Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 34 – 10 Italy

Stuart Hogg cheers Matt Scott over the line - photo © Alastair Ross
Stuart Hogg cheers Matt Scott over the line - photo © Alastair Ross

Italy got their first Six Nations win at the home of Scottish rugby in 2007 on a dreadful afternoon when unforced Scottish errors gifted three back-to-back tries in the opening quarter of an hour. At the time it felt like an all-time low point for Scottish Rugby, a point of no return. Today’s game had all the potential to go beyond that depth and further. With the Tonga game and last weeks mauling at Twickenham still very fresh in the mind there was a palatable feeling of nervousness around the 50,000 strong crowd in EH12 today.

A good, dynamic start by Scotland had the murmurs of discontent and worry turning slowly to encouragement as a sense of belief built up from the ashes of disappointment. However, performance alone means nothing without points at International level.

It was therefore nothing short of pure relief when the first try finally came and when you need someone to find the line these days in those distant (and often neglected) corners of the Murrayfield pitch, Tim Visser is the man to nail those chances. All of a sudden Italy’s key men of Parisse, Orquera and Castrogivanni looked remarkably quiet and as the half grew tentatively to a close Scotland saw out a solid if unspectacular forty minutes. If nothing, they led the Italians 13-0 and had done the job of steadying the ship at least.

If the first half was about consolidation, then the second was about obliteration. Scotland opened up in the first five minutes with a well worked try from Matt Scott and then a full length of the pitch interception and gallop by the increasingly brilliant Stuart Hogg, now a sure fire Lions contender. Greig Laidlaw maintained his kicking form and all of sudden Scotland were bossing the game as the crowd began to spontaneously belt out Flower of Scotland.

Harley, Laidlaw, Gray, Hamilton, Murray and Hogg were all shining bright in an all-round solid performance from the whole Scottish squad. Italy on the other hand were poor, led by an out-of-sorts Parisse who took to moaning at the ref and fighting. Last weeks hero Orquera was tactically removed after 55 minutes with his tail firmly between his legs and their usually dominant pack were being shunted about in the scrum. They simply had no answer to this new found Scottish self-belief. After an aborted try by Scott was knocked off for a forward pass, Sean Lamont finished the rout by kicking the ball through a ruck, flicking it up off his feet and running it in under the posts. Scottish fans starved of tries over the years were now being treated to a feast. Italy even got in on the act with a soft try from Zanni but the day belonged to Scotland and the hearty cheer at the final whistle reflected that.

One swallow a summer certainly does not make but it is important to remember just quite how bad things could have been if Scotland hadn’t performed as well as they did today. Focus, accuracy and, most importantly, confidence was the key and Scotland delivered on all fronts.

Yet success comes in many forms and there were lots of reasons to celebrate during this extraordinary game but perhaps dodging the bullet of resurrecting the ghost of 2007 was the biggest one.

Disaster averted; time now to see if Scotland can kick on.

Scotland: 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Sean Maitland, 13-Sean Lamont, 12-Matt Scott, 11-Tim Visser, 10-Ruaridh Jackson, 9-Greig Laidlaw; 1-Ryan Grant, 2-Ross Ford, 3-Euan Murray, 4-Richie Gray, 5-Jim Hamilton, 6-Robert Harley, 7-Kelly Brown (capt), 8-Johnnie Beattie

Replacements: 16-Pat MacArthur, 17-Moray Low, 18-Geoff Cross, 19-Alastair Kellock, 20-David Denton, 21-Henry Pyrgos, 22-Duncan Weir, 23-Max Evans

Tries: Visser, Scott, Hogg, Lamont Cons: Laidlaw 4 Pens: Laidlaw 2

Italy: 15-Andrea Masi, 14-Giovanbattista Venditti, 13-Tommaso Benvenuti, 12-Gonzalo Canale, 11-Luke McLean, 10-Luciano Orquera, 9-Tobias Botes; 1-Andrea Lo Cicero, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3-Martin Castrogiovanni, 4-Quintin Geldenhuys, 5-Francesco Minto, 6-Alessandro Zanni, 7-Simone Favaro, 8-Sergio Parisse (capt)

Replacements: 16-Davide Giazzon, 17-Alberto De Marchi, 18-Lorenzo Cittadini, 19-Antonio Pavanello, 20-Paul Derbyshire, 21-Kris Burton, 22-Gonzalo Garcia

Try: Zanni Con: BurtonPen: Orquera

28 Responses

  1. Great performance across the team as a whole. Exactly what Italy did last weekend which was what I wanted to see. Was very impressed with Maitland, Scott and dare I say it Jackson. Hogg just proved his class once again and I know Dymock hates this sort of speculation but he must be a shoo-in for Lions squad now, surely?

  2. On today’s performance I would say Johnson , Ryan and Scott have got the message across: get up in defence quickly and you can turn it into attack very quickly. Great performance by the backs but the forwards put them there. We CAN win our home games!! Happy Days at last.

    1. Yeah I was impressed with the pack too I should say, but no one stand out they hunted and tackled as a unit. Even Euan Murray threw himself about.

  3. It was a fantastic performance all round, I though Jackson was fantastic today, yes his kicking was average but he created so much! It has gave me so much hope for the rest

  4. Welcome back Scotland. The game v England showed there was a change in the air with a new structure and philosophy but it was naturally not the finished article due to its first appearance and from coming up against an England side on the rise

    The game v Italy is nowhere near the finished article of course but it showed a clear development in a week and where in the past after each game there was a laundry list of work ons that left you wondering where the coaching team would start, this game leaves them with the knowledge the players are embracing the shapes and structures and the work ons are far fewer and easier to identify

    Attack – gone are the forwards trying to simply smash it up, often 1 v 2 defenders and the aimless sideways shipping of the ball by the backs with little or no purpose or shape. Last night showed many encouraging pointers.


    Forwards – showed that their sole purpose is not to look for the biggest guy(s) in front of them and run straight at them but that they can move the ball if required in order to change the point of attack away from the most obvious T bone hit on a defender. The other week I said here that Jim Hamilton is someone I feel has so much more to offer if he would look to use his size to play the ball on in contact instead of looking for the deck as his first option and in this game he did that and got a couple of good offloads away. The next step is to get him and Gray to look to do this while still going forward and to get support runners to react faster and offer some closer options but a definite step forward in a bid to play momentum rugby

    Slow ball is still an issue as we don’t yet have a go to shape to restart on and change slow ball to fast ball but I think that will be in the pipleline

    Backs – Matt Scott’s try from set piece was a great one and came from a bread and butter move that has been run by Kiwi and Aussie sides for the past 5 years. It showed how simple it is to deceive a defence with multiple runners and there are 4 variations on that move that I hope we see being steadily introduced. These shapes and runners are not restricted to set pieces and should form part of phase play. To do this you need the forwards lined up as options in front of the backs leaving them free to make these runs and that is part of the slow ball shape I referred to above

    We showed today that with such a move we can attack through the middle but also that we are very dangerous out wide and it is a long time since we have had these 2 threats in the same side. Work ons – more communication from the outside backs when there are mismatches and overlaps out wide, there were a couple of occasions when hands was a definite option but instead we either kicked or smashed it up through the middle. Develop the shape and simple moves such as the try scoring one above

    Breakdown / Tackle contest / Tackle battle ;) – much improved on the England game but the Italians showed the difference it makes if you are willing to ignore the ball and attack the men around and over it. Work on – not stopping over the ball but securing the area beyond it and getting the head up to identify threats and attack them before they hit you and drive you off the ball

    Defence – Huge improvement and shows that if you get off the line you can turn defence into a way of gaining yards and frustrating the opposition. Work ons – after a few phases we seemed to lose a bit of organisation in the defensive line but this will improve with better communication and practice. Defence close to the ruck – this was an area England exploited a few times and the Italians did the same in the second half. We have to plug that hole next to the ruck first. After a few phases we become bunched through the desire to block forward runs but are often leaving the guys out wide outnumbered. Fortunately the Italians did not identify or exploit this but a better team will. Solution again is simply better communication from the men outside and more practice with the system

    Set piece – this is still a concern and has not shown any improvement

    Scrums – just as v England we copped too many free kicks for early engagement including the first scrum of each game. Work on – the middle row have been told not to bind until the front row is set and I have no problem with that but the front row is taking too long to get themselves set up. As a result the ref was often calling Crouch before we were all bound in and ready. In turn everything is rushed after that. As for the timing of the hit itself training should include the packing of scrums to recorded calls of the ref for the coming game to get used to his rhythm. If they are not already doing this they need to start

    Lineouts – Our lineout should be a guaranteed source of not only ball but quality ball and it isn’t. Work on – keep it simple for now as speed will beat movement. Balls have to be thrown higher as our jumpers were very rarely at full extension meaning their height is wasted – this was just as much of a problem v England as it was v Italy

    All in all for the first time in a many years it was possible to see Scotland were playing to a plan and are developing a system. With 2 weeks ( I think ) until the Ireland game the post match analysis will be a lot more constructive affair and with the input of the coaches I think the players themselves will be feeling they understand what is being asked of them and what is required for the next step and the next game

    Well done SJ and your team.

    Bring on the Irish :)

    1. How Can you say there was no improvement in the set piece? Scotland demolished one of the most renowned scrummaging teams in world rugby, clearly you know nothing about rugby.

    2. rlw56 – If you read what I said about our scrum it was to do with going early at the engage and me believing this was due to the slow formation.

      If by destroyed you mean that scrum where they drove the Irish back then as I recall at the previous scrum they had done the same thing to us

  5. Excellent display today! Well done lads.
    All our backs have points in this 6N now – except Jackson who set up Visser’s try and who is becoming a pretty effective play maker. This means we have real teeth and if Ireland get beaten by England tomorrow as I would expect by more than 4 points we will sit in second place. What is great is that today’s performance has been coming for over a year now and finally we managed incisive finishing and to cut out the unforced errors. The scrum is solid now and our line outs have easy scope for improvement – as Angus pointed out. We also have genuinely world class players – Hogg, Beattie, Gray and Visser. Harley had a good game on his first full start.
    Word of caution though – we still could dominate possession a bit more.
    Bring on Ireland!

  6. well done Scotland you have showed today what we all knew was there all along gritty forwards and backs that are starting to come in to their own a big well done from Ireland

  7. Agree with much of the above – a breakdown performance worthy of Telfer coached sides of days gone by.

    What pleased me was the fact we controlled the scoreboard by not giving up cheap points straight after scoring which has been our achilles heel in recent years.

    Anybody else remember the last time Scotland scored 21 unanswered points?

  8. Good game, good win!

    I would have liked to see MacArthur and Weir brought on sooner, the game was pretty much won after Lamonts try and it would have been a good opportunity to test these guys out, as I think they are the future.

    Even counting Lamont, we must have the lowest capped back line – good signs for world cup!

    I have to say I think Maitland has been a massive influence – had a hand in both tries last week set up another 2 this week (1 disallowed). He just seems to make the right decisions at the right time, runs good lines and is a good handler of the ball – I think the other backs can learn a lot from him!! Hopefully Maitland and Hogg will develop into a great partnership at Glasgow (except when they are playing against Edinburgh!)

    Obviously hoping to win the next 3 but 2/3 is very realistic and I think 1/3 is a must if we want to move on. Will be interesting to see how France react after 2 defeats.

  9. Great team performance and was delighted to have been at Murrayfield yesterday. Questions really must be asked of the ticket pricing strategy for the Italian games as it was embarassing how many spare seats there were and this was after a frantic rush to sell tickets last week. Surely it makes more sense to cut prices slightly, sell the place out and then make more money on selling beers and food than have sections of the ground empty. Classic Gurth performance as well, comes off the bench and the leg drive in his run was incredible, then straight to the bin!

    1. I would say probably yes although he has not had nearly enough game time at Edinburgh as he is a fans favourite. In my eyes the signing of Nel has been a failure thus far. He is getting paid a fortune and his scrummaging is not nearly as good as it was proclaimed to be at the same time keeping someone like girth out of the Edinburgh side. I think there should be some analysis done on how our front rows have fared against the Leinster front row as we want to pick the tighhead who performed best against Cian Healy, although he may find himself cited after his stamp and miss the trip to Edinburgh. Moray Low is the alternative and the combination with Grant may work in his favour. As a fan of girth he would get my vote but would be happy to see Low in there too.

  10. Great result!!!

    It has been a long time since I have been able to sit and “enjoy” a Scotland match, recently if we are not holding on for dear life to a narrow lead then its getting a hiding!

    Not the case this weekend, they seemed to be in control of this one from early on. Tackle area was a massive improvement, quick (controlled) ball. Fantastic.

    The back line starting to look very dangerous and scoring tries!

    Well done, lets up the level again and put away Ireland, then who knows what can happen…

    PS – Not heard much chat about relegation after this weekends results, strange…

  11. Great performance on Saturday, it has been a long time coming. Really glad I managed to get some last minute tickets through a friend. Our seats were two rows in front of Warren Gatland as well! So basically, a great time for a lot of the Scotland boys to put their hand up for selection in the summer (especially after that miserable second game on Saturday!). Hogg now must be nailed on for selection if not the test squad.

    Ours backs are now a dangerous unit with tries across the board. Scotland with the most tries so far! We have not been able to say that for a while. Really looking forward to the Ireland and Welsh games now (this break is gutting for the fans).

    Rory – yes, girth must start v Ireland. That leg drive was the perfect final flourish fto a great day at Murrayfield. We love you Girth!

  12. Also, I agree about the pricing issue. I was going to pick up tickets earlier but they were still priced at 50-70 quid for a decent seat. Fine for Ireland/Wales/England but at that price, your sofa becomes more appealing. I would have bought a ticket much sooner for 20-30 pounds. It sounds like in the end, the SRU were literally giving away tickets.

    Though I will add, I am very happy that I went along in the end. Best game of the weekend by a mile.

  13. Four players I slated last week.

    Murray – I noticed that Rev really enjoyed this game. I think his issues are more psychology than capability. High tackle count and great work rate. Nice to have you back, big man.
    Hamilton – Well done mate. Good effort, lots of physicality and good work rate.
    Matt Scott – Did a lot better this game.
    Lamont – Did better this game but still needs to know his positioning better. I have to say that he was his usual self at the contact area also. Bloody pain in the bum for the opposition most of the time. Bench as cover for Centre/Wing or keep in the squad as is?

    I also criticised Gray for being sooooo slow. Didn’t see any of that this game. Well done to him. Oh, aye. Anyone else think the cross filed kick to Big Gray was Hilarious!? Near enough p*ssed myself watching him lumbering down the touchline, then the camera angle changed and we got a view of him front-on and bearing down on the tiny Italian back. Funniest thing I seen in a long time :-) :-)

  14. Think Harley played well with Brown and visa versa. I noticed, could be wrong here, that they were not playing blind side and open side. Looked more like left flanker and right flanker. Maybe that helped….Brown would have been in his preferred 6 position for every other scrum. Harley would have also found himself with the duties of a 7. Either way the two of them had cracking games. Harley can only build from here and SJ NEEDS to give him that opportunity. Brown, I have to say, was a machine. I am very, very happy to see this as I mentioned last week that I didn’t see him that much in the England game. Also reports of him giving refs the verbal. Good. Looks like he is rounding off a bit. Good things to come, say I.

  15. Well played Scotland. Let’s just enjoy this one it doesn’t happen often enough although I hope we can produce another performance like it against Ireland. We were aggressive in defence and positive in attack where the team seems to be playing with more freedom under SJ. Great to see Jackson proving me wrong, he tackled well, distribution was good and he made that first try. Also good to see Murray play well, I just wish he was a bit more consistent. I would still like to see Kellock and Evans in for Hamilton and Lamont next time.

  16. Great performance across the squad with all players answering criticism levelled following Twickers. Gutted I couldn’t be there, though apprehensively looking forward to Ireland and Wales. To diverge slightly – well done also to Glasgow for winning emphatically on the road. Whilst devoid of half the squad they still managed to put out a largely Scottish qualified team. Edinburgh were once again poor, and despite having lost only a handful of players to the 6N still only managed to field only 7 or 8 that were Scottish qualified. As an Edinburgh supporter we are being well embarrassed by the set up and philosophy at the other end of the M8. New management urgently required to correct this mess. We would also greatly appreciate one of your 10s (for the greater good…) if you boys wouldn’t mind ;) Don’t want to put a -ve spin on things from the weekend though. Greatly improved performance and hoping for more of the same in a couple of weeks.

    1. Glad that Embra are getting shot of this lot. I also understand that there are a number of contracts ending this year. Good opportunity to bring in fresh talent and save some cash. You actually have depth at 9 and 10. The problem you have is that Bradley has not allowed your 10s to develop into the players that Edinburgh need. My preference would be to give the current 9s and 10s game time between now and the end of the season. Problem is that that may lead to losing more games and I am sure that Edinburgh just want to climb the table a bit and get some wins under their belt. Tricky situation really.

      I posted the following on the FOSRS site (taken from two posts hence the overlap).
      From FOSRS –
      Do Embra pay money for more 9’s and 10’s or do they give the current crop a chance to play and develop?
      Laidlaw is nailed on at 9 for the time being and Kennedy is only on loan to Glasgow. SO, two good options at 9 with the following also available.

      Scrum Half –
      Richie Rees – Former Cardif Blues Srum Half and 29ish years old
      Alex Black – 23 years old
      Sam Hidalgo-Clyne – Scrum Half/Stand Off, 20 years old
      Chris Leck – 27 Yers old

      Stand Off –
      Piers Francis – 22 years old.
      Sam Hidalgo-Clyne – Scrum Half/Stand Off, 20 years old
      Gregor Hunter – 22 years old
      Harry Leonard – 21 Years old

      ok, so 6 forwards and 4 backs
      Hooker – 2
      Prop – 1
      Lock – 1
      Back Row – 2

      Centre – 2
      back 3 – 2

      Edinburgh have numbers @ 9 and 10. Problem is that they have not let their 10’s develop. So, can they justify paying up for a big name in that area?

      I would probably pay more attention to getting a pack that can provide good ball and get to the breakdown. They have some Scotland Internationals in the backs and some EDP and age graders coming through. Good defensive coach NEEDED.

    2. The forwards and backs comment is a summation of the contract expires at the end of this season.

    3. Quite a few of the make-weights are only half way through 2 year deals, although a new coach refusing to play them much would possibly speed matters up. I am really saddened to see the amount of game time Harry Leonard has had this season, after last year he was starting to look a bit classy at the U20s JWC, and I had hoped he would be given a chance to kick on. Especially with Laidlaw moving back to 9. Still, if I’m the new coach I’d ask for Tom Heathcote’s agent’s phone number firstday on the job…

  17. I have now watched the game back on the TV and I will hold my hands up and say Rob Harley played very well. I was not one of his biggest fans beforehand but he did a great job of disrupting quick Italian ball, exactly what was missing at Twickenham.

    Also, its frustrating that a few commentators have come out saying Scotland were lucky with two tries agains the run of play. The main points from that are:

    1. we are scoring tries which we have not done in ages;

    2. we are taking the chances that are presented to us (a major criticism of Scotland in the past; and finally

    3. it is a joke to say that we do not deserve our tries as others teams have had more posession and that they were against the run of play. This time last year, Scotland were dominating every game in terms of possession, territory and yards made but not finishing them off and no one was saying ‘x team did not deserve to win’. It came back to point 2. that Scotland could not finish their chances!

    Bring on Ireland, with all their injuries and potentially ROG having to start at 10, I fancy our chances (let hope we still have underdog mentality though!)

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion