Scotland v Fiji: uninspiring win gives hosts some momentum ahead of All Blacks Test

Hosts score four tries but struggle to really impose themselves on plucky Pacific Islanders

Scotland debutant Murphy Walker carries the ball versus Fiji. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland debutant Murphy Walker carries the ball versus Fiji. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Scotland 28

Fiji 12

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

JOB done for Scotland, but it was a grim, workmanlike performance. Winning momentum is, of course, important – but Gregor Townsend’s side will know that they will need to take big leaps forward in almost every department when the All Blacks provide the opposition at Murrayfield in eight days’ time.

The fact that the dreaded ‘Mexican Wave’ did several laps of the stadium around the 66th minute mark gives an indication of just how disjointed and humdrum a spectacle this was for long periods. Fiji are a tricky side to play against but Scotland failed to put them under the sort of consistent pressure early on which would have paid dividends in the final quarter.

The second half was better than the first, with more discipline and control exerted by the home team, but it is hard to escape the feeling that things are stagnating just when this squad need to be building momentum at the start of a World Cup year.


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Scotland started in dominant fashion, helped by some lax Fijian discipline which included visiting second-row Ratu Leone Rotuisolia being sent to the sin-bin after just two minutes for an early tackle on Ali Price as the scrum-half ran a quick tap, and it was only a matter time before the hosts took the lead when they kicked another penalty to the corner for George Turner to get the ball down off the line-out drive.

Adam Hastings slotted the conversion but Scotland then took their foot off the gas, surrendering two soft offside penalties. On the first occasion, Setareki Tuicuvu pushed his shot at goal to the right of the posts, then, on the second occasion, Fiji went for the line-out before hitting it up in the middle to create an overlap on the right for Tuicuvu to make up for his earlier miss by bouncing off Stuart Hogg and dotting down in the corner.

The penalties kept coming against Scotland, for a dangerous clear-out by Chris Harris and another offside, and Fiji were in fact playing two more offside advantages when Rotuisolia muscled over from close range to put the visitors in front. At this point referee Nic Berry decided that a 10 minute spell on the naughty step was in order for Scotland’s most recent recalcitrant, and the finger of blame was pointed at Hogg.

Still the penalties kept coming, against tifght-head prop Zander Fagerson for boring in, then another offside, but this time Scotland managed to weather the storm thanks to a Fijian knock-on five-yards from the home try-line.

As the first half reached its final five minutes, Scotland finally found themselves on the front foot again when some slick hands gave Duhan van der Merwe a chance to make ground up the left touchline, and, from a scrum in front of the posts a few minutes later, Hastings took advantage of some unusually weak Fijian tackling to scramble over.

 

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It was a bad try for Fiji to concede in both nature and timing, and although they flashed their teeth first at the start of the second half, they couldn’t sustain the momentum they’d enjoyed for most of the first 40 minutes, and Scotland took control when van der Merwe collected a Price box-kick to launch an attack which saw Darcy Graham make good ground up the right touchline.

From that field position Scotland scored again with van der Merwe muscling over on the left, with Blair Kinghorn – who had joined the fray two minutes into the second half after Hastings had been flattened by a monstrous hit from Rotuisolia – adding the conversion.

Scotland turned the screw and replacement hooker Ewan Ashman was held up over the line in the 56th minute following some good yardage made by Graham and big Richie Gray, so play was brought back for a Fijian penalty earlier in the move. However, a penalty the other way for sealing off let the visitors off the hook on this occasion.

Fijian winger Vinaya Hibosi was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Rory Sutherland, mitigated by the fact that the replacement prop was swooping to pick up a loose ball at the point of contact and Fiji were now clearly tiring, which is not surprising given that they only congregated as a full group on Monday night.

The penalties against Fiji were coming at an even more regular rate than they had against Scotland in the first half, but it wasn’t until after it had returned to a 15 versus 15 contest that the hosts scored again.

When Graham failed under Fijian pressure to collect a clever cross-field kick from Ben White, play was brought back for a visiting scrum-penalty, followed by another scrum-penalty and a warning from referee Berry, followed by a near inevitable yellow-card for replacement loose-head Livai Natave for standing-up at the next set-piece.

