Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Negative? Scotland Just Weren’t Good Enough

Scotland Players - © Scottish Rugby Blog

Thinking back on Scotland’s loss to Ireland has been hard. Out of respect for the players I will analyse the goings-on at Scotstoun and Murrayfield in a separate piece because that is something that had no effect on Saturday’s result. What I will say, though, is that Scotland lost because they were bested by their opponents.

Many people say that Scotland has a negative press and that we must seek positives. With this game you cannot gloss over the fact that Scotland were second best in a lot of major facets. It is hard to put spin on it.

The scrum once again disintegrated. The lineout, so dominant before, was picked off when Scotland were chasing the game. The discipline was poor. It was made easy for Ireland’s defence by passing in front of them, moving towards the touchline. Scotland never seemed to cope with Ireland’s instant box-kick from every kick-off reception.

David Denton played fairly well and Richie Gray carried brilliantly but Scotland seemed to wander around this game. When they were direct they worked forward well, however, the lapses in concentration ensured that Scotland could never win it. Negative? This is the truth and it must be faced up to that this team face a watershed in Rome.

Gone was the dynamism in the runs. Some were willing, but Ireland were not wearied like many had hoped. There was a lapse from Sean Lamont – who was playing with far too much fire in his head, for some reason – when he attempted to obliterate Reddan at the base of a ruck and the Leinster 9 slipped under his charge and scampered in for a score. It was the very definition of a soft score.

At the end of the first half, when Scotland had roared back following a moment of individual brilliance from Gray, there was another lapse as a mark was called in the away side’s 22. Jones passed it to Hogg. He ran at full tilt, perhaps conscious that he had been outplayed by Kearney, and the fire was once again stoked up in players’ heads. Instead of playing sensible rugby the ball found Andrew Trimble who surged in at the corner.

I am trying to find positives, really I am, but the problem is that errors were made and Ireland were gifted opportunities.

As for the Earls ‘dive’, I will assume that the passions of being a fan are clouding peoples’ judgement. Evans did make some contact with him and in real time it looked for all the world like the Scot had given up running for the ball and just cut in behind the Irishman. No matter how minimal the contact was it was made and if Earls did not go down –theatrically, of course –he would still have looked like his run was that much harder. It would still have been obstructed by an Evans making for the touchline and behind Earls. Earls was never going to score but his chance was tugged away from him, ever so slightly. How can you give a penalty without a yellow card?

Of course this talk also takes a lot away from Ireland. Much of it was not that Scotland were so bad, but that Ireland were much better than many expected them to be. That is where the shock came in. Scottish fans, for some inexplicable reason, expected Ireland to be weak. They were not and Ferris, Kearney, Ryan and O’Mahony all played very well.

The over-analysed ‘Choke Tackle’ was not so much of an issue as Ireland bossing the breakdown. Evans got a yellow card, yes, and it seems like Irish players could have gotten one earlier, but where Ireland’s offenses at the ruck were streetwise and out of the referee’s gaze, a few of Scotland’s were not.

Scotland were unlucky. They were unlucky because Ireland made them unlucky.

In The Hollow Reality after the France result I said, “If injuries ravage Ireland then maybe Scotland can turn them over a week on Saturday, but now he will be looking at Italy and the summer tour.” That is still the case and this game needs to be completely forgotten. It was a heavy loss and will only demoralize if it is dwelt upon.

The progress from the France game did not continue. Hopefully against Italy it will restart. There are talented youngsters there, but Ireland outplayed them.

13 Responses

  1. I may have suggested here or elsewhere that Earls went down too easy, but I still think the offence merited the penalty and probably the card. The ref made the right decision, whether in spite of or because of Earls we’ll never know! And once again, this was a game in which to be fair the referee didn’t make Scotland play poorly. The card wasn’t a turning point, it was just another nail in the coffin assembled long prior.

  2. True, Rory. I am sad that the card was given. Not because it stopped a Scots comeback, but because some people may now get caught up in bleating about injustice rather than accepting that Ireland outplayed Scotland.

