Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


USA 6-24 Scotland

Geoff Cross - pic © Al Ross
Geoff Cross - pic © Al Ross
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United States

2014 Summer TourSat 7th Jun 2014BBVA Compass Stadium, HoustonKick-off: tbc (UK)6-24


Scotland took to the humid conditions of Houston for the first test of Vern Cotter’s career as Scotland coach with a team mixing the expected (a back three of Hogg, Visser and Maitland, Gray and Hamilton as the locks) with the unexpected (Finn Russell and Gordy Reid handed starts).

The USA have been a difficult nut to crack for a lot of touring teams, similar to say Argentina, Canada (who the Scots are still to face) who travel poorly but at home with their full team they cause problems.

The game started at a fast pace on the hard surface with both sides – the Scots in particular – looking to go wide at pace. Todd Clever made a few early breaks that troubled the visiting defence (and Stuart Hogg’s face) and as the teams settled under the gaze of referee Pascal Gauzere there was an early exchange of penalties.

Greig Laidlaw, much maligned this season for either a) missing kicks or b) not being Chris Cusiter, missed a kick before he took his penalty then made a break his half-back rival would have been proud of. Spotting an undefended ruck, Laidlaw darted past it before the home side could assemble a defence, and it was the simplest of passes with Visser on his shoulder to put the big winger clear for the tour’s first try.

Fortunes worsened for the USA as they lost their starting hooker and inside centre to injury, just as the Scotland back three (deep three in the US parlance) smelt blood.

From there Scotland became a little headless in the same way as Glasgow can be guilty of, trying to keep the ball alive in a manner that would please Niko Matawalu but possibly not Mr Cotter. You could perhaps feel their pain when try opportunities were coming thick and fast.

Visser almost got his second but for a poor pass from openside Cowan, and Cowan himself suffered at the hands of an iffy delivery from Hogg after the fullback had jinked himself clear of defenders.

Visser and Lamont combined again but the ball was guddled and ended up on the turf flying around like a pinball. The pack took matters into their hands with some strong set piece only for first Strokosch, then Beattie to be held up over the line. Visser spilled the ball in the act of touching down, giving heart to the US team.

Rustiness, or just the same old inability to be clinical?

They were given further assistance when US loosehead Olive Kilifi was binned, unable to cope with the power from the Scots pack. This led to the unlikely site of a Scots pack forcing a penalty try rather than conceding one.

Stung into action, the US Eagles made it over the line on their first trip to the Scottish 22, led as always by the powerful Todd Clever. His lunge for the try line was adjudged – possibly unfairly – as a double movement.

Wyles missed a further penalty attempt as Jim Hamilton left the field with an injury to leave it 3-17 at half time.

HT USA 3-17 Scotland

Scotland were still unstructured in the early stages of the second half, as almost no ball went through Russell and the makeshift midfield. The back three had plenty of ball to work with but in no decent positions, mostly off turnovers or counter-attack ball. It was that typical Scottish illusion of ample possession but little of it effective. Other ball carriers like Beattie were quiet in attack too. Still, at least Cotter could see what he would have to fix.

The home side on the other hand were settled, and perhaps more comfortable with a ten degree drop in temperature having held their camp in the Rockies. Wyles kicked a penalty to close the gap a little with half an hour to play.

Scotland earned a good attacking position having pushed the Americans back over their own line, but the 5m scrum was far less dominant with tired legs and Moray Low than it was with Geoff Cross and the USA were able to clear their lines and play their way into Scotland’s half with some patient phases.

Scotland were also struggling in the lineout in a scrappy game, Richie Gray did a good job to get up and disrupt opposition ball but on his own throw neither Lawson or MacArthur saw a consistent stream of quality ball going through to Laidlaw.

Duncan Taylor left the field injured, like big Jim with some lower leg trouble, having had little opportunity to do anything of note, and Lamont too was largely anonymous.

Hogg though had been bustling all game, some of it effective, some of it less so. But just as the US were pushing for the score that would make the game a contest, he took a high ball beautifully and had the forward momentum when he landed to start him sprinting down the touchline even as the US were lined up to attack going the other way. With Visser in support it was always going to be a score but Hogg’s pace was up to the challenge and went the distance himself. A classic Hogg try, and good to see him with a smile on his face.

After that it became scrappy again as injury, fitness and conditions wore down players on both sides. Maitland continues to impress in defence and Russell did little wrong from scraps, but he also had little to do. Cowan may not be the answer at 7 and Taylor and Lamont are not the answers in the centre, but then we knew that.

