Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 23 – 26 Wales

Greig Laidlaw and Sam Warburton
Greig Laidlaw and Sam Warburton - pic courtesy RBS 6 Nations

Time to test the foundations. Foundations that have, in the past 15 or so years, crumbled and warped under any true pressure. False dawns have come and gone without heralding a new era for Scottish Rugby and here in 2015 we see another new beginning. This is the first real test of the new order though. Vern Cotter’s first Six Nations at BT Murrayfield and it is the Welsh who have come to test our resolve.

Blue skies, sunshine and unseasonal warmth mean we could thankfully forgo most of the pantomime of the fireworks, lightshows and 14th century battle re-enactments in favour of genuine fan lead atmosphere generation. Both sets of supporters in jubilant mood despite coming off the back of respective losses, knowing todays result would define the 2015 Six Nations Championship for both nations. Stirring anthems reached a crescendo and Finn Russell punted the ball deep in the Welsh ranks.

The opening parries saw Wales call Scotland’s bluff with a series of crash ball off their duo of battering rams Roberts and Davies. Further territory was gained through some quick pick and rolls before Blair Cowan failed to roll away from a tackle and Halfpenny slotted the opening penalty to give Wales a 3-0 lead after 6 minutes.

The Welsh kept up their customary pressure and Scotland were toiling to cope with the pace and intensity of ‘Gatland Ball’ but a superb tackle by Dunbar in the midfield saw the Welsh lose shape. A lightning quick turnover just outside the 22 went through Scottish hands before releasing Hogg for what is now becoming his trademark 60 metre try. Laidlaw slotted the simple conversion and it was game on at 7-3 to Scotland.

A clever lineout move shortly after the restart which saw Ford, Laidlaw and Cowan combine up the blindside brought Scotland immediately back into the try zone but a knock on then a scrum penalty allowed  Wales to clear their lines. Belief was now coursing through Scottish veins and Finn Russell released Dunbar who almost found Lamont on the far wing but ended up fingertips away from a sure score. Points did eventually come though, albeit a penalty following some handling on the deck by Jake Ball right in front of the posts. Laidlaw doesn’t miss those. 10-3 to Scotland with just over quarter of an hour gone.

Through their pint-sized wizard Leigh Halfpenny, Wales tried to settle back into their rock solid game plan and some enterprising play brought them to within 5 metres before a Scottish foul gave Halfpenny the 3 points to make it 10-6 on the twenty minute mark.

The relentless pace was no longer sustainable for either team and a ten minute period of attritional midfield scrapping began to favour the men in red. Some brinkmanship in the home 22 by the Scottish pack eventually paid off and Scotland were able to clear their lines after a wheeled scrum. Still the Welsh came with hard running from their forwards and big up-and-unders from their backline. Finn Russell accidentally took out Biggar in the air following one such punt and it was off to the naughty step for 10 minutes whilst Halfpenny booted the resultant penalty to bring Wales back to within a point at 10-9 on the half hour.

Suddenly the power game had real merit for Wales, and with Scotland minus a back, they shipped it wide to Williams who had to nous to turn it inside for his support runner Webb to touchdown. Halfpenny successfully converted to give Wales their first lead of the game at 16-10.

Jonathan Davies then celebrated this try by fouling Jonny Beattie in the air to earn himself a yellow card. With parity of numbers restored so too was the equilibrium of the game and a powerful drive up the right wing from the Scottish pack had them within sniffing distance of the Welsh line only for Alun Wyn Jones to collapse the maul.

Scotland opted for a line out over the points and Gray Snr plucked it out the air. Greig went blind of the next phase Wales were able to slow it down and eventually turn it over. A duff clearance meant Scotland came again before being held up agonisingly close. This time the whistle from the referee was to bring an end to a pulsating first half.

Half time: Scotland 10 Wales 16

The second half began with a penalty clearance and the reintroduction of Russell. Oddly subdued by a series of minor injuries Scotland began to turn the screw through the scrum and some mismanagement at a subsequent breakdown gave Scotland three points through a penalty from Laidlaw. 13-16 to Wales with five minutes gone in the second period.

The Welsh continued their tactic of garryowens and Hogg was mullered by Jamie Roberts under one bombardment resulting in a scrum for Wales on the 15m line. Davies returned from the sin bin and helped win a penalty for Halfpenny to successfully score off the inside of the post. 13-19 to Wales.

Jon Welsh came on for Geoff Cross, whose beard had obviously become too itchy, on the 50 minute mark in a pre-planned substitution. However, it failed to disrupt the Scottish scrum which was by now beginning to dominate.  Using it as a platform Scotland looked to control possession and pressure in the midfield gave Greig another opportunity to take 3 points from a penalty kick. 16-19 on the 55 minute mark.

A serious looking bicep injury for Richie Gray ended his match, Jim ‘penalty’ Hamilton coming on to replace him. Wales stepped up the pressure and Scotland sought to take the sting out of it by substituting Beattie for Strokosch and Dunbar for Scott. A 5m lineout for Wales had them moving through the phases before switching back to the left wing for Williams to bound over. However, some typically ‘edgy’ work from Alun Wyn Jones was spotted by the TMO and the try was disallowed.

On the hour mark, Cowan entered sideways into a ruck and Leigh Halfpenny missed his first penalty of the game. Wales changed four and Scotland took Dickinson off for Gordon Reid. Territory and possession was now very much with the Welsh. Eager to shake off the myth that they can’t play beyond the 60 minute mark they continued their relentless crash ball formula. Eventually Jonathan Davies broke past a tired Jonny Gray to score under the posts. Halfpenny added the extras and we entered the last quarter of a hour with Wales 26-15 in the lead.

Another serious looking injury for Scotland, this time to Gordon Reid meant Dicko was back on in the front row. Some inventive attacking moves by firstly Hogg then Mark Bennett took Scotland to within 2 metres of the Welsh trenches with Russell at the heart of everything good for Scotland. Some pick and drives kept Scotland knocking at the door before the inevitable penalty. Laidlaw bravely opted for a tap and go and after a few phases and some effective mauling the referee gave Wales their last penalty rites. Still Scotland pressed but some hugely impressive defence by Wales eventually repelled the onslaught.

Time now for Sam Hidaglo-Clyne to make his BT Murrayfield bow (for Scotland) alongside Fraser Brown for Laidlaw and Ford respectively. Wales also took the opportunity to take Jenkins off for Paul James.

Into the last ten minutes and some good handling by Scotland allowed them to progress upfield through Hogg and Hidalgo-Clyne before a high tackle gave Scotland the penalty. Kicking for a lineout they then infringed and Biggar nudged it clear. Everyones favourite pantomime villain Mike Phillips came on for Webb at nine. The game was becoming fractious as Wales looked to run the clock down whilst Scotland retained a sense of urgency with the ten point gap weighing heavily. Wales were pinged for offside and Scotland again took the tap. Virtually camped on the line, Scotland eventually smuggled the ball down through Jim Hamilton who celebrated by starting a huge punch up. Finn Russell converted as the referee blew up for full time before the restart could be taken.

Final score: Scotland 23-26 Wales


The foundations may not be there yet but we’re definitely getting close.

32 Responses

  1. Think you’re being a bit harsh on Big Jim there. He’d scored his try and was trying to get the ball back quickly enough for the conversion. Welsh yellow cards never materialised though, did they?

  2. Agree, no blame for Big Jim. He did after all actually score a try and it wasn’t his fault he scored it in the 79th minute and had to contend with a mob of red jerseys who are professional players who knew the longer it took to get the game re-started the lesser the chances of Scotland even getting a restart let alone scoring from one. As I’ve said on a different thread, it was our performance in the first 20 or so of the second half that did for us really.

  3. A love that line of “Big Jim celebrated by starting a huge punch up.’
    That’s how I saw it as well and it did make me laugh.

    It’s a shame we could only rattle the Welsh in the last 10 minutes when it was too late.

    The Welsh have taken over the title of ‘best cheats’ from the Irish, who always push them hard.
    Scotland unfortunately, need to take a few lessons from both of them and improve in this area.

    I couldn’t hear the reasons for some of the refs decisions today.
    Having to listen to that paragon of commentating even-handedness, Jonatham Davies, didn’t help much.
    His explanation of why Russells yellow was deserved, while Davies yellow card was unfair, was particularly revealing.

    Can someone confirm why the the try from Bennett was disallowed?

    1. I was at Murrayfield and could only assume it was given for a knock on. Why the ref didn’t go to the TMO I have no idea. Why the ref didn’t give a yellow for a high tackle on the ball carrier 10metres from the try line I also don’t really understand. Not what happened at the end of the first half. But that was just te most glaring of a number of mystifying decisions that went against us.

  4. Table looking familiar! On field leadership is urgently needed. The push for a young side has resulted in binning experienced leadership. Another game we could have won and didn’t! The ref wasn’t great but not the whole problem.

    1. That “experienced leadership” that has been binned didnt exactly win many grand slams did it!

      Experience comes through young lads getting games, not picking old blokes who lose repeatedly for years.

      1. Kelly Brown is having a great season playing for Saracens who are third in the table. There needs to be a balance in an evolving team. The backs are an exciting blend but they need ball. Possession stats were horrific for long periods.

  5. Finding touch after calling a mark and varying tactics after up and unders continually being fielded with ease (Halfpenny) should be a given even from young players. Rushes of blood to the head becoming synonomous with Wales matches for us.

  6. Shall we start on the breakdown? Totally outplayed there. Scotland stopped over the ball while Wales drove past it and seemed to always own the 3 feet beyond it. In attack it means no chance of a turnover against them and in defence every chance of turning over our ball which they did all too frequently

    When you can’t even gain parity at the breakdown it doesn’t matter who is reffing

  7. Glen Jackson winna be welcome back any time soon. It does appear that calls that would go other teams ways don’t seem to go ours, but this is just shoulder chips really.
    If you’re going to kick to the welsh it must be accurate, we weren’t. Thought russels binning was harsh but at least we got parity through davies binning, which lets be said was even MORE AVOIDABLE (don’t stick your arm out to a player in the air), russel was looking at the ball and then had to protect himself. The breakdown was key though, wales got far quicker ball than we did so always looked better going forward, that said, we’re breaking lines very well but dunbar/bennet crucial to this.

  8. Sorry, to add, the disallowed try to us given, and a penalty, a draw going into the last 5-10 min would have been very interesting to see who blinked 1st

  9. Hugely disappointing match that one. Game was winnable and not a huge number of 6 nations games against the stronger nations have been for us over the last few seasons.

    Add to the guys above and say Laidlaw and Russell were a problem, neither played up to the level of Biggar / Webb. When the Welsh put the ball in the air 90%+ of the time a chaser is under it making a committed effort to catch and often did, at best ours have Visser wafting an arm to slap it back and at worst HalfPenny is catching in stride unopposed. Laidlaw can’t help himself going for length on these kicks, can’t be technical surely? it must be lack of confidence making him feel it’s better to get the defensive line out further than compete for the ball.

    There’s still way more plusses than minuses for me. I know the “false dawn” thing has become a bit of a narrative in the media but the gap has been huge over the years. Ultimately Hogg, Dunbar, J Gray, Harley, Dickinson & a few others are genuinely good at the 6 nations, rather than Scottish, standard. Maybe you get a few interceptions or breaks of the ball and get the wins but that’s two matches at least we’ve been competitive from minute 1 to minute 80. Compare that to Italy so far to see the improvement.

    I wouldn’t change the side though (besides the players who missed through injury/Murray, would love to see Ashe and Seymour play a couple of these games at full fitness. The likes of Laidlaw, Russell, Cowan, R Gray, Harley – a good few had an underwhelming game but they’ve had other games in the last half dozen when they’ve been superb.

    Couple of other things… Hidalgo-Clyne should have been on that pitch 15 minutes earlier and arguably Tonks at some stage. Got to be pro-active in those situations. Also Bennett is going to need strength work to compete at the breakdown if he wants that starting spot. With his size he could be awkward over the ball to clear but he’s so light he’s just taken out right away in first contact. Good player though, should start all 5 games if fit for the experience.

    1. aye, felt for tonks a wee bit but whom do you bring off when its tight, Hogg did a grand job, and russel…leave him to find his feet.

  10. Law 21.7 (d) – players must not prevent a penalty by kicking the ball away. Sanction, penalty advanced 10 metres. Jackson ignored this twice by Wales in the second half. Captains responsibility to remind him of this, not just wave his arms around like a prat!

