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Scotland v Japan: Post Match Reaction

Kelly Brown - pic © Al Ross

Japan, having fronted up against the All Blacks and beaten Wales in recent memory, were clearly targeting Scotland for a top ten scalp.

So having denied them that, with a first Test win of the season under their belt and six tries scored by forwards and backs, are there reasons to be cheerful for Scotland Interim Head Coach Scott Johnson?

On the face of it he seemed to think so:

“It was a good test match. [Japan] are a formidable side now and they contributed to a reasonable spectacle.”

Tommy Seymour enjoyed his Murrayfield debut, scoring twice: “To go out and get two tries is something I’ll certainly never forget.” On the overall team effort he added, “scoring six tries you’re not going to be cursing yourself too much if you get that up on the scoresheet.”

While the result went the right way, the scrums were a bit of a minefield and in an area where Scotland had dominated during the first half, Johnson bemoaned the fact that they crumpled – or seemed to – in the second, with no clear indication why.

“The scrum cost us two tries – two wonderful tries. We scrummed really well to start the game. I’m a bit bemused what the change was. We dominated the scrum so much for the early part of the game”.

Captain Kelly Brown refused to blame the Murrayfield pitch for the scrum’s woes, saying “as players we need to focus on our own game and that’s all we can do.”

“Overall we knew that we would make some errors. It was our first game and it is never absolutely spot on. All of the guys worked very hard, that’s our baseline. We can sharpen up a bit and look forward to the next two matches.”

One thing Johnson will have them working on is defensive decision making, saying he doesn’t believe that if something goes wrong up front that gives the backs license to do something silly in behind too, perhaps referring to Ruaridh Jackson’s decision to rush out for one of the Japanese tries, choosing the wrong man to go for.

“We made some incorrect defensive decisions. We’ve got to make it harder for teams to score against us.”

He was heartened by the way that Scotland were able to rebound from each score and get a try back, but did worry that it took being scored against for Scotland to do this.

Meanwhile Japanese acting head coach Scott Wisemantel agreed that the restart was a critical area, saying “we think of it as part of our set piece. We let ourselves down there.”

“The players are disappointed, we wanted to win. But they’ve taken a fair few positives from the game.”

The Japanese would take something away from the game though, adding “we came here to play and we showed that. We came with the mindset to attack. We probably could have kicked a little more. But they chose to run it, which shows a lot of courage.”

The Japanese resurgence after half time was a deliberate choice to attack the blindside, he revealed:

“We wanted to keep the tempo up. Some of their bigger players were getting caught so we wanted to attack down the blindside more.”

“We work hard in training on going from defence into attack.”

Ruaridh Jackson felt that Scotland perhaps hadn’t emerged after half time with the right mindset and let Japan back in.

“We were maybe a bit flat at the start of the second half. They really came out and took it to us. We need to learn from that, and not have to react. We have to go out and play that kind of stuff from the start.”

At that point, with the margin down to a point, Johnson admitted he hadn’t felt too great.

Kelly Brown agreed. “We expected a really tough match and that is what we got. The way Japan kept the ball and went through the phases put us under pressure.”

Johnson saw one positive in the way Scotland struck back with a score each time, and Seymour was in agreement.

“To come back straight away from their scores, go back up the other end of the park and get back in front was very positive from the boys.”

With South Africa up next Sunday and no Euan Murray, things will only get tougher. On loosehead Ryan Grant who was replaced early on having been knocked out, Johnson had this to say:

“He’s a bit light-headed, and he woke up cranky. If he woke up placid we’d be worried. We’ll do the due process [for head-knocks] and hopefully he’ll be with us next week.”

Winger Sean Lamont, who had one of his best recent performances in a Scotland shirt, was equally sanguine on possibility of injury enforcing change next weekend.

“Everybody picks up knocks. Rugby is a physical sport; it’s definitely getting more physical. You pick up these bumps its part and parcel of the game. We do have the depth.”

Centre Matt Scott will be examined by a surgeon tomorrow after the hand injury he sustained in the closing stages. With his influence on Scotland’s game growing, he would be a major loss next weekend.