One imagines Cotter is shrewd enough to know that too based on the evidence of his eyes, and perhaps bring in the likes of Mark Bennett for the Canada game (which will be shown on BT Sport).

So far Vern is played 1, won 1 – but the tests get sterner from here.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Difficult to say. Stuart Hogg took his try well so edges the nod ahead of Laidlaw who organised things well. Visser had a good first half hour, Maitland was visible but didn’t get any space to play in and no one really stood out in the pack aside from Cross who only played for a half.

22 Responses

  1. Can’t help but think that the match may have been a little bit less patchy if Cusiter had been at 9, there would have definitely not have been as many wayward box kicks. I don’t understand why Russell wasn’t given the kicking duties, if he’s going to develop into the world class 10 that we all hope he can be then he surely he should be given a chance to present himself on the international stage. He didn’t really get much to work with which was a wee bit disappointing but hopefully he’s brought into the game more against Canada. I thought the back three played well, it was good to see Maitland running with ball and looking adventurous whilst Visser has come back to international rugby in the same way he started. It was scrappy but a win is a win, could 3 wins from 4 be a realistic prediction for this tour?

  2. That was a horrible game to watch. Basically another Johnson team performance. No shape, no speed, no support lines, no offloads, poor rucking, terrible line-out, Laidlaw kicking away possession any dilly dallying at the base of rucks, no on-field leadership etc etc

    Visser really has no rugby brain at all does he. Cowan looked slow, stroker constantly failed to protect his blind side on the scrums, lawson was dire at the set piece and in open play, Ritchie Gray needs to get his finger out and start grafting a bit more, and Hogg was rustier than my first car! I cant think of a single facet of the game or any player who played well. Russell never got any decent service so i will exempt him from criticism. Some of the handling errors were a throw back to the six nations and showed how much work is needed, and how we should be building round a core of Warriors players.

    The referee was awful too, stop….start…..stop….start….TMO….start…stop etc. From start to finish, the entire first half took 65 minutes including stoppages! He had no clue at the breakdown and failed to control the scrums. The IRB must do better.

    Changes at 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, and probably a couple more for next weekend.

  3. Player Ratings v USA – just my opinions so be kind :-)

    Hogg(6) – started poorly, looked rusty. Good try
    Maitland(6) – Not given much work, made yards when used…
    Lamont(4) – non existent in defence or attack. No longer 1st or 2nd choice
    Taylor(5) – Read Lamont… Still yet to see anything in Blue….
    Visser(7) – Classic Timbo… Should have had 4 tries by 30mins
    Russell(6) – Composed, good defence but not helped by those around him
    Laidlaw(6) -Distribution of a prop forward. Nice break for Visser try tho
    Reid(7) – Good in loose, destroyed his opp at scrum.. good shift
    Lawson(6) – Too lightweight in loose.. lineout still a problem
    Cross(8) – Destroyed the US scrum, good at breakdown
    Grey(6) – Lineout a mess, still not enough from Richie..
    Hamilton(5) – Must take rap for pish lineout?No loss if out next week.
    Stroker (6) – Big in tackle, still doesnt carry. Back up at best..
    Cowan(4) – Shocker from the off.. will have MUCH better days
    Beattie(5) – Made yards with limited ball.

    Low.M(3) – Scrums went down the swanny. No thanks
    Allan(3) – Pinged for a couple of ‘Penas’… difficult conditions to debut
    MacArthur(4) – Lineout continued to be shite…
    Gilchrist(4) – Without red cap I would not have noticed him…
    Low.K(3) – Too late to make any impact
    Hart(0) – Unused? What is to be learned from watching Laidlaw for 80?
    Jackson(4) – Came on at Full Back…. 1 break that was knocked on..
    Evans(4) – Got involved, would much rather have Bennett in 23….

    Man of the Match – The commentary team were outstanding… Particularly their shout for ELECTROLYTES…..
    Realistically Cross MotM
    Overall poor stuff, butchered too many opps but a win is a win against a potential banana skin…

  4. From this game so far one thing is abundantly clear. Laidlaw needs to be excluded from the team for a while so he realises his game just doesn’t work for Scotland, also agree with above comments regarding kicks. Why Russell wasn’t when he’s been in such great form I have no idea. None really put their hand up for me, but this selection reeks of Johnsons meddling.