Not surprisingly, Scotland opted to squeeze the Fijian scrum once again, and this time replacement scrum-halfWhite picked up from the base and strolled through an open door for try number four, converted again by Kinghorn.

 

Teams –

Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris (S Tuipulotu 69), C Redpath, D van der Merwe; A Hastings (B Kinghorn 42), A Price (B White 51); P Schoeman (R Sutherland 51), G Turner (E Ashman 31), Z Fagerson (M Walker, 69), R Gray, G Gilchrist (J Gray 60), J Ritchie, H Watson (J Dempsey 51), M Fagerson.

Fiji: K Murimurivalu (S Maqala 36); S Tuicuvu, W Nayacalevu, K Ravouvou (T Tela 56), V Habosi; V Botitu, F Lomani (P Matawalu,64); E Mawi (L Natave 51), S Matavesi (T Ikanivere 72), M Saulo (L Tagi 51), T Mayanavanua (A Ratuniyara 54), R Rotuisolia (E Mawi 72), A Tuisue, L Botia (,K Kamikmaica  72), V Mata.

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

 

 

Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Turner, Hastings, van der Merwe, White; Con: Hastings 2, Kinghorn 2.

Fiji: Tries: Tuicuvu, Rotuisolia; Con: Botitu.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-10; 7-12; 12-12; 14-12 (h-t) 19-12; 21-12; 26-12; 28-12.

 

Yellow cards –

Scotland: Hogg (24 mins), Graham (79mins)

Fiji: Rotuisolia (2 mins), Habosi (61mins), Natave (72mins).

 

Attendance: 58,046


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About David Barnes 3956 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.

44 Comments

  1. Very negative comments all round …. Figi have always seemed a very competitive team to me and we won ….

    Now whether we’ve improved from the last 6 nations is another matter …. I think the real test is next week end and the following one … let’s hope we can all be more positive then.

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  2. Interesting results this week end, France scrape through against what everyone agreed was a very poor Australian team last week. As for our shocking results against Argentina in the summer mmmmmm.

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    • Agreed some very interesting results indeed, the Irish and SA performances don’t make me worry any the less for our group survival in France, although providing England and Wales don’t improve we could be a bit more hopeful of holding our own in 6N providing we can get our best team on the pitch.
      It’s the comment about ‘shocking’ results against Argentina on the Summer Tour, I couldn’t agree more but possibly from a different understanding of the word ‘shocking’.
      It’s well worth going back to pages 3 and 4 having clicked onto the International section and reading the match reports and comments: nothing has changed other than some views from the comments section.
      What I think was shocking was having pulled back in the second test to win and in the decider being 15 points to the good with half an hour to go, somehow keeping Argentina in the game with bad decisions loosing a significant lead and then loosing the series.
      As I said it’s well worth reading the articles and comments and realising all the ‘we will learn from this’ response hasn’t meant a thing.

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  3. Top-level internation rugby requires intensity, physicality, accuracy and discipline. We are showing very sub-par levels of all at the moment. During the match and then upon leaving stadium yesterday there was an atmosphere akin to a loss!

    We are going to be thoroughly pumped by the All Black.

  4. Poor stuff from both sides. The utter guff from the Cotter cultists was shown up yet again to be nonsense. A decent coach could do great things with Fiji but Cotter as with Scotland just isn’t it. We were barely better. Richie Gray, Ashman and from what we saw if him Walker were the positives. The entire back line was slow predictable and lacking in any creativity. Horne has to start and be allowed to play. The coaches are utterly obsessed with box kicking away possession. After Horne we should look to vellacot and Shiel. It’s obvious we need Russell at ten, and any one of 8-10 other centre options would be an improvement on Harris….frankly not sure what more Dean and Bennett need to do for the nod and that’s still being harsh on Hutchison. Hogg is done at 15 give Kinghorn or Smith that jersey. Sadly though it looks like Townsend will double down on his stubborness and the RWC will be less about getting out of the group but instead scrambling for third place to avoid the qualification process for 2027.

