.

 

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10. Finn Russell – 7

Looked a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights when he knocked-on in 25th minute with a wall of white shirts advancing on him, but was maybe just falling into that old trap of trying to think of his next great stunt too early.  His devilishly flat 20-yard pass off his left hand which sent Seymour over unchallenged just before the break was not quite as outrageously beautiful as the famous one against England during the Six Nations, but was a wonderful reminder of just what a rare talent he is. A pretty mature performance all round.

9. Greig Laidlaw – 7

Did what he was there to do. Five from five off the kicking tee, and harnessed Scotland’s attack towards the end of the second half to take the sting out of a potential Fijian uprising with a sustained period of tight play which yielded two yellow-cards and eventually a try for Seymour.

 

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1. Allan Dell – 7

Burrowed over from close range for Scotland’s opening try which settled nerves after a fairly fraught opening 11 minutes, but fell off Tevita Cavubati in the middle of the park in the lead up to Fiji’s second try. Scots scrum dominant, but so it should have been, especially when the tourists were without both second-rows towards the end of the first half. Replaced by Alex Allan in 52nd minute.

2. Fraser Brown – 8

Should have had two first half tries off the back of his powerful work in close quarter combat, but the second one was chalked off for a Jamie Ritchie obstruction. A bustling ball of energy, as we have come to expect. Replaced by McInally in 52 minutes.

3. WP Nel – 7

Got over the line towards the end of the first half but didn’t manage to get the ball down. If that score had stood it would have meant that each of he three front-rowers had scored in that 40-minute period. The cornerstone of a dominant set-piece, but a bigger challenge awaits against the land of his birth next weekend, when his durability will be rigorously tested if he makes his third consecutive Test start.

4. Sam Skinner – 8

Official man-of-the-match on his international debut. Showed up well several times in the loose, including a nice bit of footballing skill with a well-judged kick ahead which got Scotland back into enemy territory when things were threatening to get a bit hairy during the first half. Second top tackler in the pack with seven, and made the second most number of yards of all the forwards with 44.

5. Grant Gilchrist – 7

Link with Fraser Brown at line-out time was pretty good on the whole, apart from the overthrow which allowed Fiji to rampage to their opening try. An all-action display around the park which, along with Skinner’s performance, creates a welcome kind of selection headache for the coaching team ahead of South Africa next week.

6. Ryan Wilson – 7

Gifted Fiji a third minute lead when penalised for hands in the ruck almost directly in front of the posts, which was academic in the end but could have ended up being regarded as a real clanger against stronger opposition. Another battling performance from a player who will never take a backwards step.

7. Jamie Ritchie – 8

Has emerged as a genuine contender for the number seven jersey, although it will take some doing to dislodge Hamish Watson. Wasn’t a flawless performance. He conceded a penalty for going off his feet in the sixth minute, which he was lucky was too far out for Volavola to turn into three points. His obstruction caused Fraser Brown’s try five minutes before the break to be chalked off, although Townsend certainly seemed to think that was a harsh decision. Cleverly used the base of the post to ground the ball round the edge of a ruck on Fiji’s line for Scotland’s seventh try. Looked far more comfortable at open-side than he did on the blind-side last weekend, and was the only player in dark blue to hit double figures in the tackle stats with 10.

8. Matt Fagerson – 6

Had a couple of carries but didn’t have much of a chance to impose himself before being replaced by Josh Strauss in the 29th minute with a dead leg.

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Replacements

16. Stuart McInally – 6

It is great for Scotland to have two hookers of such quality vying for the number two jersey.

17. Alex Allan– 6

Another cameo off the bench. We could do with finding out what he can do from the start at this level because we have a lot of capped loose-heads around at the moment, but very few banging on the door to challenge Dell for top spot.

18. Simon Berghan – 6

See above, although Zander Fagerson will hopefully be back from ankle surgery before the end of the season (although not for the Six Nations, as it stands).

19. Jonny Gray – 6

Will be desperate for a chance to reassert himself as top dog after watching both the starting second-rows in this match grab their opportunity.

20. Josh Strauss – 7

Got on earlier than expected due to Fagerson’s dead-leg and used it as an opportunity to persuade Townsend that he can be more than just a stop-gap option while Scotland struggle with injuries in the back-row. Was the top carrier amongst the forwards with 46 metres gained.

21. George Horne – 6

The hard work was done by the time he replaced Greig Laidlaw for the final quarter.

22. Adam Hastings – 7

Brought the house to its feet when sending Russell through a gap from a move off the back of a scrum, before collecting the return pass to score Scotland’s eighth and final try. The potential of this pair linking up on the pitch at the same time will have fans salivating, but is unlikely to happen as a long-term policy.

23. Chris Harris – 7

Put good pace onto the ball and timed his pass well to set up Seymour’s third try, which was one of several positive interventions as a 48th minute replacement for Dunbar.


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About David Barnes 3033 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.