Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 17-19 France

Scott Lawson - pic © Al Ross
Scott Lawson - pic © Al Ross

On a windy but dry afternoon at Murrayfield, Scotland welcomed a stuttering French side to the muddy patch we call home for the penultimate round of the 2014 Six Nations.

And we could only just call it a home game, with thousands upon thousands of French supported dressed as Napoleon, Braveheart, Chickens, Vikings or some mish-mash of all four bringing colour and noise to a grey old Edinburgh day.

At the first scrum the pitch crumbled and so did the Scots front row, giving stand-in kicker Maxime Machenaud an early chance to settle his nerves and start the scoreboard moving in France’s direction.

Scotland came back with some strong ball carries from Johnnie Beattie and Matt Scott and an intent to play at pace, but France were happy with that style too and a long range break by the untried but talented back-line saw the pro-French roars continue; only last ditch tackles by Weir and Denton saved the try, but Machenaud kicked another penalty.

Minutes later Hogg gave the home fans something to cheer with a speculative chip kick into Murrayfields mammoth dead ball area. Good chasing from Lamont forced a French fumble and Hogg was there for the easiest of dots down.

France came straight back and won another penalty but more worrying was the sight of Johnnie Beattie going off with an ankle injury after a strong early showing.

Scotland did not play as if they were concerned, with a series of strong drives from the pack feeding out to Weir and then Scott who popped the ball up into a hole inviting Tommy Seymour to take a nice angled line and his pace meant he was only ever going over for the try – possibly helped by Scott remaining in the way of Plisson.

France were threatening from deep whenever they had time or an unexpected turnover but the last gasp tackling from Scotland was up to it. Machenaud missed a late penalty as Scotland continued to infringe, and with Lamont going off for Evans also in the first half though, you worried if the pace might tell late on as France’s bench remained untroubled.

HT: Scotland 14-9 France

Scotland came out with intent in the second half but it was one of those floaty Weir passes that undid all the good work as Yoann Huget stole it almost from defending his own line and ran the length of the pitch to score a breakaway try, his third of the tournament.

Scotland were full of enterprise with Max Evans finding space on more than one occasion and they were also solid at scrum – wining a couple of free kicks – and lineout even once Ross Ford came on, but again penalties at the breakdown were their undoing as the gap stayed at just 2 points.

Laidlaw swung at a long distance penalty despite Hogg offering his (more powerful boot) and predictably it came up short. Minutes later they had another from closer and Weir stepped up to have a shot. His one crept over the bar and Scotland crept back into the lead, but by just a point.

As the bench emptying began in the last half hour Scotland were able to keep their intensity up against a French side to continued to make errors. Both sides had plenty of ball and it would come down to territory in the last ten minutes. And you hoped, not another nervy wait for a drop goal.

The decisions did seem to be going Scotland’s way in the scrum certainly and with the game being played between the 22s and refreshingly full voice from the crowd right up until the end, there was always a chance even as Weir just missed a penalty wide and short.

Unfortunately when France had their chance to camp out in the Scottish half the inevitable penalty came their way too, and with the three points secure France were happy to see out the clock as Scotland battered frustratingly at the blue wall without the ball.

France were poor and definitely beatable but in the end they got out of jail – or perhaps Scotland put themselves in jail right when they really wanted to run free.

Ref: Chris Pollock (NZ)

Attendance: 67,000

SRBlog Man of the Match: David Denton got the official nod and it was hard to disagree that the candidates should all come from Scotland. Richie Gray gets our nod for a big lineout performance, some good carries and several bone-crunching tackles.

39 Responses

  1. Weir was the hero last week so he must accept the role of villain this week. Unnecessary miss pass was killer but then he and Laidlaw combined to take a mere six points from nine. The third of these penalties was fifty fifty at best so, with a lead already established, should have been belted into the corner where we could have strangled the last six mins of the game out of the French. As per usual, when the chips are down, Scotland make the wrong decisions. This game was there for the taking. Can you imagine Ireland or Wales making the wrong decision in these positions? I cant.