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    • How can you do great things with a team that never has the time together of a tier 1 nation? Fiji played much better than their time together should have allowed.

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  5. Inevitable that we start with stand-off. Kinghorn is still not convincing. He plays too deep which introduces too much predictability to the back line. However he has undoubted strengths so why not put him at 12 or 13? Harris is great in defense but we need nifty footwork in the centre. I’d pair Bennett and KInghorn. Hastings is a reliable understudy at no. 10 and you know to whom I’m referring. Has Townsend forgotten how Finn turned the Lions’ final test around in South Africa?
    Scrum half – White looked nifty but Horne deserves a start. Quick service AND he’s a predator. I think Price has served his time and I predict that soon coaches will come to their senses and insist that ‘box’ kicks are precisely that – more than 20 yards and you’re just giving the ball away.
    I agree Ashman’s time has come. For me, Hogg is still doing enough to merit selection.

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  6. Well not surprisingly that was a hard watch. If ever a team was crying out for a change , a fresh injection of new ideas and direction this is it. For 25 minutes in the first half we were out thought and outfought by the Fijians . Our forwards are currently so far off the pace in terms of physicality , aggression and continuity and our backs looked like they had just met in the sheds.What has happened to Watson . He is a shadow of his former self and needs relieved.R Gray was the standout forward and Dempsey also made some good carries. Watching the all black forwards they have so much drive and determination completely the opposite of our guys. Next week is looming ominously and not even a happy ending to the Finn soap opera will stave off the inevitable.

  7. 3 quick questions
    1. Does anyone understand what the Scottish game plan is?
    2. Do the players understand what the Scottish game plan is?
    3. Does Gregor Townsend understand what the Scottish game plan is?

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  8. Crosbie for Watson
    White for Price
    Smith for Hogg (sorry )
    And,possibly,Bennett for Harris
    Oh,and Finn back if Adam H is ruled out.

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  9. I’m now looking for a win against Argentina – without that I think GT has to consider his position – current position for 2022 fixtures Won 4 lost 6

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  10. It was a disjointed performance, but then what do you expect with the majority of the backs changing from last week?
    Big Richie not getting man of the match was an outrage. Ruined the Fijian lineout, carried well, and was a menace in mauls both attacking and defending.
    Ashman had a nice showing and given he’s hardly put a foot wrong in a Scotland jersey you wonder what he has to do to earn a start.
    I thought Redpath looked a bit weak in defence, although that might be the lack of continuity in the backs leaving him a bit exposed. Duhan was defensively suspect and I’m already having the heebie jeebies thinking of Rieko Ioane running at him and him contesting bombs against Jordie Barrett.
    Disappointing early doors not to scrum Fiji over the line when they’ve got a lock in the bin. Think Cotter and team deserve a lot of credit there as the Fijian pack is usually “eccentric” to be kind to them.
    Talking of eccentric, the alacrity with which Hogg got binned early on in contrast to a monsoon of Fijian penalties in their own 22 in the second half could do with some explaining by Mr. Berry.
    However, as the autumn wears on we might find that limiting Fiji to two tries is more impressive than we think tonight.

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    • Crosbie for Watson
      White for Price
      Smith for Hogg (sorry )
      And,possibly,Bennett for Harris
      Oh,and Finn back if Adam H is ruled out.

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  11. A very underwhelming performance. A lot of the chat is inevitably about Finn but having watched some of the All Blacks game and then the Ireland v Springboks game I fear it wouldn’t matter if we had a hybrid of Dan Carter and Finn Russell playing at stand off it would make little difference. The game starts in the forwards and ours Im afraid are simply not up to the standards of the 3 sides I mention. The level of physicality and abrasiveness in contact that I saw today from the AB’s and some of the ferocity of defence from Ireland and SA is simply a level above what we can muster. Would any of our forwards make it into any of these teams? There is no fix to this its simply a reflection of the calibre of players we have at our disposal.

    I hope we make a good game of it next week against the AB’s but I ma fearful after what they did to Wales today.

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  12. Did the Mexican wave get round 5 times? Pretty much sums it up.

    I suspect France are about to demonstrate just how bad a performance and result last week was.