The two most significant casualties yesterday were the Glasgow forwards, Ryan Grant and Alastair Kellock who sustained concussion and will now follow the graduated return to play protocol. Tim Swinson (shoulder) and Duncan Weir (groin) will also require further assessment tomorrow.

Johnson feels the strength of the bench showed Scotland are building depth with Gray and Barclay adding some steel late on and Weir running the show well.

“We want competition for spots, we want a good bench.”

“I don’t want to be talking about injuries, I want to be talking about: this guy is good enough to play Test rugby.”

17 Responses

  1. Anyone know if Dunbar is fit? Dunbar-NDL/Bennett might be good to see combinations in a serious test match. We know Scott can do it at test level, we have little chance of winning next week, so maybe we should be happy to see a different combo run out. It would be a good position to be in having four good centres in the squad in what will be a bruising world cup pool. I’d also like to see Fusaro start against SA and might keep Swinson in the side for next week.

    Biggest questions are over the front row.

    1. We are truley in sh!t street on Sunday if we have to put Dickinson/McArthur/Cross up against the Saffies at any point.

      Thats real hiding behind the couch material right there!!

  2. Agree with above post. Really good second half yesterday but the one thing that annoyed me was the lack of really quick ball. Laidlaw was to slow getting the ball out and this meant very often their defence could set. Against SA if we are going to score we really need to upset and disorganise their defence if we are to have any chance of scoring.

    1. Absolutely Adam and the fast ball the Japanese got in the second half showed how effective it is as they started to find holes around the ruck

  3. “Japanese acting head coach Mark Wiseman” – Scott Wisemantel (fixed, thanks – ed.)

    Re the game Scott Johnson has rightly bemoaned the traditional slow start but in the first five minute we had a scrum penalty about 5m out when they collapsed – why not take the re scrum and go for the big push when we already had the upper hand from the previous scrum and they would be penalty shy about collapsing

    Then 3? minutes later we get a penalty in their half after they collapse the maul at the lineout. Why not kick for the 5m lineout and go for the drive again when they are still thinking about the penalty they just conceded for the collapse

    The decision was made to kick for goal on both occasions that resulted in 3 out of 6 points

    These decisions reflect a mentality or to me lack of a killer instinct and confidence to back ourselves and screw home an advantage – to put it more basically we had our foot on their throats on 2 occasions within the first 10 minutes of the game and instead of choosing to press down we chose to just hold it there

    1 or even 2 tries in those first 10 minutes instead of 1 or 2 penalties would have knocked the Japanese back and they would not have recovered

    Instead we made decisions that allowed them to settle and work their way into the game – even if we had kicked both penalties if you’re Japanese do you care if you are looking at 0-6 of course you don’t but if you are looking at 0-7 or even 0-14 that’s a whole different matter

    Even if the re scrum or 5m lineout hadn’t resulted in tries there is every change they would have provided more penalties anyway.

    We need to go out there especially at Murrayfield and let sides know in the first 10 minutes that if they expect to compete or even win there they are going to have to work for it. These 2 penalties were the perfect opportunities

    It’s about confidence as well which is reflected in Johnno’s post match where he talks about what is it he needs to do to get the boys firing other than the opposition scoring a try first – at least he has identified the problem and hopefully it is being worked on

    All in all there was some good and some bad stuff out there and it’s a question of interpretation as to which outweighed the other. I am a glass half full man and the fact we have real positives (as opposed to the positives geechs used to see after a 30 point flogging) to build on and identified weaknesses to correct bodes well

    1. I couldn’t disagree more. In test rugby you should take your points early and get the scoreboard moving. Because if you don’t score the try, as is often the case, the opposition each grow a foot taller and you have made your job twice as hard. For a good example, look at Ireland v us last year. Gave up numerous easy to kick penalties early on, decided further on in the game they needed to kick them, then started panicking when Jackson missed a couple. It gave us a sniff in a game we should have been chasing from the first 10minutes and came about because they didn’t respect us enough and thought they could kill us off without doing the hard work.

      Another more recent example was Glasgow’s recent game against Munster (admittedly not at the start of the game) where Glasgow opted not to kick numerous penalties when a man up, so by the end they had to score a try at the death. If they had just kicked their penalties when they had the chances they would have won easily.

      Scotland let Japan back into the game through mistakes at the set-piece and defensive lapses, which they should be able to address. Going for a high risk approach at the start of games will just leave us even more vulnerable to losing games we should win comfortably.

    2. FF you actually reinforce my argument about mentality and confidence. I could cite occasions where not taking the kick resulted in tries. It’s how u look at it.

      Bear in mind the penalties I cite are not for hands in ruck, offside, foul play or some other individual offence. They are unit penalties that were earned by our strength over the opposition. One scrum and one lineout where there was the opportunity to repeat the scenario.

      If you have just earned a penalty because u were driving the opposition back and they had to collapse (on both penalties) how can you not believe you can and will do the same again and this time have the advantage of the opposition being reluctant to repeat the same offence for fear of a yellow or penalty try?

    3. It’s nice in theory but it’s high risk and Scotland, like most other international teams, just don’t have the execution to make the risk worth it at the start of the game.

      What let’s Scotland down time and time again isn’t a lack of confidence or a losing mentality, it is poor execution of skills under pressure, just like most other mediocre sides.. A killer instinct is converting all your opportunities into points and not squandering chances, not rolling the dice and hoping it pays off.

    4. If taking a 5 yard scrum or lineout less than 60 seconds after the opposition conceded a penalty due to your strength in the last ones is considered “rolling the dice” then we are in big trouble

      The team showed its killer instinct in the second half by showing their recognition of half chances and not only taking them but completing them

      The shame to me is that we weren’t at the mental level to start doing that until they scored some tries against us – just as Johnno said

      I am bemoaning the fact we’re not at the stage where we can not only do that in the first 20 but believe that we can and take the appropriate decisions

      I’ve avoided saying this until now but to a great extent it is a Northern / Southern Hemisphere thing where in the South the attitude is “it’s there first 10 minutes, there’s plenty of time for penalties lets get the scoreboard rolling with tries”

      At 19 minutes there is a clearance kick to touch by Japan from their goal line. It goes out on their 10m where Seymour fields it. We have 15, 11 and 12 lined up with depth and 13 not far off. It was a perfect opportunity for the quick throw and a counter attack. Only one Japanese player who chased and he would have been taken out of the equation with the first pass. Result Seymour held it and ambled up the touchline to the mark

      Forget N v S, I don’t think there is any of the top 5 ranked sides that wouldn’t have run it and the think is that if that was the 19th minute of the second half I believe we would have as well

    5. Agree 100% with FF on this one. Always always always take the points on offer. We failed to do this against Tonga last year, when we were shunting their scrum all over the place, and wrongly assumed we were guaranteed to shove it over the line – we turned down kick after kick and duly lost. The killer instinct shows itself by getting points on the board. The scoring system in rugby is biased towards penalties – teams have to take account of that.

  4. thanks for letting me post. may i start off saying that i am in fact a south african and i agree that scotland should have rather tested japans defense early on to see how they would man up against a line out throw. maybe start a rolling maul up the side and then try to swing it wide or even let the bigger guys have a smash at the line, doesn’t matter what u ended up doing at least u would have had a feel of how the japan-es would have coped with pressure on there 5 meter line, and even if u didn’t get a try there is always a chance of another penalty been forced by the pressure. this is japan after all i wouldn’t say kick for touch if your playing one of the better sides in world rugby. it was a good game in the end by the Scots but i feel u could have been more ambitious, tried been more aggressive in your attack and dominated your opponents from the start. in the end the score line shows u did dominate them (just not from the start) could have been a different score line if you had been aggressive and got an early try making them play a little more defensive… any way i hope the field holds up for the game this weekend against us. hope to read your views on that match… cheers

    1. Hi Michael

      Good to hear your input. Have to say I had an awesome time in SA following the tests in July :)

      That has also made me think that for Scotland this was a fresh side. The squad in South Africa lacked a lot of players who are available now and there are quite a few differences in the side that took the field on Saturday compared to the ones that ran out in the final game in SA.

      So, maybe we should make an allowance for that and be more encouraged by how they started to put things together in the second half than disappointed about the first

  5. I went to the game on Saturday, but as I was squinting my eyes from the North stand it was only once I watched a recording of the game later that I got a proper idea of what went on.

    First of all, I thought Denton had a good game, he has a real lust for the contact and it lifts the crowd to see him picking up a head of steam and charging into a defensive line, he always sucks in two or three defenders and if we had more speed at the breakdown this could have resulted in alot more problems for the Japanese. However, I don’t think even Denton will be able to run head on into willem Alberts and get very far and although we know Denton’s hands have improved at club level, I am still to be swayed by them at international level, despite this, we need his physicality for the SA game, what more can you ask for to stand up to a massive SA pack than to have a massive SA yourself?

    Concerning the front row, I have thought Dickinson has been playing some good rugby for edinburgh and has seemed to learnt how to scrum in the process and I feel with the new scrummaging laws, his build is better suited to it than Grant ( this time last year I wouldn’t have seen anyone knocking grant out of the first 15 but I feel Dickinson deserves his chance) we are frighteningly weak in the TH position, Cusack and Nel can’t come soon enough in my opinion, with Low covering until then with welsh pushing him harder for his spot, never been impressed with Cross at scrum time, he can be prolific in the loose but all props should base their skills on a solid scrum which I just don’t think he provides.

    I thought on the whole, Jackson had a good game (a few miss passes not going to hand considering) but most of his woes came from slow service and therefore he was trying to break apart a solid defensive line, Wier came on and played well too, I just feel he is a little too conservative, Jackson has the ability make sure my nalils are always kept bitten down to the skin but still edges the other due to his unpredictable style.
    Was it just coincidence that Scotland really came out the blocks around about the same time Richie Gray replaced Kellock? Kellock is there because of his line out skills, which were shaky at best, and considering he is keeping out so much talent I don’t feel we can justify having him in the 23 unless its because of injuries, he is a lunch pin for Glasgow but doesn’t offer enough anymore at international level. I was very impressed with Swinson, but then I’ve never seen a game of rugby he has played in where I haven’t been, same goes for Scott and Strocosh, Strocosh inparticular because to me, he epitomises scottish rugby, I do worry however that he is enjoying his rugby a bit too much in France and we will therefore have to wait until we play in a nice hot country (like SA in the summer) to see him at his best.

    On the whole, things are looking bright for Scotland, what depth! I cannot wait for the SA game! I’ll be back peering from the top of the North stand hoping to see some brilliant rugby. I Hope Hamilton gets his chance for revenge and with out Scott or Dunbar, I want to see Taylor get his chance, he is of the same mould as the other two, and plays for a much better club team week in week out and seems to be building a name for himself down at Saracens.

  6. Am I the only one who really doesn’t see anything of note in Denton? People across forums, articles and discussion say he had a decent game at the weekend, but I think we are mistaking endeavour for performance. Yes he carried a lot of ball and yes he is a willing runner, but he isn’t particularly good at it. He sets his feet early to get an upper body shove and most of the yardage gained actually occurs as he falls into/through the tackler. Positionally he is also quite suspect. I would much rather move Brown to 8 or have Beattie come in, two rugby players capable of carrying as well as Denton, but who also possess a little ball playing skill. A strong ball carrier is only really effective if he can offload the ball or keep momentum, I’m afraid Denton doesn’t really do that.

    I am prepared to be lambasted for this comment!

  7. I would start Beattie ahead of Denton for sure.
    Much better player , its not that I don’t rate Denton I just think Beattie is better all round.
    Being without Hogg , Scott and Visser , our 3 best attacking backs is a big blow made worse if Dunbar is out too.
    I would like to see Cussiter , Weir ,Lamont, Taylor , Deluca , Seymour, Maitland starting with Bennett getting a run at some point.

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