Maybe not a classic – but job done
Disappointing game. Scotland did not play as well as they did against Australia last week – but did, on balance, deserve to win. The ‘no-arm’ tackle was low enough for the critical penalty to be considered harsh, but we know that referees have been instructed to adopt a zero tolerance approach to reckless challenges. As a team, Scotland dug deep and had the hard edge needed to get what was a very important result against solid southern hemisphere opposition. Hopefully, no wanton ‘nearly men’ chat in the media this week!
The nuts and bolts
- Generally Scotland managed to keep control and dictate field position.
- It was another huge challenge for the young props – and another heroic response. Bigger scrums than against Australia, and more of them. It was on the edge all afternoon, but only actually caved twice. It did look better with Ross Ford’s bulk in there – and there was some pretty sympathetic refereeing. At the end of the day, Argentina will be disappointed by their inability to exploit a perceived advantage.
- Fraser Brown did miss his man a couple of times, but the line-out survived without Richie Gray. They varied their calls and jumpers well.
- Receipt of kick offs was again a problem – with one particularly bad mix-up between Alex Dunbar and Grant Gilchrist.
- The forwards appeared slow to see (or be advised) that Argentina were overloading the breakdown – and that if they wanted any decent ball, then they were going to have to do likewise.
- Vern Cotter will be furious with the glut of needless penalties.
- Three obvious defensive lapses – Matias Orlando went through Finn Russell off a set move, Martin Landajo cruelly exposed Hamish Watson’s peripheral defence and Sean Maitland got himself caught out of position when Nicolas Sanchez chipped through for Orlando’s try – but otherwise the defence was basically sound, scrambling effectively when they needed to and very resolute when Argentina brought out the battering ram.
- Johnny Gray had a colossal game.
- Magnus Bradbury made an impressive debut.
- Greg Laidlaw is the heart and absolute soul of the side – but his speed of service was again a concern – although in his defence it was a greasy ball.
- Finn Russell missed a bad tackle and should have done better with both his attempted drop goals – but he was still a huge positive – always in their faces.
- Huw Jones again looked the ‘real deal’.
- Not much happening for Stuart Hogg on the day – but his threat was always lurking there.
‘Small margins’ only come into play once robust structures are in place – and these structures are now in place.
- Nineteen phases in injury time and a very narrow call against Australia.
- Improved game management and a positive result against Argentina.
- Genuine competition for selection
Mark Dodson must be distinctly nervous about having allowed himself to be pressurised into the premature dumping of Vern Cotter in order to accommodate Gregor Townsend.
We are where we are
Now seventh in the World Rugby rankings – three places higher than rating in terms of playing numbers.
The real challenge facing Scottish Rugby is to regenerate the badly eroded rugby playing population – perhaps with consideration of Argentina’s recent successful move towards rebuilding their game addressing the problem from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.
Image: Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk