Scotland 19-16 Samoa
Scotland brought their Autumn International series to a close with a narrow win over a determined bunch of Samoans, who seem to have replaced their free-wheeling and high-tackling style with something far more difficult to overcome. Consistent access to this group of players and a bit of work on the set piece will make them very tricky opponents for Wales, Fiji and South Africa in next year’s Rugby World Cup. Luckily, we only have the new Champions of the World (ie England) to contend with in our group so we can continue to be wildly inconsistent.But for now we return to a snowy Pittodrie, the bracing scene that saw two local sons grabbing the headlines; Nikki Walker with a long-awaited try and a succession of good wee runs, and Ruaridh Jackson who had a decent spell off the bench before slotting the winning penalty. Walker could almost have had a second try were it not for a flying Samoan tackling him from seemingly out of nowhere as he strode for the line, after a great break from Graeme Morrison.
Earlier on Samoa had taken the lead with a great try that showcased just the sort of little touches we would expect from Samoa. Scotland had a few good breaks as well as maintaining their high tackle rate in the first half, but in the second half things tightened up considerably in favour of a cagey game from both sides. The Samoan defence was incredibly effective for the most part, especially in the second half when Scotland tried to use prolonged pressure on the Samoan 22 to put the game to bed. As it was, a last minute disciplinary lapse by Tekori was the nightcap that allowed Jackson to cooly slot the penalty in front of his home crowd on only his second test.
With Weir out for 10 weeks after giving a piggy back to an American during the recent A game, Jackson will now have a run of games for Glasgow to argue his merits for inclusion in the Six Nations versus Dan Parks, still clearly the incumbent. With Chris Paterson scoring tries again and having added a few yards to the length of his kicking, he would be a good option on the wing as goalkicker to allow Jackson a bit of breathing room to grow into his first Six Nations. With Walker finally playing well in a Scotland shirt however, the number of ways Robinson could squeeze Ansbro, Evans, Paterson, either Lamont, Walker or Southwell into the same team grows narrower. Not forgetting the likes of Jim Thompson, Alex Grove, Ben Cairns, Simon Danielli or Nick De Luca who would also hope to challenge for places in the backline.
Elsewhere around the hemisphere, Ireland beat Argentina to move us down the rankings to 7th again and South Africa bounced back with a hefty shove against the team that have now been installed as Six Nations favourites after one (1) good game, namely England. France’s case with the bookies was not helped by a 16-59 mauling by the Wallabies.
Scotland have to travel to both Twickers and Paris next year, and it is most likely these matches that will prove the true gauge of this team’s potential.