Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 41-31 Argentina

Jonny Gray on the charge - pic © Al Ross
Jonny Gray on the charge - pic © Al Ross

Rory Baldwin At BT Murrayfield

Scotland kicked off their Viagogo Autumn Internationals with the visit of an Argentina team that had not lost at Murrayfield since 1990. Despite Scotland winning their last (close) encounter in the summer, Argentina were fresh off the back of a victory over Australia in the Rugby Championship and seem to have discovered a new, more expansive, dimension to their play.

With pre-match promises from captain Greig Laidlaw to make Murrayfield a “horrible” place for other teams to come and play, the Scottish weather had clearly heard the call with a typically driech and drizzly night welcoming Los Pumas to the new artificial pitch.

The early signs confirmed that Argentina have long since stopped making up numbers in International Rugby, with a powerful tackle dislodging the ball from Greig Laidlaw’s hands and Argentina gathering the ball and running it in from well inside their own half.

Or was it just old bumbling Scotland again?

Interestingly though, Scotland did not seem phased – it was horrendously early in the match after all, and a period of sustained possession saw them right back into it when Richie Gray battered his way on to the scoresheet without requiring the man outside him. Laidlaw, who is currently on 90% completion at Gloucester, sneaked the conversion over to even things up.

Nicolas Sanchez kicked Argentina back into the lead after both Gray brothers piled over a ruck too enthusiastically, and there were only 12 minutes on the clock. By the time the clock was stopped at 16 minutes for an injury to Rodrigo Baez, Adam Ashe had already made 7 carries.

Conditions be damned, it was exuberant stuff from both sides.

There followed a few scrums during which at least the pitch could not be blamed for all the resets as referee Wayne Barnes cut a frustrated figure. When he awarded a free kick to the home side, the ball was spread wide and Tommy Seymour was barged off the ball by opposite number Juan Imhoff as he chased his own grubber kick. Imhoff was promptly sin-binned by Wayne Barnes.

It was a case of “anything you can do” as Scotland sustained pressure from the resulting lineout and Jonny Gray stretched over the line for a try of his own.

Gray continued to impress moments later as he ripped the ball in the tackle and receiving it, Laidlaw made a rare break, spinning a perfect “New Zealand backwards” pass out to Maitland who had plenty of space to run in another try. Again the scrum half converted.

Tails and heads clearly up, Scotland were trying everything, but in a curiously controlled manner. The work was done by the forwards and the ball only went wide when merited.

Jonny Gray received a rare blot on his copy book after Ross Ford (of all people) made a great break through the middle and passed to Gray who should really have offloaded to a sprinting Mark Bennett on his inside instead of looking for contact.

Laidlaw increased the lead on the half hour mark with another penalty before Argentina enjoyed some territory of their own. With Sanchez starting to miss penalties it was looking like a long way back for the visitors.

Scotland were content to soak it up, then march tenaciously upfield and grab some more points. The half ended with Laidlaw missing a kick, but overall it had been about as good a half of rugby as we’ve seen from Scotland in recent memory.

Half Time: Scotland X – X Argentina

There were a few more squiffy kicks to start the second half as Russell put the restart out on the full then Hogg missed a penalty kick from out wide that Laidlaw didn’t fancy.


But Scotland got right back into action with Laidlaw making another darting run and a nice flat pass, this time to Hogg, who dived in at the corner. It was almost a mirror image of Maitland’s earlier try, but why change things up too much?


Scrums continued to be a bit of a mess but it was Scotland’s veteran front row that was getting the better of the illustrious Argentinian one.


In the Argentine midfield El Mago himself, Juan Martin Hernandez was pretty quiet with little room to work up against the oppressive tackling of Dunbar, who was just the rock needed alongside new boy Mark Bennett.


Argentina made a few substitutions in the backs and it seemed to give them a bit of impetus with some sustained possession. When the ball moved inside the 22 though they struggled to retain it, whether through intense two man tackles or a slippery ball it was hard to say.


The set piece too was a lot more effective, with precision at the lineouts and Barnes seeing things Euan Murray’s way in the scrums more often than not.


Laidlaw kicked another penalty but Argentina continued with most of the ball. Rob Harley was binned – perhaps unfairly – for removing the supporting player at a lineout close to the Scotland line and Argentina continued to press but instead of a try, the TMO spotted a double movement.


