They’re harsh on their team here in New Zealand.
After the All Blacks humped a stoic Tongan side by 6 tries to 1 with clinical counter attacking rugby but failed to score quite so much in the second half, pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to reckons they were truly, truly awful, or words to that effect. Usually ones rhyming with “hit” or “height”. Graham “Ted” Henry only gave them 5/10. So how then to view Scotland’s decidedly mixed performance on Saturday against a fired-up Romanian team?
Invercargill looked like it was going to deliver as promised when awaking to a rainy sky and grey cloud. But the rain held off for the match and Scotland played to begin with as if a wet or muddy pitch had never even been considered.
When he took the field I thought Mike Blair looked a bit tense but as Lamont blasted through holes in the Romanian midfield and Jackson spread it wide with abandon, Mike responded with a try, followed by Ansbro in short order.
So far so good. The refs in the World Cup so far have been very strict in terms of the time allowed for releasing the tackler or the ball – they are obviously looking for quick ball and fast exciting games, and for a while Scotland provided it. These new restrictions didn’t allow John Barclay to get much into the game, with a couple of turnovers early on but he and Kelly Brown reduced mostly to tackling (a lot) in the later stages of the game.
Richie Gray too was subdued, the pre-tournament hype has clearly made him a marked man but if Big Richie can’t play, Medium Richie (plus headband of doom) found some luck out wide including a crucial break round the outside late on to send Danielli over.
The set piece looked okay without being spectacular – the Romanians were not much of a lineout threat but put up a fight in the scrum – and in the second half, pretty much everywhere. The comeback made for a better game for the neutrals of Invercargill and the handful of Romanian fans present, but probably left some fairly messy kilts around Rugby Park. Most neutrals supported the underdog, with one wag commenting that he had been forced to switch to Scotland once the Romanians took the lead…
Robinson will be concerned with the dropped off tackles in the face of a physical Romanian back division as well as less security on their own ball as the game wore on. Al texted from back home with an expletive ridden view on Scotland’s performance but at the end of the day they scored 5 tries, secured the bonus point and top the table. That would be the expected result, and that was what we got, no?
England and Argentina looked no great shakes later on in the evening – although the papers here still pick them as the two pool qualifiers – but that level of consistency won’t get us out out of the group. The Romania game might prove a good warm up for Georgia and Argentina – and maybe even an uninspired England – but Robinson will need to turn up the heat a bit more.