  5. Nearly had a heart attack seeing the score on this site while looking for a link to watch the game!!
    I agree with all that’s been said very scrappy game with lots of missed chances. Usa were unlucky not to have been awarded a try I would have given that…
    laidlaw was good with the linebreak but then reverted to kicking, I can never understand why we give possession away by kicking isn’t better to get our backs involved keep the ball and build some pressure look for some line breaks.
    I don’t think vern looked at all happy in post match interview when Laidlaw was making excuses.

  6. I believe it is the first time Scotland have held a team try less since beating Australia in Newcastle 2? years ago

    After this game Hodge and Humphries have returned to Scotland to work on the preparation of the second squad while everyone else flew to Houston this am

    Few injuries after the game so will be interesting to see how that goes

    I felt for Cowan on his debut he was given so many shocking passes that made him look clumsy when I don’t think they were ever catchable. As someone said he didn’t have a good night but all credit to the lad that he didn’t drop his head and he will play a lot better than that

    Russell not kicking – maybe they decided not to add the pressure of kicking for goal on his debut

  7. Well considering the hype for the US in the guardian and elsewhere I thought Scotland dealt with them in tough conditions away from home with the minimum of fuss. We should have been more clinical and won by a lot more but I can’t see the Americans proving too hard to beat come World Cup time. Apparently they think they can reach the QF. Presumably in the same way the SRU thinks we can win the whole thing.

    Canada will be marginally tougher but I think we’ll improve. This tour is all about avoiding these banana skins and getting Cotter to look at the squad. We could put out a fine side in the 6N, let’s hope Cotter does better at recognising what it is than SJ.

  8. Perhaps Russell wasn’t given the kicking duties as it was his first match…….but considering it was the USA in Texas would we rather examine his first kick at goal temprement in the last minute to win a 6 nations game?
    Perhaps it was Laidlaw, as captain, saying “I’ll do the kicking, as, let’s face it, I need to have some reason to be in the team”
    Like Hamilton calling all the lineouts to himself in the WC warm up game when his sqaud place was in question.

  9. I was really impressed with Cowan! His support lines were good but the passes to him were poor. He was a constant thorn in there side much like clever was to us! Also impressed by both props!

    1. really, Clever was always the 1st carrier or smashing at the back of lineouts, Cowan wasn’t anywhere, granted his pass to Visser was poor but visser could’ve been closer to him really, but I don’t think he’s the 7 we’ve been after. KB would’ve been a better bet there

  10. Granted Cowan didnt carry at all but i thought he was a pest. will need to get a look at him in a proper game with a real climate. I think Clever was made to look better via our line out. we threw to the tail which ties in the whole back row for the lifting pod. when we overthrow there is no one at home but an unmarked Clever.

  11. Surprised Hart not brought on at some stage to link up with Russell,the earlier the better,Laidlaw sadly is hindering expansive play,rarely breaks and kicking,well it’s been said already. These young guys need to be exposed to international rugby as a unit,the prospect of Russell becoming the 10 so yearned for since Townsend is mouthwatering.Canada match surely Cotter will give them the stage.

    Visser albeit a try scorer still looks a limited player,dodgy defence and lacks vision under pressure.
    Seymour a shoe-in IMO for left wing as need more creative and complete players as he has become this season.

    Hope we can tough it out and at least cause a few surprises against the Boks,did last year and we have some real form from amongst the Warriors contingent.

  12. It was nice to read in an interview with Richie Grey that Vern cotter had very little input last week before the USA game. He has since had a very hands on approach to the Canada game! I am very optimistic for Scotland under cotter as he is a world class coach. Scotland have some brilliant players! Scott, Dunbar, maitland and Hogg are a match for anyone on their day. The Grey brothers could be as good a second row partnership as any although I think Richie needs a rocket shoved up his backside because he was better 3 years ago. I still believe that the old 3B back row of brown, barclay and Beattie are the best we still have. Hopefully Barclay will get his chance to get back into team later in year. We have great potential in this squad to beat teams and I really think cotter can get us going. Everybody is sick of the same old dribble of brave losers etc etc!! It’s time these players stepped up to the plate and give all something to cheer about

  13. Does anybody know where we can watch the Canada test match this weekend? Is it on Sky or BBC?

  14. I was at the game last Saturday and the players (on both sides) did well to stay alive on the field!! The heat AND the humidity was not pleasant. Agree with all the statements about Laidlaw’s passing pace but his break for Visers score should not be forgotten.
    The ref for me ruined the game.
    My biggest question is the lineout? Its still like a Hielan’ Ceilidh. Why not throw big Gray or Gilchrist up? Keep it simple and win it

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion