The problem with World Cups is that you have to make sacrifices to attend. A trip to the other side of the world doesn’t come cheap and to fund this you have to give up on the small pleasures, such as warm up games. However the rugby god’s saw fit to reward my commitment to the cause by dishing up a couple of tickets to Saturday’s game so I could see first hand just what was being prepared for the main course in a few weeks time.
First thing to note is that, despite turning up just 5 minutes prior to the scheduled kick off I was able to get a beer with minimum fuss – a good omen. Encouragingly there was a fairly hefty que of punters lining up to buy tickets. This is a welcome development, rugby in Scotland can’t afford to be turning away paying punters and I hope the SRU stick with it…they’ll reap the benefits in the long run.
As for the game itself it was pretty poor affair. A lot of huff, puff, sweat and tears but little by way of end product. However I’m not as critical as some of the hacks have been in the press. I got a distinct impression that this was a open training session more than anything else and that Scotland were keeping a hell of a lot a tricks up their collective sleeves. The try was a sign of this. Straight off of the training field it was simple, well executed and precisely what the fans in attendance had been crying out for for the previous 76 minutes.
As with any Scotland performance there is plenty of work to be done but it is important to note that they have a solid platform on which to build over the next month. The scrum worked well and looked a far more solid unit whilst the lineout, despite a couple of overthrows, was reasonably effective. The team also seemed to make their tackles count which prevented the Irish from ever building up any momentum. The big area of concern was the breakdown where the Irish had the upper hand. Scotland seemed to find player isolated all too easily and when they did secure ball it was sometimes slow to be used allowing the Irish to apply pressure and reset their defensive line.
For all the gnashing of teeth in some quarters Scotland deserved their win and were the better team. It’s true this was not a full trength Irish side but equally there were several key Scottish players abscent. As mentioned in other posts Scotland have some general depth to their squad and at least Robinson has some options.
As a final point this was but a first step on a, hopefully, long world cup journey, it’s a solid start. Crucially a winning start. Hopefully, by the time I reach New Zealand to pick Rory up from a bar room floor somewhere in Wellington, this Scottish momentum will still be in evidence.