It was clearly a frustrating experience for the visitors as nothing quite clicked, and while there was a bit of lull in atmosphere Scotland were at least sitting on a 24 point lead. Argentina had so many penalties that in a close game they would have kicked, but now they were forced to tap and go for tries, which just played into the hands of the home defence who were cheered for every Argentine attacker they tackled backwards a few yards.


Argentina did find a way back on to the scoreboard as their scrum found an edge and Barnes marched under the posts for a penalty try. They dropped the conversion as if in a hurry to get back closer and similarly rushed after Cubelli’s second try on 80 minutes, but in between those Scotland had reaffirmed their dominance of this game with an easy interception try for Tommy Seymour.


Jim Hamilton was sin-binned – almost inevitably – for repeated penalties conceded during that sleepy period from Scotland, just as Rob Harley returned from his binning. It will perhaps be second half discipline that Cotter concentrates on for next weekend as the black spot on Scotland’s very positive performance.


Not that Scotland are likely to have the comfort of getting 20 points ahead and going to sleep against New Zealand.



Tries: Gray R, Gray J, Maitland, Hogg, Seymour
Con: Laidlaw (4), Weir
Pen: Laidlaw (2)

Tries: Desio, Penalty, Cubelli (2)
Con: Sanchez, Hernandez
Pen: Sanchez, Hernandez,

SRBlog Man of the Match: Greig Laidlaw put in a true captains performance with sniping runs, quick delivery that allowed Scotland to play at the pace they clearly wanted to. Much improved speed of service and posing an attacking threat will give us Cusiter fans pause for thought. Great kicking from hand too.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (Eng)

Attendance: 36,764

35 Responses

  1. Excellent first half and I have to say Laidlaw was magnificent, alongside Ashe, Ford(best game in years) and the Gray brothers. Second half I felt was ruined by the harsh yellow card on Harley. My heart is always in my mouth whenever Barnes refs us. Changes for next week? I’d probably go for the same again, although I thought we were weaker for the substitutions, so maybe shake up the bench? As for the try we gave away at the death, the less said the better.

  2. It was all going swimmingly till about the 60th minute when Barnes decided to give everything Argentinas way. Harley’s yellow was a farce when it was his own lifters who dropped the bloke. What the hell was Weir doing in the last minute? Bungling buffoonery from Weir. Took the shine off an excellent start to Verns reign (last summer was Johnson’s swansong)

  3. Barnes’s performance in the second half deteriorated turning the game into a flat affair. I was impressed by everyone in a Scotland Jersey, even the cameos by Henry & Big Jim :) The only missing thing was a score from Finn Russell. Did you see when he asked Greig if he could take a kick? Laidlaw said “No” and promptly overtook Dan Parks in the scoring stakes.

    As for Weir’s thing at the end – he tried to buy a few seconds so he could kick into touch after 80 mins, but it didn’t come off. I doubt he will do it ever again and I am sure he would not have done it if the game wasn’t already won.

    All round a great performance and win for Scotland – I am glad I told an English rugby fan this morning that I thought we had the best Scotland side I had seen for many a year starting today and to watch out for us.

  4. oh it was good – nothing to disagree with in the previous comments; its churlish to complain about the late points conceded ….. you can’t blame wee Gray for trying another dummy when the first one worked a treat though it would have been good to see the Golden Child score. The back row deserved a collective VC – I don’t know much about Cowan but thought he worked well with Nuala Ashe and big Rab (do you know he reads novels in French?). What was Barnesie thinking about? Thought he’d worked it out when he went to the TMO – it must have been a yellow for being nearest to the guys who dropped the jumper? I was concerned before the game there was too much Edin influence – can hardly believe I’m saying this, but Ford looked dynamic, in that break anyway, and I can’t remember a misthrow. One highlight among many was Rab and wee G driving on through, another was commitment in defence. Looking forward to next week – must be competitive right through.

  5. Yes the bench did not add anything really, I can’t see the starting 15 changing unless there are any injuries, but maybe on the bench. Ryan Grant and Denton are 2 that spring to mind, as well as maybe Peter Horne. Weir once again has not done himself any favours with a Scotland shirt on. Pygros took a head knock as well, so maybe Cusiter to the bench as well.

  6. Hope at last. Ford was unrecognisable and put up his best performance in years. The line out was near perfect which I imagine had a lot to with Verns coaching.

    Barnes had a really bad impact on Scotland’s 2nd half performance. Harley’s yellow card was real shocker. A penalty try after one dodgy scrum in front of posts wasn’t much better. I’m praying we can avoid him in the 6N’s, he does us no favours at all.

    I’d go for the same starting 15 assuming no injuries. Bench could be strengthened with grant and Swinson.

  7. Great result for Scotland. Its been such a long time since I’ve seen us play to anywhere near that standard. We won by 10 points but it should have been a lot mopre but for our team taking the foot of the pedal and making the odd mistake. We definately wont get away with that aginst NZ.

  8. Superb performance and better than I even dared hope for.

    Worth pointing out that Samoa lost to Italy which augurs well for the RWC.

    1. Sure it was a great result and our boys played well but lets not get carried away. I recall Scotland beating OZ a few years ago and then playing like a group of random school kids in the 6 nations. A similr thing happened the following year when we beat Oz away from home and SA at Murryfield yet performed like Nancy boys in the 6 nations. One result does not mean that we have turned a corner. And remember, Argentia did not exactly play well. They were very poor in defensse and gave away a good number of penalties. I think the true test will be the All Blacks- if we can keep the points margin to arround 20 that would be considered an achievement. I dont for one minute think we can beat them but as long as the score is not something like 75:10 than that will be good. Lets see what happens.

      1. We need to beat Samoa to get into the QF: pretty much the minimum achievement to consider our World Cup a success of any kind. There’s nothing about getting carried away to suggest we can beat them as there has been little between us in recent years. Yesterday’s results just mean we may start as marginal favorites instead of marginal underdogs, regardless of what happens against the ABs.

    2. Don’t be fooled by that result, Samoa will be a very different proposition in the world cup. They always struggle in the AI’s as do most of the PI nations, mainly due to their lack of time together. They will be much better prepared and motivated for the world cup. On paper they really do have a fantastic team, if someone can gel them together they will be formidable.

      If we play like the first half on Saturday though, then we could and should do so. I am going to be there so we had better win!

  9. further to the comment above re Barns awarding a penalty try, I was surprised he did that after just one scrum. Is this the new thing? I’d heard a penalty try was no automatic after three dropped scrums. And Pyrgos, I think, was injured in what was effectively a dump tackle after he’d dropped the ball – don’t know if his tackler can be blamed for that but it was a bit rough even for rugby!
    Anyway, magnificent match – I wiz there! Nice walking away having just watched Scotland beat a team that was expected to win. I hope to enjoy more of that again.

  10. Yet to watch full replay of match but in highlights seen very encouraging to see the quick rucking and clearances along with support running,hopefully rediscovered as ‘our’ style of play.The way Maitland and Hogg read Laidlaw’s two sniping runs for two great tries showed that Cotter’s heads-up philosophy is making an impact with the players.Hope we’ve turned the corner.

    Weir may be trying to force plays too much as in last few minutes, perhaps due to Russell’s emergence as No 1,but feel for all his lack of vision with ball in hand we need his positional kicking.Like Horne’s skills but his kicking overall is not good enough to be cover on the bench at 10. Sure we can score the odd try and shine v ABS,so long as we concentrate for full 80 minutes.Prayer mat down.

  11. Pleased with the win just concerned about our decision making in the second half. We had a good lead yet with the penalties we didn’t go for the corner to bring our backs into play, even if we didn’t get any points from kicking to touch at least the lineout and attacking platform could of tried a few things without the worry of taking the points. A wasted opportunity.

    Hamilton what were you thinking Barnes had warned Scotland the next penalty would be carded??? Harleys card wasn’t justified.

    When you look at Argentina play they were just not at the races did they think they could turn up and win?? But even so a worry for Scotland should be that a team not firing still managed to get 31 points.
    We wont get this from the All Blacks my gut feeling sadly is we are going to be hammered

    1. You say wasted opportunities but it showed good consistency from Laidlaw to go for the posts. And all of Argentina’s points came with our men in the bin, and they weren’t confident scores they were desperate. Our scores were all well crafted and more to the point creative.
      The All Blacks will win next week, but it won’t be the mauling we fear. Our defence had structure, and if the boys work as hard off the ball as they did against the pumas then the gaps won’t appear for Salvea’s and Reid’s to blast through the line. The All Blacks didn’t look unbeatable against England.

  12. Really pleasing to see such a first half powerhouse performance against a full strength Argentina XV. Second half a bit of a mess on our part, and not all of it due to the ref. If we muck about like that in the last ten/fifteen v the ABs next week, we will be absolutely cuffed. Good that Cotter has some strength in depth to select from for these AIs and for the 6Ns. I’ve seen too many false dawns however, and the real test of how we are shaping up against the best sides in the world will be next week against the World Champions. It’s nice to see 41 points on the board against a major Test side. When did we last do that?

  13. Great win! I was very impressed with Finn Russell, at last a stand off with composure! Also impressed with all the new, or fairly new, blood, Bennett, Gray, Ashe and Cowan. Sean Maitland rarely gets a mention but what a class player he is, he just does everything right in both attack and defence.
    The second half was a bit of a farce a silly yellow card from the referee/TMO for Harley, a stupid yellow from Hamilton and poor decision making for their last try. Add to that the constant substitutions and the game just doesn’t flow. Wayne Barnes refereeing at the scrums was awful there were plenty opportunities to get the ball in when the scrum was as steady as it’s going to get and it definitely wasn’t a penalty try – odd decision!!
    My only change would be at loosehead, we must pick our best scrummagers at this level, Grant if deemed fit, if not, Reid.

  14. Barnes, in fact nearly all the “Elite” ref’s need to remember that the penalty try is not there to simply reward the team with scrum ascendancy.
    The law states that it is awarded when, but for foul play, a try would probably have been scored.
    So neither the frequency of offences (multiple collapses) or fault (especially if its sill yards away from the line) should be a factor in the decision.

  15. I watched the game and thought this is awesome. A bit of guts, some strong running. We were in line to give them a hiding.

    Then Jim Hamilton came on and it was down hill from there. Unsure what Cotter can see in him, maybe he is similar to Ali Williams who was big for team morale. Idiotic play from Hamilton led to a try and then with 14 on the field it became a battle.

    Then there was the final play. Lineouts been strong all game. You kick it out, win the lineout and kick it out again and its game over. Simple.

    We cant afford to have this decision making on the field against the AB’s.

    I believe if we play strongly we can keep it close and not get another 50 points put on us.

    Some AB’s are under pressure here back home and its a good time for some young Scots to give them a real go.

    As for Wayne Barnes, nothing new there. He really struggles to have a without incident.

    1. Bit odd that Hamilton remains in the squad as out of all our locks he seems most ill-suited to the intention to play a fast offloading game. Hamilton’s strengths are all in the set piece, not sure he’s ever going to add much coming on with 20 minutes to go. At least Swinson can come on and tackle hard.

  16. of course a great effort from the scots but there are some areas for improvement- I thought we could have dome a bit beter in defense and i agree that Jim Halilton is not doing enough for our team. He is a large forward but always seems to punch below his weight. I wouold like to see him doing the opposite and really intimidating the opposition- too much of a nice guy for my liking. he should take tips from the likes of Wade Dooley or Victor Mattfield. he shouodl be there to put the fear of death onto opponents rather than act like the Honey monster.

  17. Quite interesting that only last week, all of the elite refs met together in London and the main thing on their agenda was making sure that they kept the scrums safe, as well as getting quick ball out of it to keep the game flowing… I did notice something in the Scotsman where someone suggested removing penalties from scrums and instead only offering free kicks. The other option they had was to stop the option of a scrum being offered as a penalty option. The IRB do now need to try and sort this scrum problem out, the new “crouch, bind, set” rules are not working very well compared to what there was before.

  18. Big Jim’s getting a lot of stick on here. Not his finest game this weekend, but based on how he played for Saracens against Munster a few weeks back, his place in the squad is merited. He just needs to keep composed and not give away silly penalties like he did on Saturday (in the three minutes of play he actually got).