    Still, when all is said and done, its still a step up from the England game so there are positives. Grant back to form, Gray excellent but can improve even more, Laidlaw and Hamilton less rubbish than usual, Scott and Dunbar solid. Seymour was fine, Hogg is maturing as a test fullback nicely. Still think we need Rennie or Barclay though and Weir, hopefully, will learn from today!

    1. Agreed – Gavin Hastings said it was cruel luck – I’ve seen too many losses blamed on back luck.

      Spot on – with 6 minutes to go the percentage decision was to kick to the corner. The French line-out had been appalling all night so unlikely they would have turned it over. The game could have been killed there.

      The feeling seems to be that Scotland deserved to win. If you have so much of the territory and possession that you should win – but you don’t. Then you don’t deserve to win – that’s reality.

      I do think there was a lot to like about Scotlands performance going forward. However there will never be any success until the psychological deficits are addressed fully.

  2. Dear all. I am afraid I am very happy France won today. Unfortunately we scored one try today by cheating with that planned and preconceived obstruction that resulted in a try. That was totally wrong. Then when we (Scotland) played england . We had 2 huge scots flags shown on the field and no English flag . Just unsporting and ungentlemanly. It’s not what international rugby is about. We shame ourselves.

    1. Bloody hell, its Phileas Fogg! Its just not cricket dear boy, what what! Get a grip will you. We lost, but we didnt cheat!

    2. I don’t agree that the obstruction was preconceived or deliberate. I think that to call it cheating is way too strong. In a good scoring position like that no team is going to deliberately infringe to score when they dont have to. I admit it was a bit clumsy and dodgy but we’ve been on the recieving end of similar. In the end its down to the ref and we got the benefit of the doubt.
      However, Scotand were penalised often enough when they did infringe- hence the 13 penalities. In the end that cost us the match.

  3. Quite happy I went to the game tonight. For a long time we have been talking about how the Murrayfield atmosphere has been quite poor. Thankfully, it was good to see an improved atmosphere, even if there was the occasional “Allez Les Bleus” going around the stadium. Even for the first time in a while we were quite quiet at kicks (apart from the last one). It was a much improved performance from Scotland, however it again seemed that we lost due to some silly errors and not making the most of our chances.

  4. Allan you are correct in most of your comments .The game was there for the taking and in the championship we would take any win .The coach commented that he wants to win with style/but get real man a 1 point win anyway against France we take.Put into perspective this was the poorest France to turn up at Murrayfield that I can remember.tToo many penalties overall and to be pinged in the last one was well not quite on the script.We have some good players but just don’t appear to get the best out of them .2 tries but unable to put the game to bed. Why ? Too many changes creates no consistency and team spirit so down to team selection and the buck stops where ?No need to say !!!!

    1. Agreed, we have talented players who seem to go into their shells when they pull on the Scotland shirt. Our backs are as good as England’s but the fannying about trying to find the correct forwards mix is killing our game. I hope Cotter can just settle on one blend and stick with it. Four games and four back row combos. No consistency, which robs teams of momentum. Townsend made the same mistake with Glasgow earlier this season and as a result, the team struggled. Packs are built on units which need time to build up an understanding. Johnson has been guilty of poor selection but he cant be blamed for todays debacle in the last ten minutes. We sorely need a captain with a good rugby brain. Does Richie McCaw have a younger brother…….

  5. We threw that game away, too many penalties again and a poor decision by Duncan Weir. However, there were some positives, two decent props now, good set pieces, Scott and Hogg really starting to look the part at this level and Weir and Seymour looking good prospects. Didn’t understand the need to bring Ford on and was surprised that Cusiter didn’t get on, especially after he upped the tempo of the game against Italy.

