Scotland’s 6 Nations campaign staggered further into the abyss on Saturday when Scotland crashed to a decent, but not outstanding, Welsh side. Scotland had arrived in the Welsh capital eager to make amends for last weeks horror show against the French but instead compounded the misery by turning in an abject display that was a throwback to the dark days of the Matt Williams era (shudder!). Scotland will undoubtedly point to Shane Williams second “try”as an important turning point in the match, but Scotland did not deserve anything from the game and the 30 – 15 final score was a fair reflection of the domination that the Welsh had all afternoon.
Picking over the carcass of the Welsh game has been neither enjoyable or easy and working out where to start has been a tough call. In these situation one finds it best to resort to familiar ground, so, as a Scotsman, let me begin with the sour-grapes:
The TMO: It wasn’t a try on Saturday, much like it wasn’t a try last year for Johnny Wilkinson, and why Scotland are perpetually on the wrong end of these decisions I really don’t know. The TMO was introduced to help clear up disputed decisions but when the man with the clear replay can’t call the decision correctly then the game is indeed in dire straights. Scotland had struggled all afternoon to match the Welsh but had hauled themselves back into touching distance and when Shane Williams skipped down the left wing to squeeze in the corner most thought it was a try. In real-time it is a clear try but when replayed you can clearly see Shane Williams left foot touch the whitewash of the sideline and kick up a divot – or what is traditionally known as IN TOUCH!!!!! OUT OF PLAY…BALL IS DEAD….LINE OUT SCOTLAND!!!! Questions must be asked of the 4th official as to why, despite the very clear evidence presented to him he still awarded the try. Questions must also be asked as to why an Italian, whose nation is likely to be ‘competing’ with Scotland for the wooden spoon, is put in this position? My belief in the impartiality of officials is eroded away with each and every erroneous decision that is made. The time for all officials to be outwith the competing 6 Nations has surely come.
In saying all of the above, and having cast mud on the reputation of the Italian TMO, the decision still had little bearing on the outcome. Scotland were absolutely rank rotten, gutless, piss poor awful. I’ve had to wait a couple of days before writing this piece as most of my feeling on Saturday were libellous and I don’t think I’ve ever been more disgusted in a Scotland performance as I was on Saturday. To be beaten by a better team is one thing, to be humiliated and so devoid of effort and drive is another. So, what’s wrong with Scotland?
Basic Skills: We have none. Catch a ball? “No can’t do that.” Tackle a smaller man running at you? “No, it might hurt”. Not get yellow carded for being a moron in front of the referee? “Not a chance mate”. Scotland gave an all-round display of ineptitude and should release it as a video entitled “How not to play rugby – Big Frank’s Guide”. Not a single Scotland player got pass marks on Saturday, with maybe the exception of, again, Chunk who at least looked interested. How can international players not be able to catch a ball that is straight into the midriff? How can Scotland allow a man to slip not one, not two, not three, but four (…bloody four!!…) tackles for the first Welsh try! This is just unacceptable. These are the basics folks yet we manage to make it look difficult in the extremis. These people get paid to play this game but can’t catch a ball. They do it fine week in, week out for their clubs but put them into a blue shirt all that seems to be missing is a big red nose, oversize shoes and a car that falls to bits when they come out the tunnel. A disgrace is the only word for it. Scotland have two weeks to prepare for Ireland and they need to use the time to sharpen up and learn how to tackle…please!
The ‘Attack’: Not that we have one. There is no creativity in this squad. For Ireland World-Class Phil has to come in at 10 and Parks dumped on the bench. Scotland has nearly as much possession as Wales yet did nothing with it. Slow ball and poor decision-making scarred Scotland’s game. Time after time Scotland slowed the ball down or failed to take the opportunity to take the ball out wide. Scotland have scored one try in five matches, again this is totally unacceptable.
Frank Hadden: Having supported Hadden throughout his time as Scotland coach. Rory and I discussed this at the end of the World Cup and agreed that he should be given more time as it was a young side and they could develop. Well, they’ve gone backwards in dramatic style and his jacket is now officially on a very shoogly peg! His ability to try find a positive in every negative was originally appealing but now reeks of a man sticking his head in the sand. He needs to come out and openly criticise his players, display some god-damn passion for the job. If that had been me on the sidelines I’d have been screaming blue murder at the players but Franks sits back and lets the game unfold. The confidence of the players looks at an all-time low and it is the responsibility of the coach and his backroom team to tackle this. His supportive manner seems to fail to inspire the players and maybe the time has come for backsides to be kicked. The other main issue is his overly negative style that cramps whatever flair Scotland do have. The combination of Blair and Park patently does not work, it’s too slow and need changing asap. No doubt Hadden will get to the end of the championship but unless performances and results improved (this is, after all, built into his contract) he may well be gone by the autumn.
The Players: Hang your heads in shame gentlemen. As much as your coach may send you out with crap tactics and as much as you may still be sore from the result against France you are still professional sportsmen who should display pride and passion in playing for your country. People pay thousands of pounds to follow you and all they ask in return is effort, passion and at least a little bit of belief in your own abilities. We’re Scots, we don’t honestly expect to win that much. In Wales you disgraced the shirt, your inability to do the simple things reeked of piss-poor professionalism. You need to look forward now to Ireland, make a pledge to not only your country but too yourselves that you will do all you can, bleed every drop of blood, break every bone in your body to break the tackle, drive forward, take the game to Ireland and claim back a little bit of pride not only for your country but also for yourselves.
So, as it turns out, I’m still raging about Saturday. Writing these blog articles is cathartic in a somewhat masochistic way, it helps air the issues for us writers but it also opens the fresh wounds. Saturday was ugly and painful and the championship threatens to spiral ever downwards yet it is the prerogative of a Scotland fan to use the next couple of weeks to lick our wounds and build ourselves up for the next match. By the time Scotland march (proudly I hope) out onto Croke park I will have convinced myself that the corner will be turned in the next 80 minutes and I’ll be wearing my Scotland shirt with passion and pride. In the meantime a few days away from the passion of international rugby may be good for both the liver and the heart rate!
Over and out.