    Some but really very little improvement today which others have mentioned. Ashman’s introduction was the turning point for me today.

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  13. Not sure what to make of that game, much better from Fiji , than previous years. Gave us a torrid time for the 25 minutes before 1/2 time. The 10,12,13 axis still not setting heather’s alight. The scrum went well , esp when Ashman come on, Good games from Ashman , VDM when he got some ball , M Fagerson, and R Gray. Not sure what to make of Darcy getting MOM , though he might be short of some competition as I was not sure who was the Scottish MOM. One things for sure next weekend will be a lot tougher.

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  14. Pete
    Agree, White must start.
    Ali Price’s kicking game means 9 out of 10 kicks only gives possession back to the opposition, his service is ponderous.
    A good servant for Scotland but we really need something different at 9.

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  15. A win, but wouldn’t call it momentum. GT needs to be brave and reward those that have performed and not stick to his comfort zone – eg White needs to start, so should Dempsey..

    Might have to watch next week from behind the sofa 🫣

  16. I thought was a good mature performance from Scotland against a very tricky and unpredictable opponent. Good displays from a few but I was impressed with Ritchie Gray rolling back the years, dominated the line out and decent in the loose. Hogg was poor and for me should be dropped for Ollie Smith next weekend.

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    • Think you’re right about Hogg – despite the fancy footwork he doesn’t actually gain any ground these days – still dreadful in defence – Ollie Smith deserves another chance

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      • What’s Hoggy done to his Napper .
        Bad hair day .
        Seems to concentrate more on his looks nowadays than his actual game which has gone backwards

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  17. Hard to be optimistic for next week (especially after watching the ABs put 55 points on Wales).
    Having said that, there were a few shining lights; Gray, Ashman, White impressed.
    Final thought- how good a team could Fiji be with the right investment, facilities and support from the tier 1 cartel?

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    • Was there yesterday – and totally agree. Fiji can be wonderful to watch and wouldn’t it be fantastic to see them better invested in. Meanwhile White has to start, and although Graham had a decent game, R Gray was MotM for me.

      On a separate note – I went to Sco-Fiji in 2018 and noticed way more Fijian fans among the crowd yesterday. Some brilliant craic with both sets of fans – quiet in the crowd again for large parts of the game but great atmosphere in and around the stadium either side of the match

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      • Uk recruited 5000 Fjians to fill the ranks of the British Army and once service was completed they were given rights and many have settled here and we owe then out total respect as quite a few were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had the great pleasure of working with a squad of ex Fijian soldiers who had settled here and they truely are fantastic human beings

      • Aye, was up with my brother to watch the game. The bar we were in had a fantadtic atmosphere after the match. I do not know what is going on between Russell and GT but his performances warrant a return and Ali’s kickin was awful.

  18. Uninspiring indeed , decidedly average performance from a near full strength Scotland side against an under strength Fiji.
    It is a win but I see no upward trajectory for this Scotland team , nor have we had one for some time.
    Personally I see no real reason that Scotland should not consider a change in coach at this stage , indeed a change may provide a much needed injection of momentum in the lead up to France 2023. Our expectations for the World Cup are already very low so no reason at we should not effect a change at this stage.
    Kinghorn is not an international class 10 and you can clearly see this , there are simple qualities required and developed by 10’s over the years that should not be underestimated and throwing a full back in at international 10 is naive at best. How many times did we see Kinghorn pass directly at the receiver today as opposed to where the receiver wants the ball … the link play looks clunky , just as you would expect from a player not used to being an international 10.
    To discard Finn Russell is absolute nonsense. We showed today a glimpse of how average Scotland are which was even more disappointing as we were nearly at full strength on paper. A year out from a World Cup we cannot afford the petulence that sees probably our most influential player for some years to be sitting watching this in France.
    Stuart Hogg needs to stop worrying about his hair and tan and get back to delivering on the field. We are led to believe that Hogg lost the captaincy supposedly because he needs to concentrate on his own game. If he doesn’t do this soon he could easily find his place under pressure.
    For me there is too much baggage now within this Scotland playing / coaching setup and this is clearly contributing towards the performances. I don’t believe that the conjecture around relationships within the squad helps create a good environment and I think we need a clean out. We hear the same recycled cliches from this Scotland group and the whole setup is stale , something has to change and the obvious one is the coach.