  6. Cmon people, I’ve been a fan for donkeys years. I get sick of hearing though about these ‘improvements’. When are these improvements that people speak of going to result in a win? And a convincing one, not a “we won because the other team didn’t turn up”.

    This pathetic underdog mentality needs to disappear. This is a competition, the other teams know that and they play to win. We just ‘try and get a result’. Scotland have a few top class players that can really turn it on, but to me, the six nations is only about one thing, whether or not we beat Italy or get the wooden spoon. That really depresses me. I really hope to see some real improvements under the new coach. And this being a game, that means winning.

  7. We tried to defend a lead and failed. Cusiter would have changed the pace and given the French something else to think about. Why Wilson was on the bench when he had been ill and was then required was a bizarre selection.Losing Beattie so early was a huge loss.Three kickers in the team with different ranges surely not too much to make the correct decision. We do have a kicking coach so presumably it is discussed before a game! This is supposed to be professional sport. We can’t fault the teams effort or desire so would the SRU like to identify the problem and solve it. France were poor and won.

  8. Went today full of hope and left gutted again.high penalty count and individual errors saw us lose a game that was there to be won.the one thing I can’t understand is why we don’t use Hogg for line and place kicking more,from where I was sitting the 3 penalty attempts were on laidlaw and weir’s limit,Hogg steps forward every time hoping to get the ball and doesn’t.from45m either give it to him or stick it in the corner.he has a huge boot so use it!!!!

  9. Scott Johnston’s ability to make substitutions at the right time was again brought into question yesterday. Again we had the baffling decision to sub a player 5 minutes into the second half (Scott Lawson – who was playing well). Even more damaging was when we were 17-16 up with 5 minutes to go and he chose not to use the remaining 4 subs, even as a means of running the clock down. Cusiter should have come on earlier, Murray too and Hogg was carrying a knock for the final 10 minutes, so why Taylor didn’t replace him is a mystery. Amateurish mistakes from Johnston once again. His decisions around selection and substitutions are appalling.

  10. For me, disappointment at this result rather than the depression of the aftermath of the England debacle. Weir’s brilliant Dan Parks impression cost us dear but shouldn’t have cost us the game because of the pressure we were able to apply in just about every other facet of the game. Unfortunately the loss of composure, discipline and tactical nous in the last six or so minutes sealed our fate. Not sure of how much comfort exactly to take from this into the Wales match, but fans should be going into it in better heart than the run up to the Italy match.
    France were shambolic. And yet we still couldn’t beat them. So still much to learn about turning ascendancy into a lead and then staying ahead.

  11. snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again.. however, up next is Wales and we are down 1 Mr Beattie and 1 Mr Lamont, I only hope this means a move to 6 for Brown and a late late Barclay call up (considering we are playing his new pals next week..) with Denton retaining 8. That would be a backrow with the kind of size that could face up to the welsh boys..but I am sure we wont see it…

    I am pretty sure Evans will get the nod to start (although could do with Lamonts bulk for having North & Cuthbert running at him) in place of Lamont and maybe we’ll see Fife get a call up to the bench…

  12. Can’t wait to see this team play under new leadership. I’m soo fed up with “the fear” in the Scotland game, negative play from a winning position, fear to make a sub when it’s tight, lack of go forward generally. We seem to have a lot of good quality coming through in to the squad which will hopefully provide options. I still think we need to get a half back pairing to hinge the team more effectively. I’d love to see Cus/Hogg in a competitive game sometime soon.

