Six Nations: Wales v Scotland reaction: Finn Russell laments Scots complacency

Captain admits second half performance took some of shine of first win in Cardiff in 22 years

Finn Russell nibbles Scotland team-mate Jack Dempsey's ear as the team celebrate winning the Doddie Weir Cup. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Finn Russell nibbles Scotland team-mate Jack Dempsey's ear as the team celebrate winning the Doddie Weir Cup. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND captain Finn Russell conceded after his team’s dramatic 26-27 win over Wales at the Principality Stadium that complacency was a factor in the game ending up so close after the visitors had surged into a seemingly unassailable 27-point lead with  42 minutes played.

While rightly pleased to be speaking after a first win for his country in Cardiff in 22 years, the stand-off admitted that the nature of the second half performance had taken some of the shine off the achievement.

“We got off to a great start. We had a really good first half and a brilliant start to the second, then a bit of complacency crept in,” he said. “We had discipline issues in the second half which led to two yellow cards and them really getting on the front foot.


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“But it showed that we’ve come quite a long way that we managed to win the game in the end. They got the ball in our half but we managed to hold tough and not allow them to get anything towards the end.

“I’m probably a little bit disappointed with the second half but overall it’s a great start to the tournament for us. We’ve not won here in 22 years so it’s great for us to win down here.”

The 31-year-old couldn’t quite put his finger on why the balance of power in the game shifted so dramatically after Duhan van der Merwe scored his second try of the match in the 42nd minute, with Wales going on to cross the whitewash four times (to Scotland’s three tries) meaning they emerged with two bonus-points from a game in which they had been dead and buried early in the second half

“At half-time I said we needed to up the intensity a bit because we could be better than we had been in the first half,” said Russell. “In the second half, Wales changed their game-plan, they started putting us under pressure with that and our discipline allowed them easy access into our half.

“It’s something we will look at coming up to France [next Saturday], because we won’t be able to do that against them.”

The Principality Stadium had been unusually quiet during long periods of the first half, but the Welsh fans really got behind their inexperienced team when the momentum started to shift and that febrile atmosphere was a factor.

“It’s tough and it showed what the atmosphere and the crowd here can do,” Russell acknowledged. “Towards the end we managed to get back to how we can play and how we can defend. We managed to dig it out in the end.

“But that does show how tough a place it is to come, even with the first half that we had. Wales never went away – and that’s the pressure the team put us under but also that the crowd getting involved put us under.

“Credit to them, it’s what we expected, but it’s something we will have to get better at if we’re in this situation again.”

Discipline issues

Russell was less convinced about the possibility that Scotland’s woeful record in Cardiff over the last 22 years had played on the team’s minds.

“I wouldn’t say it felt like, ‘here we go again’. We tried to reset and get onto the next job, but the two yellow cards had an impact because we felt a bit more under pressure with a man down.

“It’s a learning curve that we need to not think about the yellow card, what’s potentially going to happen or what has happened. We just need to reset, get to that next job and go again.

“Being a man down is quite a big loss, but you can still defend and still win these games as we showed there.

“It’s a learning curve for me as captain, in terms of the points I’m getting across. The way we need to change and adapt in those situations. Had we lost, I’d probably be feeling a lot different, but we managed to win it which is great.

“I’ve played in games with Scotland like that when we’ve lost, and that was the most pleasing thing, that we managed to find a way to win even though momentum, the crowd, everything was against us towards the end,” he continued.

“Just to hold them out, get the ball back and almost score a bonus point try was pleasing. It shows how far we’ve come.

“It’s potentially a monkey off the back but I’m not looking at it too much like that.

“There was loads of good stuff in that first half. With the way everything unfolded in the second half, I’m a little bit down, a little bit frustrated, but when we look back there will be loads of positives to take.

“It’s not a bad place to be that we’ve managed to win down here and have France next week, but we’ve got a lot to work on and improve.”

 

On personal level, Russell kicked five from five off the tee, which was key to his side’s win in the end.

“We’re indoors so it’s nice and easy. I’ll need to have a chat with the guys at the SRU and get them to put a roof over Murrayfield!” he joked.

“My kicking was good, I’ve been feeling good the last week so that was pleasing for me to hit five from five. That effectively proved the point in the end.

“The boys scored two tries under the posts which makes it a little bit easier as well.

“The roof being shut, obviously I played at Racing and know what it’s like, so it didn’t change too much for me being indoors.”

“I thought I was fine on the pitch,” he replied, when asked how he had coped with the pressure of captaining the side, leading the attack and kicking the goals. “I’ll have a chat with the boys, the leaders in teh team, and see what they thought about how I handled it.

“We’ll do that debrief on what was good and what could have been better. Personally, I didn’t think it was that dissimilar in terms of what it would be normally like making messages and getting points across.