    I actually felt that Laidlaw eventually varied his game. Initially, he was still taking several steps before passing after every ruck which worked to begin with but then Argentina began to read the game and were tackling him before he was able to offload. After that, he began to get the offloads away quicker and vary his game, going on to have what I consider to be his best international game in a long time!

    Thought the Grays played brilliantly, Murray’s best game in a long time, and Ford’s as well in fact! Finn Russell’s dancing made me smile. Looking forward to next weekend and seeing what the boys will bring!

  19. The decision not to kick for touch was the right one

    The kick might not have gone out and if it did the lineout gives the opportunity to Argentina to win it back

    By tapping and giving it to the forwards to hit it up for 1 maybe 2 rucks at the most which schoolboy team wouldn’t back themselves to retain the ball

    1. Rubbish. A one legged man with a club foot couldn’t have missed touch from where the penalty was given. A nice slow walk up to take a line out that was operating at 100% success previously. Throw, catch, hold it in, boot it out, game over.

      Weir made the wrong decision and 99% of posters here know it, and so does he!

  20. Refreshing to hear that past performance in lineouts is an indication of lineouts to come. I look forward to a 100% record in all tests from here on. Forever

    That aside, the decision on whether to kick for touch or ruck it up would not have been Weir’s but the Captain’s

  21. Would love to see Scotland put out their best scrummaging front row and go after the NZ set piece, they are by no means mugs but it is a known weakness that could be exploited. Alongside threatening lineout options we can attack their set pieces big time. England caused significant trouble in their set piece last week, yet they dont have the lineout depth that we potentially could have.

    1. Who is Scotland’s best scrummaging front row (I am a back so have only received opinion on front row matters)?

      I was relatively impressed with Scotland’s scrummaging against Argentina. I thought the penalty try was harsh and in general we didn’t have the usual issues we get at the scrum. I am a fan of Reid and Grant but thought Dickinson played well and does not deserve to be dropped. I am also not convinced Murray is still deserving of a starting place but again, he showed up well and there certainly wasn’t an improvement when Cross came on.

      Wouldn’t our strongest front row in the scrum be Grant/Ford/Murray?

      1. No I certainly don’t disagree about Dickinson’s performance, he does work hard and keep busy, but personally I believe the best scrumming technicians we currently have is Ryan Grant and Geoff Cross. When fit he has caused some of the best in the Pro12 some serious problems, even if he is prone to an early engagement. Reid again is a decent scrummager, and due to the lack of playing time Grant’s had and up against Faumuina whose talents lie primarily in the loose, he shouldn’t be too flustered. I have to say Murray’s scrummaging has been affected in the same way Adam Jones’ has with the new laws, he is nowhere near close to his memorable devouring of the Beast vs RSA in 2008. Think Barnes was a big help in convincing Murray that he scrummaged well, some of his calls were at times borderline. Cross is a rock, and far shorter than opposite number Crockett which will make scrummaging exceptionally awkward for the Newzealander. Don’t take too much from his 10 min cameo, he is a fine scrummager and consistently proves it in a Scotland top

      2. I felt last year, Glasgow’s best front row was Reid/McArthur/Welsh, and that they went forward/looked dominant against most teams. Then again I am no prop.

        Don’t think Grant was in the best form at the end of last year and I rate him more highly than Reid.

      3. the ABs have not looked as dominant at scrum time in the quad nations as they have in the past and are definitely worth targeting

  22. Looks like we’re playing NZ seconds with the heavy cavalry on the bench. Admittedly, that second XV would equip itself well in the 6N and the backline and back row is still frighteningly good.

    Still, if we can’t at least threaten a result we should take onboard quite how far behind the top test nations we are.

    New Zealand team: Joe Moody, James Parsons, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Dominic Bird, Richie McCaw (C), Sam Cane, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Daniel Carter, Charles Piutau, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Colin Slade, Ben Smith.
    Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Liam Messam, Augustine Pulu, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea.

    1. With the All Blacks well known for having a slow first 20 minutes in their last few international matches, Scotland have a great chance to assert themselves from the start. I don’t think we are quite ready to beat the All Blacks, however, I think we could keep the result close…

      1. We just announced an unchanged team but a much improved bench with Beattie and Swinson in for Strokosch and Hamilton.

        Reid, Cross, Beattie, Swinson isn’t bad cavalry to bring on ourselves.

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