Tremendous stuff from Scotland –
On balance Australia maybe just about deserved to scrape it – if only on the strength of their incredible self-belief and confidence after Will Skelton’s crazy 68th minute yellow card.
It was, however, as Vern Cotter said ‘fine margins’ – Greig Laidlaw’s ‘lick of paint’ was the ultimate difference between the two sides – and Scotland won the try count 3-2.
Cannot be easy driving the bus when you have had your licence taken away – exactly the situation Vern Cotter finds himself in. Scotland played with rare ambition and a total absence of fear – a performance which raises obvious questions about the prudence of Cotter’s recent precipitate release. When has Scotland ever before been able to go through nineteen phases in injury time?
The set-piece just about stacked up –
A heroic performance from all six front row forwards. The scrum creaked but, crucially, did not crumble, in what was a fortuitously low scrummage game – with only five scrums in the first half and the 36th minute before the first on Australia’s ball – testament, indeed, to the Scots’ handling skills. Cotter gave his bench a massive, but maybe dangerous, vote of confidence by replacing Ross Ford on the hour mark.
The line-out worked – the Gray boys have maybe both booked their Lions slots.
Kick-offs were not great. Ryan Wilson dropping the one after the first penalty was nothing short of criminal – and, generally, if the parameter for judging the receipt of kick-offs is where the next set piece takes place, then never once did Scotland pass muster – though, admittedly, a couple of the Australian kicks were serious works of art, and their aerial skills are phenomenal.
Huge defensive effort –
Peter Horne will not be feeling too good this morning – but, painful though his missed tackle on Tevita Kuridrani was, the Australian try was always coming.
Huw Jones and Sean Maitland maybe got their wires crossed for Reece Hodge’s opening try, but for the most part Scotland’s defence was excellent – well structured, intense and aggressive – and the line speed was outstanding, with Finlay Russell leading the charge.
John Barclay, Hamish Watson and John Hardie were immense at the break-down. And it was disciplined – playing the referee to his absolute limit without picking up a yellow card. Vern Cotter’s complaint about the 8-2 penalty count in the second half maybe smacks of wrongs past – certainly John Lacey was no Craig Joubert.
Man of the Match –
John Barclay by a country mile! Huw Jones scored two great tries on his Murrayfield debut, and Stuart Hogg looked world class, but at the break-down Barclay was up against David Pocock and Michael Hooper, the two best scavengers in world rugby – and he more than held his own.
The downside –
A glorious Autumn day at Murrayfield. A dignified moment of respect and remembrance. A magnificent game. Brilliant theatre. Exactly what Mark Dodson needs to sell – and then the whole spectacular image marred by the moronic booing whilst Brendan Foley took the last conversion.