BLAIR KINGHORN grabbed a hat-trick against Italy during the last Six Nations, back in the days when scoring tries wasn’t a problem for Scotland but leaking them in did make life hard.
“It was a good day at the office,” recalls Kinghorn. “It was happy days as we won, and a good day for me, personally. It was probably my best memory, apart from my debut that is.”
During the 2019 tournament, Gregor Townsend’s side crossed the whitewash 14 times – four more than Grand Slammers Wales managed, the same as Ireland’s total, and bettered only by England. However, they conceded 17 tries, with only Italy having a more porous defence.
It has been changed days so far in this competition. With two matches played, Scotland’s points accumulation has been strictly in multiples of three (ie. zero tries scored so far), which has at least been offset by their miserliness at the other end of the park, with only two tries conceded which the same as Ireland and less than everyone else.
There has been a fundamental shift during the last 18 months towards a more controlled, lower-risk brand of rugby, which isn’t a bad thing in itself when you think of how frustrating it used to be watching the side regularly cough-up cheap scores to continually leave themselves with mountains to climb – but until narrow losses start transforming into any sort of wins, the suggestion that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater is not going to go away.
“It’s disappointing, obviously,” replied Kinghorn, when asked about that lack of scoring opportunities for Scotland in this Six Nations. “But I think we’ve been more disappointed by the results. We could have scored a couple against Ireland, then last week against England was a bit of an anomaly game [because of the weather], it was tough for anyone to score tries. We’re disappointed with our results but we’re confident this week.
“They [Italy] have changed their game a little bit, so they’re going to be a bit more expansive, we think. They like to offload the ball – they’ve got the most offloads in the Six Nations so far – so we’ll come ready for an attacking game. And if it is a nice sunny day, which hopefully it is because I’m sick and tired of the rain, that’ll be good. They’re a threat and we’ve looked at it and we’re ready.”
The players made it clear during yesterday’s press call that they are sick of being asked by journalists about Finn Russell. Frankly, the journalists are sick of asking them about the exiled playmaker. But with so little spark coming off the team at the moment, there tends to be nowhere else to go.
That’s what happens when a team isn’t winning. The focus is on what is missing rather than what is there. The only real solution is for this Scotland team to start giving the hacks something else to write about, and – more importantly – the supporters something to cheer.