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    • Agreed good points well made, just as a bit of information Russell came of bench at 41′ scored a try, 3 conversions and a penalty goal, that makes 55 points in last 3 Top 14 fixtures.

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      • Another good post at 08:57 this morning, good points well made, and last time I saw Huw Jones at Quins he seemed as many other SQ’s in the Premiership to be earning his place.

    • I was thinking that Blair would at least escape ridicule today on the basis he didn’t actually start and didn’t miss a kick when he came on but you still have a go at him. The second half performance was improved when we at least kept the Fijians from adding to the score. The mediocre performance in the 1st half in particular is down to a number of factors but BK wasn’t one of them.

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      • I’m sorry but I think you should consider what I said, I made comment on Russell’s performance not Kinghorn’s.
        If you feel that is a reflective comment on BK’s performance that is unfortunately your problem not mine.
        As far as I am concerned, and if you look at other comments I have made I have clearly said Kinghorn is good enough for the Jersey but not with a 10 on the back of it whilst there are other options available.

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      • Ross Kinnear. I don’t think I “ridiculed” BK in my post , I just pointed out the obvious … that he is not an international class 10. Can he play there… yes at a push , is it instinctive for him … no, does he look comfortable there at international level… no. He also has the disadvantage that Townsend has never settled on a consistent centre pairing ( particularly inside centre) which means there is probably a greater responsibility on 10 for game management etc. The exclusion of Hutchison has always been a mystery to me as he certainly displays quality for Northampton and is a centre that has the skill set required to help an inexperienced 10. It’s these type of decisions that make Townsend difficult to understand as surely he deserves more of a chance than he has had. I had always wondered if it was because Hutchison has a bit of X factor about him and maybe he wanted someone steadier at 12 but Hutchison is pretty similar to Redpath who appears to have the keys to the castle so can’t be that…
        Kinghorn is a decent enough footballer with many qualities and in present form probably could and should have the 15 jersey ahead of Hogg who’s days are numbered.
        It’s interesting looking at the discussion around Finn Smith a stand off that has been operating comfortably in the Premiership for Worcester and now Northampton. I am puzzled why Scotland have not targeted him in ernest as he is defiinitely Scottish qualified and Eddie Jones doesn’t seem to have a significant interest in him.Townsend appears unsure about Ross Thomson who’s opportunity to play was probably last week and he didn’t even make it off the bench.
        Something slightly odd about this situation as he surely Smith merits a place in the squad given his pedigree. There are not many mugs playing stand off in the Premiership so he’s clearly got something.
        About time we got some clear answers about Smith’s playing allegiances as he should be being considered now as an option given our current situation.
        A 10/12 of Smith / Redpath would be quite interesting and certainly one for the future..

    • Did Hogg get preferential treatment after the illicit exit from camp because he is a Borderer whilst Russell got less favourable treatment because (1) he’s not a borderer & (2) because of his surname?
      I don’t think/ believe Hogg has had a good game for Scotland for quite a few games as I think he has an overbelief in his own capabilities.
      I’ll now go & find my passport as I might have stirred the wasp nest a trifle.

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      • Yes, Hogg is getting older and doesn’t make those breaks he’s known for quite as much but to say he hasn’t had a good game in a while is disrespectful. His kicking game and distribution are second to none, he is now solid under the high ball, he is always heavily marked on kick returns and I doubt anyone else would make more of an impact at fullback.

        People are always so quick to turn on hogg despite being our most consistent and probably our best player but give Russell(how many good games has he had for Scotland recently) the benefit of the doubt no matter what.

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  19. A win is a win but that was hard work.

    Fiji held onto some of their passes could have been an even tougher afternoon.

  20. Uninspiring win is an apt description. I’m afraid the scoreline does not tell the real tale of, a very average performance.
    Geez, if we give away that many penalties against the AB’s we are gonna get hammered?

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