  13. Rory’s right. I sat all day yesterday truely miserable. But let’s look at it this way, for 80 minutes we bossed one of the finest Rugby nations in the world. Our young developing flyhalf had a rush of blood to head and it cost us. Plenty of players make mistakes. One things for sure, he’ll never do it again. And we should have heeded the Ref. 3rd minute he said I will penalise for not rolling away quickly and he did so. Again and again. the French did, we didn’t.
    We scored two tries against top opposition. On beautifully crafted and one, damn right arrogant. I can think of few players who would think “Yeah we’ve got a penatly coming so lets try this”, send it into the stratosphere and come up with a score. But Hoggy did. And it worked.
    We saw Hogg drift into the 10 channel and cause chaos, in the opponents line, we might even see him take the 10 shirt for Wales.
    There are many things to be bitter and twisted about, there are more things to say that the lads did well. With the exception of that faffing around before the 22 drop out in the 79th minute we played well. Hoggy now needs to step up on those long kicks and show that confidence he had to score. Weir and Laidlaw know where there limit is now and I’m hoping Hogg will take more kicks. However we must guard against him being our one and only and building a side around him.
    Out line speed was good, our scrum held-ish, out line out functioned and we scored two very good tries. Sure there are a load of what ifs to contemplate, but the game is progressing. We just need to keep going forward and next season who knows.
    And remember the Welsh have lost Halfpenny so there’ll be no half way line penalties being scored. They’ll have to come at us.

  14. There is no pressure on Scotland against Wales, but you also have to wonder what motivation there will be. Will SJ departing, no opportunity to improve our position in the 6N table (unless we win by 49 points) and another dismal tournament under our belt, there is a bit of a question over how the players will respond. On the other hand, Wales will be smarting from losing their title and keen to give the Millenium Stadium a big win to end the tournament on. Its going to be a huge test for Scotland. I hope that they play positively and I think making a few changes (some enforced) will help. Bringing in the likes of Jonny Gray is a good idea as he will have enthusiasm and wont be the walking penalty machine that is big Jim. Jim Hamilton works so well as an impact sub and I doubt many opposition forwards would relish seeing him trundle onto the pitch for the last 20 minutes. Also Barclay and Evans are both real quality and will want to show to Vern Cotter what they can do over 80 minutes.

  15. The sad truth is that despite what the Pollyanna’s keep insisting, we haven’t made any progress. The only way to measure progress is by recording wins and Scotland missed a huge opportunity to do so. In the performance were all the longstanding frailties we’ve seen before: lack of a test standard FH; lack of the games management to see out a win after dominating the game’s vital statistics; woeful lack of discipline.

    Now the squad has plenty of talent, including Weir, but the lessons of the last 14 years should show us that potential needs a proper structure to flourish. I just pray that Cotter can give us that because we need a boost for the grass roots because sooner or later the 6N is going to be opened up and we have to make sure we are not at the bottom when it does so. Fortunately, Italy are struggling even more than we are at the moment.

  16. Of course there was real progress in the game against France and Scott Johnson was justified in saying the better team lost. Apart from the unfortunate interception try, Scotland were dominant for almost 90% of the game, and against one of the world’s greatest rugby nations.
    Of course we supporters want to see us gaining more wins but I for one believe that we are on the cusp of producing a really formidable team. The “engine” only needs a little tuning to really purr and, to continue the metaphor, some of its components only need a bit more time to be run in.
    Yes, the structure, the pyramid that leads from a wide base to the top, needs improvement but I cannot see how the second tier, our professional sides, is much inferior as a proving-ground for international players to the Irish or Welsh provinces / districts — they all play in the same league, in which Glasgow in particular is doing well. What I find strange is that for all the tirades of some of the blog’s contributors, there seems little evidence of a positive counterbalance in passionate support for our professional sides — at least in numerical terms. Why is it that Glasgow and Edinburgh, both large conurbations, can only produce crowds numbering in the low thousands? I live more than 100 miles from either but if I were closer I’d attend games regularly. I witnessed the same apathy in the allegedly rugby-loving Borders.

    1. Scotland have dominated stats in many games over Scott Johnson’s tenure and going back to Robinson as well, often having the lions share of possession but failing to turn it into points. I agree with FF about how we gauge improvement. If we continue to accept negligible positives in what has become a terrible 6N record, going back years, then we will never make the improvements needed to really challenge. The sad fact is that we can appreciate minor improvements in our game but the gulf is widening between us and the other home countries. A systemic change is required at grass roots, at pro level and in the psychology of the national team. Cotter may possibly bring something but unless we widen the base and improve the opportunities for Scots in the pro league then i can see Scotland easily slipping out of the elite level.
      I don’t mean to be negative, I just think that we need to be realistic and see that winning games as the positives we want to see, not the fact that the line out functions better or that the back row options are improved.

  17. So disappointed we could not turn dominance into a win. This was a poor French side which we should have beaten. I fell we are missing 5 – 10% that would make is into a good side able to challenge more and be in contention in competitions. But we need to get the psyche right, too used to losing and and the heads tend to go down when we go behind. That said we came back from six nil down but threw it away in the end.
    The atmosphere was good, but we need a rallying call to be found. F of S is good at the start but we don’t have a “bread of heaven” or a “swing low” to ramp up the pressure on the opposition or to rally the guys on the field and the slow Scotland, Scotland just sounds so dreich, Any suggestions on what can be used and how to get the crowd to take it up? How about the chorus of “Bonnie Dundee”? (And no, I am not a Dundonian).
    Final point. The game against Wales is as a dead rubber in championship terms. The Welsh look tired and we’ve got little or no pressure on us to win, so I suggest SJ uses his last game in charge to tell the boys to go out and throw the ball around and enjoy the game. Offload, side step, run. Entertain the crowd and show us the raw talent without a game plan.

  18. I think our team is too often damned by faint praise. To be able to bully, as Cross himself has fairly claimed, a French pack in most aspects of forward play is a major achievement, albeit this is not a vintage French xv. Our two tries also indicated we are developing a real cutting edge. Some of our young players who have been heavily criticised are acclimatising themselves to the demands of test rugby. Even Dan Carter, probably the greatest fly-half in history, has been guilty of delivering interception passes. Unfortunately it seems almost part of the Scots psyche to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” and all the positives of Saturday were undone by a few costly mistakes. How different this blog would have been if we had delivered three swift conventional passes with that 4 to 2 overlap and we had scored in the corner! However, it is unfair on the basis of the interception to belittle all the improvements elsewhere. Nevertheless, wins are how a team will ultimately be judged — and each win should not be seen in isolation but as fulfilling the dictum, “success breeds success”. Look at the All Blacks v.Ireland!
    Talking of psychology, I think the excesses of display prior to kick-off are probably counter-productive and damage the players’ concentration. Excessive razzmatazz is inappropriate to rugby. Murrayfield will always be filled by true aficionados.

    1. You are correct that we improved many aspects of our game. However, the interception and final 10 minutes of the second half highlighted two things that Mike Blair always brings up in his columns: Clive Woodward’s TCUP (Thinking Correctly Under Pressure) and Championship Minutes (the 5 minutes before and after half time that frequently determine the result of the game as ruthless sides step up a gear and weaker sides lose concentration). As you say, it seems like part of the Scots psyche to make these mistakes and until this is addressed we will only ever talk about marginal gains in performance in the wake of more disappointing results. Fixing this is a much bigger job than fixing a wonky lineout.

    2. Miss passes annoy the hell out of me! If you can’t execute a basic take, draw your man, and give you shouldn’t be playing International Rugby, so they should have confidence in their skills, especially as we have a reasonably talented backline now…

    3. “our two tries indicated we are developing a real cutting edge”???

      Fair enough for the Seymour try but Hogg’s try was sheer luck

    4. You’ve got to remember that Scotland haven’t been in the position to hold a lead and close out a game when ahead.

      Any of our victories in recent years against better opposition have been down to heroic backs to the wall defence and hanging on, rather than us being ahead and closing the game out by controlling territory, possession and the scoreboard.

  19. Mcoptimist is right,the atmosphere can be good but we are unable to get behind the team the way other nations can.A dreary chant of Scotland,scotland now and then will not exactly inspire the easy answer.
    I agree about the razzamatazz right up to kick off is getting out of hand,lets keep most of the pre match stuff outside the stadium and let the players focus on the match.Having to do the warm up among musicians and dancing girls and then come back out onto the pitch with fireworks and flamethrowers and then wait for the stadium announcer to do a countdown to kick off is utterly ridiculous.
    Everyone likes to be entertained-let the players do it.

    1. I have to agree. Although I thought that the atmosphere was slightly better compared to the England game, anyone who goes to a lot of the home games is probably getting a bit bored of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers performing at every home game and seeing 10 soldiers abseil down for just one of them to be carrying the match ball. The SRU need to shake things up and do something different to help build the atmosphere. And it has been mentioned before but we need to get a proper supporters song such as Loch Lomond where people actually sing it and don’t just hum along when it is played over the loadspeaker once at half time. Finally, I’m not sure what the stadium announcements do to help combat the booing. At the England game, people just laughed at it and even more people booed. Sure, it was a bit better at the France game but it is still no where near the standard that you would see at somewhere like the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

    2. I find it completely ridiculous that we have to generate the atmosphere to ‘inspire’ the players when they are playing poorly! The players have to earn the support, as they did on Saturday. I was there and it was brilliant when we were winning, there was a confidence about Murrayfield, but the players must win the crowd. These guys have been training for the majority of their lives to play international rugby, it’s the dream. How could you not be up for a 6N match?! Scottish atmosphere is all about tradition, hence the pipers etc. Why do we have to pretend to be another atmosphere? All ex players say they didn’t enjoy play away at Murrayfield, clearly we’re doing something right.

  20. I agree entirely. All the pre-match posturing, all the fire-and-brimstone signifies nothing unless our players’performance on the field inspires the supporters. If anything this artificial atmosphere-creation becomes doubly artificial and only an embarrassment if that performance is sub-standard.
    As regards “real” atmosphere, the dictum “success breeds success” applies again. In the old 5-nations days there was a general perception amongst Scottish supporters that their team could give any opponents a run for their money. As a result there was a real frisson of excitement pervading the crowd pre-game, excitement built up in a dignified and effective way by the pipe-bands. I myself almost felt as if I was in an amphitheatre about to witness a gladiatorial contest — and the ferocity of the game, short of bloodletting, did not disappoint me!
    If Murrayfield became a fortress again all that pre-match anticipation (a palpable aura emanating from the crowd)and in-match roar would return.

  21. Agree very much about the uselessness of the pre-match motivational and atmospheric fireworks and other capers. Money that would have been better spent on trying to save the Murrayfield pitch and investing in development in Scottish rugby?

    Also agree about the booing. I was there for the AI v Australia and it was embarrassing.

    Other than that, I’d just like to say we are entirely capable of beating Wales on Saturday and I fervently hope that we do.

  22. Jmc — well put! To continue on the subject of “real” atmosphere, I’m old enough to remember the Grand Slam-winning performance against England in 1990 — and many Murrayfield triumphs long before that! I remember David Sole slow-marching the team onto the pitch — a real statement of intent, like gladiators emerging into the amphitheatre to shout before the Emperor, “Nos morituri te salutamus!” (“We about to die salute you!”) — and here were fifteen Warriors, a Band of Brothers prepared to lay their bodies on the line for the cause.
    Nor did the deeds on the field disappoint that memorable gesture: there was Finlay Calder’s storming run into the heart of the English pack to set up the first ruck, setting the tone for the rest of our forwards; there was Tony Stanger’s incredible reach-for-the-sky try; and in the dying minutes of the game, the try-saving tackle on Will Carling…….but a few of the game’s great vignettes.
    All this produced an unprecedented atmosphere at Murrayfield, reflected in a roar that literally shook the stands. Such was the crowd’s conviction in our team that we almost felt we were witnessing a choreographed triumph, visualised in detail by our team before the test had even started.
    Will our players ever create such an atmosphere again? It’s up to them.

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