Six Nations: Wales v Scotland reaction: second half collapse evoked memories of 2010

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend provides injury update on Richie Gray and Luke Crosbie

Debutants Alec Hepburn and Elliot Millar-Mills lift the Doddie Weir Cup after their team's win over Wales at the Principality Stadium. Image: © Craig Watson -
Debutants Alec Hepburn and Elliot Millar-Mills lift the Doddie Weir Cup after their team's win over Wales at the Principality Stadium. Image: © Craig Watson -

GREGOR TOWNSEND wanted to focus on the positives after his team secured a first victory in Cardiff in 22 years yesterday [Saturday] afternoon, but admitted that the harrowing memory of Scotland’s 2010 collapse at the  same venue did begin to creep into his mind as he watched an unheralded Wales score 26 unanswered points through four tries and three conversions between the 47th and the 68th minute of this Six Nations opener, to come within a whisker of snatching a dramatic comeback win.

“The 2010 match here when I was assistant coach was coming into my thoughts as the second half went on,” he said. “I remember the atmosphere that day and Wales had the momentum and came back on the scoreboard and the same happened today.

“Fortunately, we stayed ahead and we were able to play well in the last five minutes. A lot of effort went in that last five minutes and we could’ve, should’ve scored a try. We felt there were a couple of penalties in there that could have gone our way during that passage but at the end of the sequence we were past 80 minutes and had got the win.”

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Scotland had started the game as positively as they could have hoped for, patiently building pressure on the scoreboard through monopolising possession and taking advantage of opportunities – even kicks at goal which they have had a habit of passing up in the past – when they presented themselves.

But the game swung a full 180 degrees in the blink of an eye early in the second half, and while Wales should be given credit for the resilience they showed to turn things round, the extent to which Scotland lost control of proceedings through poor discipline and sloppy game management will need to be analysed and addressed ahead of the visit of France to Murrayfield next Saturday.

“We were really clean and efficient in our half [during the first half]. Ben White and Finn [Russell] kicked well, and Kyle Rowe handled the kicks that were coming his way,” recalled Townsend.

“We didn’t have that many opportunities but we grew in confidence and were accurate and we put Wales under pressure. To score those two tries was a really good reward – sometimes you don’t get that in first halves, but to have that cushion should have made it a more comfortable second half.

“The fact that it didn’t [go that way] is a concern for us. A lot of that was to do with the penalty count and the numerical advantage Wales had for 20 minutes. That created problems and created pressure and Wales played their best rugby in that period, too.

“I don’t think it was anything to do with a change of gameplan. We went out in the second half with the same mindset but we couldn’t get on ball and had to defend a man down.

“Crazy stats … it was nine penalties against zero,” he added. “Wales didn’t concede a penalty in the second half. 16 penalties to four in a game we were 27-0 up in just doesn’t seem to make sense but we’ve got to look at where we can improve.

“We were getting penalised for things around the tackle/ruck area and offsides that Wales weren’t getting penalised for. We have to be better. To concede 16 penalties, no matter if we thought they were harsh decisions, it’s going to put you under pressure, and it did.

“But we’ve got to take a lot of pride in the win and the performance because it was our first outing in four months and how we started that game and the second half [was very good]. I know how hard it is to win here, both as a player and as a coach, so I feel pride that we’ve managed to finally get the win at this stadium. But I know the assistant coaches are not thinking like that. The forwards and defence coaches are thinking, ‘that can’t happen next week’, and we know it can’t.

“We know next week is a totally different challenge against a team that has been one of the best in the world for a number of years and are coming in on the back of a defeat. They will be a big threat to us and we’ll have to be better.”

Injury updates

Townsend expects to have Rory Darge back for the visit of Les Bleus, to add some bite in the back-row and share the leadership role as co-captain alongside Russell, but Scotland look certain to be without second-row Richie Gray and flanker Luke Crosbie.

“They’re both in a lot of pain,” revealed the coach. “Richie knew straight away that it was a bicep injury, so that doesn’t look good for this championship.

“Luke’s is a shoulder injury which is a painful one now but that might settle, though probably not for next week. Let’s hope he’s not done any significant damage there.

“It’s a blow to lose two players who are in our starting team. Richie is a very experienced player for us and Luke has been outstanding this season and took the game to Wales.

“We’ll just have to adapt. We’ve got Grant Gilchrist coming back from suspension and we’ve got a lot of competition in the back row. I’m sure guys will be able to step up when they get the opportunity next week.”

Meanwhile, the performance of Rowe on the occasion of his first Scotland start (playing slightly out of position at full-back), and the contributions of debuting props Alex Hepburn and Elliot Millar-Mills off the bench, provided Townsend with some succour.

“I thought the bench was excellent and added speed and stuck with what we were aiming to do in the second half when we hadn’t had the ball for a while,” he said.

“The three of them haven’t played much rugby for us and two of them have only been in our system for 10 days.

“Alec Hepburn’s carries, Elliot Millar-Mills’ scrum and almost getting a jackal at the end, Kyle Rowe was a calm, assured presence and had to field a lot of high balls. I thought he did very well because he’d not played in that position a huge amount but he is a skilful all round player and just seemed really calm in the Test environment.”

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

About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.


