One of the men making his Murrayfield debut on Saturday as Scotland overcame Japan 42-17 was Glasgow Warriors wing Tommy Seymour. Here, I take a look at his performance in attack and defence, and analyse areas he can and must improve upon ahead of this weekend’s mammoth clash with the Springboks:
The first instance I want to highlight from Saturday is Kenki Fukuoka’s opening line break up the left-hand-side. From the picture above, there is no immediate cause for concern. The pass has gone behind number eight Ryu Holani, which slows both him and the flow of the move down. It should be a simple two-versus-two, with Matt Scott and Seymour covering Holani and Fukuoka as the arrows show. Initially, Seymour does the right thing in showing Fukuoka the outside, and using the touchline as an extra defender.
However, he then gets caught flat-footed, and left behind by the turn of pace of the Japanese speedster. As the next picture shows, his attempted tackle is a high flap of desperation.
The positive, though, is that he works hard to chase back in behind Fukuoka as he cuts inside, puts in a telling hit, and helps force a knock-on.
Now, Seymour’s first try shows what Warriors fans (and some of an Irish persuasion) have been raving about. It may look every inch the bread-and-butter winger’s finish, but it’s intelligent stuff from the home debutant.
Initially, Dave Denton’s carry sucks in Fukuoka, rendering him out of the game and unable to defend his wing on the next phase. Seymour goes to help at the breakdown from his blindside wing – I’ve circled him below:
When he realises the ruck is won, and the ball is about to be released, he runs a smart loop in behind Ruaridh Jackson at first-receiver. He times his run so that when he receives the pass, he’s coming from relative depth and at pace. There’s no chance for the Japanese cover defence, who have been caught on the hop and are minus Fukuoka. That’s the killer instinct and identification of space and opportunity Scotland need in order to capitalise on such field position. Note Sean Maitland scored a similar try in the Six Nations over England.
But here we see some of the defensive naivety that lingers in a player making the step up from Pro12 to the international arena. Having just scored, Scotland receive the kick-off well and clear up towards halfway. It’s first-phase ball for the Japanese and they get clean possession off the top of the lineout. There’s nothing hugely worrying for the Scots initially, but as the ball comes to Craig Wing at 12, he has two runners on his left shoulder, who draw in Nick De Luca.
When Wing throws the speculative pass over the top, Seymour rushes up, going for the interception. He’s not too far away from getting his mitts on the ball (as we see below), but he leaves a huge space in behind him. A rush of blood to the head typical of an inexperienced player, but this can’t happen when he lines up against Bryan Habana or Nick Cummins. Remember, just five minutes previous, he was left for dead by Fukuoka, and should be more alert to the danger he poses.
We can see above just how big a space was left by Seymour’s “selling himself”, and sides as good as South Africa and Australia will exploit these opportunities. However, once again, he shows a good attitude in getting back and making another big hit. Then two phases later, he defends well against Fukuoka as the winger tries to break up the blind side.
There is precious little Seymour can do for Japan’s first try. Scotland are caught on the hop by a quick free-kick, and Ruaridh Jackson rushes up in midfield to allow the visitors to make the initial line break. From the breakdown, the ball is rapidly spread left. The Scots are disorganised, and just don’t have the numbers to deal with the speedy attack. Matt Scott and Seymour are left facing three attackers. The wing may have made it across to tackle Fukuoka but Goromaru’s fall causes him to check his run. It’s great, rapid offence from the Japanese, and the handling to ensure the overlap is exploited is excellent.
The second Japanese try again stems from a quick turnover in possession. This time, they win a scrum against the head, and the ball is once more rapidly put through the hands. We can see below that Sa’u, the outside centre, is fixing Nick de Luca as per the first red line on the image. What we can’t see, however, is Sean Maitland rapidly sweeping round behind Seymour in an effort to join the defensive line.
Seymour needs to recognise that the obvious danger is Goromaru, the support runner taking the short, direct line off Sa’u’s shoulder. Though he wants to stick with Fukuoka outside him, he has no choice here but to step in and take Goromaru as per the second red line below. He ends up in something of a no man’s land – caught between moving in or out.
Goromaru makes the line break via the green line on the picture, and eventually draws in three defenders to make the tackle (Maitland, Seymour and the sweeping Sean Lamont). He throws a fine offload to Fukuoka who has followed up well, and has another run-in.
Having said that, Seymour was purposeful and direct whenever given a chance to run. The stats show he made 38 metres, two clean breaks, and beat one defender. He didn’t get a huge amount of ball, but he held his line well for his second try, and didn’t allow himself to be sucked in off his wing by what was going on inside him.
Below is an example of that desire and energy with the ball. The winger has just chased down a box-kick from Greig Laidlaw, and won the aerial battle with Japanese replacement second-row Kikutani. Seymour then powers on, making a few extra yards, breaking a tackle, and ensuring Scotland stay on front foot.
Finally, though, with five minutes remaining, Seymour gets caught out in defence again. This time, he’s rushed up out of the line once more, leaving the men outside him – and notably Fukuoka – unmarked in an attempt to cut out the pass.
He’s let off the hook on this occasion, as the looping pass out to the winger is misplaced, he goes to ground, and the Scottish cover defence has time to get across.
Overall, Seymour had a good game. He was industrious in attack, bagged two tries, and finished the opportunities presented to him. It was largely through a combination of eagerness, inexperience and naivety that his defensive lapses came about, and one would hope such things will be ironed out as he wins more international caps.
For these lapses – evident also during Scotland’s June fixtures in South Africa – are well and good in the 76th minute against Japan, when his side are leading by 25 points. But they will not go unpunished by backlines as prestigious and as clinical as those which are set to visit Murrayfield in the next fortnight.