In which we (well, I) take a look at the various Scotland matchups that took place over the first 1872 Cup leg, to see if things are any clearer for Andy Robinson, and I suppose his new “guru” Scott Johnson. Of course this is just how I saw it, so if you think differently please let us know in the comments section.
MacArthur isn’t really challenging Ford for the Scotland shirt – no-one is, but in the props it is less clear cut. Chunk is a starter if fit and he galvanised Edinburgh when he came on, but then also gave away crucial penalties. Supporting roles as stand-ins for first choice Chunk, Ford and Euan Murray are all up for grabs though, with Geoff Cross now probably the clear second choice prop ahead of Moray Low and he would likely make the top spot on Sundays. No one in this game particularly made a case, although Cusack and MacArthur for Glasgow went well in the scrums.
Less of a matchup this and more of a “who will partner Richie?”. The big man set about Edinburgh’s lineout with aplomb, at one point stealing 3 in a row and illustrating just what a useful tool standing about at the front waving your arms can be when you are 7 feet tall. In the loose he is a marked man now and this should continue in the next Six Nations. As a result his impact on games seems a little less than this time last year, or as AD says “posted missing”. His captain Al Kellock also played well after an early injury knocked him on his backside, taking a crucial try to keep Glasgow in the game and leading from the front with a little help from his half-backs. On the Edinburgh side, Gilichrist played well and may yet show enough to make the training squad, but he’ll have to beat off Mackenzie and possibly even Vernon from Sale to make it in alongside Hamilton. The two Glasgow boys: currently out in front.
David Denton vs Rob Harley
Tricky one this. Both players have been to the fore in their respective league campaigns thus far this season, but here they seemed almost to cancel each other out. Harley’s frigid defence came up against Denton’s rampaging attack – a microcosm of their team styles really.
Ross Rennie vs John Barclay
Barclay has been the holder of the 7 shirt for a long time while Rennie has had to recover from injury after injury so a lot could be made of this matchup. This season he has been well-managed and it is starting to pay off. He got a try as a result of good support work going forward, while Barclay as usual was everywhere in defence – including all the places Edinburgh would rather he wasn’t, slowing down or stealing ball – but a little anonymous going forward ball in hand. Rennie also deserves plaudits of sorts for not getting injured in a nasty clash with that other injury-berserker Rory Lamont, who left the field after a lengthy treatment.
Mike Blair vs Chris Cusiter
This one has generated a bit of debate already. Bill Johnstone commented on the BBC Radio Scotland coverage that he felt Blair was having a marvellous game, almost at the exact moment I thought out loud what a good game Cusiter was having. Cusiter made far more breaks although Blair threw himself about in defence all over the park. Some of his passes seemed to me to be a little high, forcing his first receiver to jump or at least stay still and losing the momentum Edinburgh so clearly thrive on, while Cusiter was throwing them lower and delivering quicker. If you look at the end result, Cusiter had a far greater influence on it as he, Jackson and Kellock dragged the Glasgow team back into the game and Cusiter’s speculative box kick into Murrayfield’s mammoth in-goal area gave them the draw. Why he wasn’t given Man of the Match is a little beyond me.
Greig Laidlaw vs Duncan Weir/Ruaridh Jackson
So far, not much learned. Laidlaw won this matchup possibly by virtue of not making as many mistakes as Weir or Jackson made during their stints. Jackson came on and popped up for his try on the end of Cusiter’s up and under but he’d made a few dodgy calls before that. All three proved basically what we already suspected: Weir has a big boot, Jackson likes to attack but can be flaky and Laidlaw can run an attacking game brilliantly from 9 or 10. But can he control a defensive kicking effort under test levels of pressure?
No direct match-ups here (based on previous selections anyway) although James King I suppose could be an outside bet for a squad place. Arguably Robinson’s two favourite centres were on show though, in the shape of Morrison and De Luca. Of those two probably De Luca looked the better, making some good breaks and throwing some fizzing passes compared to Morrison who made some good breaks and threw very few passes. Would he consider a De Luca / Ansbro pairing?
Mossy was playing opposite Stuart Hogg (who along with Lee Jones for Edinburgh, seemed to get little ball to work with), but as the elder statesman of Scottish rugby announced his retirement this week and Lemi and Visser were in the mix too we didn’t learn much about potential Scotland back three slots. Other than this: Tim Visser – who skinned Lamont early on – could be a key ingredient in next year’s Scotland recipe.