  3. How can anyone hate on Chris Pollock? The way he shouted “Crouch, Touch, Pause, ENGAGE!” added a real sense of drama to the scrums. Brought to mind the calls of John Anderson from TV’s Gladiators.

  4. When I saw the Evans / Earls clash live I immediately thought “idiot!”, because he changed direction across Earls, which is always going to invite a card when the other guy’s going faster.

    The Trimble try was a turning point, because of it coming right after our score and right before half time – the main recurring negative of Scotland’s play for me is how they handle the key moments of a match, namely right after scoring and in the 5 minutes before and after half time. The recent losses against Argentina, England, Wales, France and Ireland have all seen us give up tries in these crucial phases of the game.

    It must be draining as a player to work as hard as they do to get points only to gift them back.

  5. Am I alone in thinking that Scotland seem to be over coached? None of our players seem capable (Gray, Denton and possibly Hogg aside) of thinking on their feet or making decisions on the spot. Where is the creativity? All our play just seems monotonous, devoid of ideas and as though the players are afraid to express themselves, or to even think for themselves. Or are they simply not good enough?

    1. I don’t think it’s something that’s just a problem in the national team. It’s something than needs to be looked at from grass roots level from when kids are starting out playing touch. Even then you’re looking at 10 years before it starts to produce anything.

    2. And we’ve been saying that since the teacher strikes in the 80’s which means those players with the new style of development are nearly in their 30’s now. I don’t have the answer other than we do not have the numbers to compete at the top level. For every Gray, Hogg & Laidlaw we develop (leave out Denton, can’t take ownership of that one) larger nations can have two XVs of the same quality. I don’t think it’s going to change, unfortunately.

    3. But we are competing – what is most frustrating about the last two years (since the Wales game in Cardiff in 2010) is that Scotland manage to get into winning positions, but then engineer a way to lose.

      Look at the last 6 losses – in every single one we have been the architects of our own downfall and engineered ever more ways to gift opponents points and momentum at key moments of the game.

  6. We never looked like winning any of these games really. We make too many silly mistakes, our defense is soft, our scrum is terrible and our kicking is poor. We do lots of pretty stuff but the other teams are much more ruthless. We are done by much more cynical (professional!) opponents. We should set out to be more like England. Settle on a style of play and stick with it and have consistent selection. We must get the basics right – scrum, kick, defense and territory to have any chance. Maybe then the tries will come in games we win not just in games we lose. I don’t think we will be able to play non stuffy rughby until we have successful regions or players who mostly play for the Leicesters, Saracens, Leinsters etc. of the World. Maybe next year but its the wooden spoon for us I think.

  7. Not good enough somes it up for me.

    I recall that the international season started promisingly with Scotland A thumping England Saxons 35 – 0. I was left with a nagging doubt that some who played that night should have been given a chance in the big game. After deserved praise from all, including AR, how many have started a 6N’s match this season? Answer: I think I’m right to say One. Stuart Hogg got his first start against France (3rd match). A few others (Weir, Kalman, and Vernon) have gotten some limited game time (usually being thrown in at difficult/chasing stages of matches). Weir and kalman have been discarded for their limited contributions whilst our starters are given chance after chance to fail (not just this season).

    Just read that Grove, Cuthbert and Murchie have been added to the training squad for the italian game. Better late than never, but what about the forwards – front row especially (an italian strength)?? Welsh/Kalman surely could be tried out. Having said this, the backs are only in the training squad. Pretty fed up all round.

    1. I agree with Mike that the team should have been changed more often; scotland have made many mistakes across the six nations so why not use the opportunity to try out new players like Weir and Harley who have had a fantastic time at the Warriors and yet have had little or no game time this six nations.

      With players retiring all the time we need to give the younger players a chance to show their talent and improve it before they are the older ‘more experienced’ players

  8. I agree with Mike that the team should have been changed more often; scotland have made many mistakes across the six nations so why not use the opportunity to try out new players like Weir and Harley who have had a fantastic time at the Warriors and yet have had little or no game time this six nations.

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