“Usually as a ten you’ve got quite a bit to say, mainly through the attacking side. You get a feel for how the game is going. That didn’t change too much in the game.”


Six Nations: Wales v Scotland live … visitors hold on by the skin of their teeth

About David Barnes 3821 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.

13 Comments

  1. I’m assuming that Gray and Crosbie are unavailable through injury. Here is the team I hope Townsend will select to play France on Saturday.
    Rowe;Steyn,Jones,Tuipolutu,van der Merwe; Russell,White;Dempsey,Darge,Christie;Gilchrist,Cummings;Z.Fagerson,Turner,Schoeman. So just 3 changes, all in the back row. If we can lower our penalty count by half and learn from last Saturday’s disastrous second half, I take Scotland to defeat France by around 3 points.

  2. It will go down as a win but at what cost where was the leadership when things got tough who was leading the pack it didnt appear as if anybody was leading fin russell constant running after the ref probably was why he penalized scotland so much, A, scottish rugby team with no borderers in lacks the backbone scotland needed when they were under pressure, I turned the sound off for the last twenty minutes as the commentators were way over the top.

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  3. Wales conceded 1 pen (for throwing the mall away) between 8th and 78 min. We conceded 14 in the same time frame despite bossing the game for 40 of those minutes. Anyone who thinks Refs “interpretation” of both sides actions wasn’t a factor is deluded. There were 2 clear pens in the last minute attack alone.

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  4. Lots to agree with above. My beef is with our lack of response for the run of penalties against us. This comes from the complacency our lead gave us but surely there is a reset button that someone can press. Engage the players..speak respectfully to the ref etc. It was like Twickenham 2019 but in reverse. Still, a W in Cardiff

  5. Rowe’s strengths were in the air and defence. It felt like a safe pair of hands at the back which inspires confidence. Not an incisive runner like Hogg or Kinghorn but he assisted in two tries, so not bad for a newbie.

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  6. 7 wins out of last 10 six nations away matches! I’m a bit deflated after that second half but that is an extraordinary stat after our away form for the decade or so before Townsend’s appointment. Not all down to him obviously as the players he has to pick from are better than thise that came before, but I think we will miss this era when it is gone.

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  7. Yes, we somehow managed to hold on but that 2nd half was truly appalling. Lots of folk saying it’s really hard to win away in the 6N but not when you’re 27 points up against a very inexperienced team. It looked like we just gave up, assuming it was all done after 43 minutes & interesting – and worrying – that Finn admits complacency crept in or rather swept through the team like an infection. I’ve said before we need to throw decent money at at least 2 new coaches, one for line outs and one for the psychological aspects of the game. If GT can’t appreciate that, then make that 3 new coaches. And just why was Ritchie picked ahead of Christie? Other than Crosbie who carried hard, the back row was almost anonymous as were our second row. Just need a real hard bastard in the engine room but not sure where we find one so need a hard hitting and hard carrying back row, with room for a match fit Darge. We need to really toughen and sharpen up mentally fast otherwise today might be our only win.

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    • Totally agree with you about the back row – Christie’s performances for Sarries warrants inclusion and the return of Darge csnt come quickly enough.- Rowe was reasonably safe under the high ball but lacked any threat in attack – lets hope Kinghorn’s injury is short lived ,
      Im still not convinced about Scotland’s line out and the accuracy of throwing at crucial timrs is a real hindrance – loads to work on before France at Murrayfield

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  8. Im sure our players have a pretty good idea that they nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. No need for us to point it out.
    Some people thought this game was a shoo in.
    Ridiculous!
    Rugby’s a goldfish bowl in Wales. It matters in a way it doesn’t here in Scotland apart, maybe, from in the Borders.

    Their players are always tough. They’ve been playing high intensity fixtures since they were about 7. Not many 6 nations teams win at the millennium, even against supposedly weak Welsh teams. For all their travails recently they still thrashed the Wallabies and beat Fiji in the world cup. They seem to be inconsistent but they would’ve badly wanted the W today and didn’t have a lot of pressure or expectations compared to what they normally deal with.

    I’m happy and I think our team have a right to be too. They know what they’ve got to do to have a chance v France.

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  9. 2nd half was the worst I’ve seen in a very long time. But worst of all was Townsends interview afterwards where he’s all smiles and pithy answers…

    He should be talking about how he’s going to fix this and that certain players will be left in no doubt that their jacket is on a slack nail.

    Ireland versus Scotlands win…the difference?

    Ireland kept their foot on France’s back all game. You wouldn’t catch Farrell being in that mood after a performance like that.

    Being ruthless with your standards starts at the top. Townsend just doesn’t have it.

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    • Grant I couldn’t agree more. Townsend totally insipid. Could you imagine Jim Telfers reaction to that second half performance- he would go mental. I looked at the players as they came back out for the second half and they did not look switched on. Mental side at that level so important. Ireland will destroy that Welsh team. As we should have done.

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