  1. I’m starting to think that Iain Milne is Gregor Townsend, or an SRU plant! ;-)

    I’m certain that a better coach or one with better man management skills and the ability to really pick based upon form, rather than just saying the words, would have a better win record with the skill base he’s had over his tenure. It’s not enough to keep spouting his win ratio. His ability to inspire his team, offer them a plan b and c to try and his lack of objectivity in selection is holding back what all the ex player pundits regard as a potentially very dangerous set of players.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your second paragraph. I wonder how many previous coaches were given so much technical, financial and coaching etc. personnel resources that GT has had during his extensive tenure ? Yes, on paper, he may have a reasonable record, but when you analyse results, a lot of the wins have been against lower ranked teams, teams in transitional decline, in “meaningless” friendlies or, more recently against teams during the Pandemic, with no crowds or atmosphere.

      Ireland defy belief the way they have developed and gone from strength to strength and all credit to them. Unlike Scotland, the same mistakes do not get repeated and they are constantly competitive, hard nosed, street wise and not complacent or full of themselves after a good result. Would Scotland be better under Farrell ? Undoubtedly so. Would we be world beaters ? No, but we would be more difficult to beat, consistently more competitive and possibly regularly being ranked between 5-7, which would be a considerable achievement given our population, rugby resources and set up.

      It was a huge mistake to extend GT’s contract and upset the preparation cycle for the World Cup. Let’s face it he has had a very generous period of tenure and, presumably he has done his best. It’s time for a change.

  2. A lot of emotional and irrational comments after our win yesterday. Having taken time to watch the game today the problem with our game lies a lot deeper than our performance yesterday. There were numerous marginal penalties which turned the game around. I’m not saying the referee was wrong but simply the reward for a penalty is massive in the modern game and must change. Should the team receiving the penalty get rewarded twice, once by gaining 40 metres of territory by kicking into touch and then be rewarded by the throw in to the lineout which generally is won by the team throwing in. It can often get worse by the driving lineout ( this needs to be outlawed as well, obstruction !!) then a yellow card for defending it.
    Two games ruined by the laws this weekend.
    Red cards destroy games at the highest level. Players should be allowed to be replaced after 10 minutes allowing a spectacle to continue. The punishment should be issued to the offending players after the game. Proper punishments of 8/10/12 weeks, no tackle school no meaningless 2/3 week bans.
    The reward of the penalty should be reduced. If the team receiving the penalty chooses to kick to touch then the opposition get the throw in.
    There was a lot of good rugby by us in the first half/ the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half, the last 10 minutes of the 2nd half.

    • I agree that the winning of a penalty especially for a “technical” offence can give a disprortionment advantage to the side awarded it. I think penalties for dangerous, foul or cynical unsporting play should carry a higher sanction. Similarly Red cards issued for foul and dangerous play should she the perpetrator dismissed for the rest of the game. Red cards for other offences could be punished by a 20 minute dismissal – ie twice the yellow card 10 minutes.
      Scotland played well for the first 45 mins and the last 10. In between we did not have the ball.

  3. Others have said it too, but it’s clear Townsend should have gone at the end of the World Cup. We are just ploughing on with the same tactics and see no improvement in the forwards. Not picking Christie and Bradbury is nonsense both form players and deserve a chance. Why not make changes at the start of the tournament as clearly upfront, and particularly a lack of carry, has long been the problem. Lawrie as forwards coach is not good enough and we have needed someone with more experience in that role for sometime.

    The success of Picking guys on basis of their ability to jackle feels totally dependent on the refs interpretation and shouldn’t we move on and try and pick guys who can just make yards and secure ball !? Matt fagerson is an okay player but not a lion and not better than those in his position in the other teams, why is he undroppable?

    We simply can’t expect to keep doing the same things and expect to improve. Time for fresh ideas and a coach who gives everyone a fair shot at selection, and takes account of form.

  4. What a disgraceful complacent performance against a pack of boys. As the commentators stated good teams are ruthless and don’t take the foot off the pedal. This team thought it was done and dusted.
    We didn’t have one successful jackal and, as I said earlier in the week, Ritchie is a shadow of his former strength. We lost the breakdown and the French will not be so lenient.
    Russell is right to agree that they were complacent but he is (was) the captain and a boot up the backside was needed. Jim Telfer must have been kicking the cat, the TV and anything else that came to hand!!
    We lost a 4-try bonus point which has already put us below England on the table and points were there for the grabbing.
    I feel very disappointing and can only hope that we have a better backrow with which to compete for the breakdown next week.

  5. Why don’t we just look at the obvious:
    Scotland weren’t even that good in the first half. On paper we should have been 4 tries up in the first half. We were lacking urgency and respect, both self and for Wales, thus the complacency creeps in.

    Scotland picks players based on familiarity rather than form and skill. Players never used to get 80+ caps, I know there were less games, even pro-rata ratio is still in favour of modern players.

    Front row is awful. Locks are lacking depth. Back row is the same faces without proving why. Scrum/fly half, Horne is better but on bench, Finn isn’t as good as people make him out to be. Centres, Huw-polotou “because they are familiar with each other” – meaning they can be crap but as long as they are familiar with that then it’s ok. Wing, obviously only two choices and one was injured before the competition. Fullback, lacking any depth means every injury to BK will result in replacements out their depth.

    The most upsetting part is that may are the best available. No grassroots game to speak of in Scotland. This is a sugar rush generation in charge of the SRU, rather than building infrastructure for the game they will just cast a bigger net further afield each year.

    As for Toonie he wasn’t that great back then and isn’t now.

    4yrs to a RWC we will again struggle to get out of the groups on. Get the youngest,hungriest most on form players into the game. I’d rather go into a game with 23 players with 23 caps between them as long as they played like Wales did, with nothing to lose and self respect.


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