DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
VERN COTTER reckons the best team did not necessarily come out on top of yesterday’s tense encounter at Murrayfield. Scotland scored three tries to Australia’s two, and led the tourists by six points going into the last five minutes with the added bonus of Will Skelton being in the sin-bin, but they succumbed to a devastating late try from Tevita Kuridrani.
“I’m incredibly proud of the players and the way they played that game. It came down to very few things. We always come back to the old saying of fine margins. I wouldn’t necessarily say the best team won,” said the Kiwi coach.
Cotter hinted that his side was given few favours by Irish referee John Lacey, but stopped short of calling foul.
For most of this match, Scotland had three openside flankers populating their back-row, while Australia had the highly regarded dynamic duo of David Pocock and Michael Hooper on either side of their scrum – so it was always going to be an almighty battle at the breakdown.
Refereeing this part of the game is notoriously problematic, and perhaps Cotter believes that the reputation of the Australians did not help his team’s cause with the marginal decisions.
“There are things we can control and things we can’t, so we focus on the things we can. The players played with immense courage and threw themselves at it. I think we didn’t get the rub of the green at times,” he said.
“The team adapted to injuries but it might have come to… look I’ve got to be careful with what I say. There were eight penalties against us in the second half but only two for us. But as I say that is something we can’t focus on. The most important thing for us is to get back to improving performances. That’s what we will do,” he continued.
“We’ve got Argentina in a week’s time. We’ll get rid of the disappointment of this game, knowing that there were some really good things out there. We’ll build on those good things and do a full analysis. At the moment, there’s a little bit of emotion once again.”
“There are some real positives to come out of this game, these boys that turned up and played well. Remember there are things that we have got that we can work on and develop and improve as well. They fought for each other from start to finish and that is probably what is disappointing, you give so much and then…”
Captain Greig Laidlaw echoed Cotter’s sentiment.
“If we end up behind them on the scoreboard we are disappointed regardless. We just need to work on the referees again, on his interpretation, he turned on us in the second half for whatever reason. We just need to be smart about that because we let him tickle the score board a little bit,” he said.
Scotland went into this match with two props who had a combined total of eleven minutes of international rugby to their name. The scrum creaked a fair bit, and crumpled horribly once in the first half, but got through the challenge more or less unscathed – and Cotter paid tribute to the contribution of Zander Fagerson and Allan Dell.
“I thought they scrummaged well. They didn’t give up, they fought through it. They had a couple of shaky moments at the start but then they found their way. Jon Humphreys [Scotland’s scrum coach] is doing a fantastic job with them in that front-row and with Allan Dell you can see that athleticism when he starts carrying around the park. And I thought Zander had several good runs to get us on the front foot. If we can get people to hold up set-piece and start carrying around the paddock, that is something we are trying to develop, to get our forwards to play a bit more, and they are a little bit better at doing those things than some previous models,” he said.