    1. Was laidlaw still on at that point?i was thinking that it’s the captains responsibility to be in the referees ear when the Welsh were continuously infringing in the last ten minutes or to request a video replay of the SHC ‘knock on’ leading up to the MB try.going through the scotland team left on the pitch at those times, not sure who that would be! Absolutely delighted with the enterprise of this Scotland team and always thought that this six nations match might be too soon for this squad to make a real impact considering how inexperienced at international most of the team is. Absolutely believe that with Glasgow topping the Pro 12, Edinburgh a point away from being in fifth that Scotland are going to be winning these matches in a year or twos team.

  11. If the referee had made the Welsh take kick off wouldn’t they just have kicked it dead on the full… i.e. scrum half way line and everyone walks off anyway?

    See a lot of people online debating the rule book but at the time I assumed it made no odds.

    1. you can’t do that, kicking it out deliberately is a penalty hence Scotland would get possession on the centre spot.

  12. I am really disappointed that we lost, but I am not one for blaming anyone. The referee made errors, but he is human. More yellow cards could have gone to both sides. Wales won because they had more experience, running the clock down and playing the referee very well. They also out muscled us in the loose, breaking the gain line time and time again, especially in the second half. However, with a bit more precision, patience and calm nerves, we could have won by a big margin. This is tough to take, but a good lesson in how to win. I still fancy us to beat Italy and to run both the Irish & the English close, if not sneak a win. We faced a good side, containing a good number of British & Irish Lions and pushed them to the limit. This bodes well for the future, perhaps this tournament came a little early for our development, but the World Cup could be a great time for us.

  13. Another frustrating afternoon.. A game that was there for the taking….
    Referee – truly baffling decisions (even more than normal) looked well out of depth!
    Basic Mistakes at key times.. Poor game management!
    Russell- clearly has some game but unforgivable kicking mistakes..Got to make touch!!
    However, players should take. A lot of credit.. Hogg world class!
    Lots of positive to promise a new dawn

  14. Absolutely gutted by the result and the fact the game was there to be won. Yes, the referee didn’t help us, but I do feel he was all over the shop in general – how both teams didn’t face cards for repeated penalities I’ll never know and Wales were extremely fortunate not be done for kicking the ball away/high tackle.

    As others have rightly pointed out, perhaps Laidlaw could/should have made more of certain situations, demanding replays etc from the ref however, hopefully Vern will drill this into him and he can learn form that experience.

    For me, I’m positive. Yes, we’ve lost again, however in the last 6 months we’ve put in good performances against NZ, France and Wales. We can argue all day long about the respective strengths of those teams and what happened on each occasion, however at long last we are competing with them. The Welsh team yesterday was virtually the same one who stuck 50 odd points on us last year.

    The “False Dawn” thing has been spun so many times, however we’ve never gone into one of these era defining phases, so to speak, with a genuinely brilliant coach at the helm. Hadden, Robinson, WIlliams, Johnson…they’re not exactly heavy weights are they? We need to be more clinical, we need to put games to bed, we need to improve discipline but these are things the talented squad we now possess, can develop under what appears to an astute and talented coach.

    Finally, do we have any more news on the Seymour and Maitland injuries? Are they out for the tournament?

  15. I was told we should be looking for 3 wins this year – little did I know they’d involve a win at HQ – awesome – cannae wait!

    Referee moans and grumbles to the side – this was a mixed bag thats left me a bit perplexed if I’m honest……

    Attack: We made some half gaps and made good yards with combo of hard running, good offloading and some nice angles – but when we got into the last 5 yards we reverted back to type – hoping to pummel our way over the line at close range before giving away a daft penalty (or before ref gets bored and blows up just so he can get his half time cuppa) – this was depressingly familiar – the only crumb of comfort is that we seemed to have more of these goal line stramashes than we have done in previous years.

    Defence: Last quarter we looked absolutely knackered – but thats got to be no surprise give how much chasing and tackling we’d had to do – so enevitably we started to fall off tackles, but I think thats a symptom of the possession stats, rather than any breakdown in our defensive patterns – I felt for Scott as well, coming straight into pressure cooker of a game and getting stood up by Davis – few more games under his belt, bit of match sharpness and Scott makes that tackle every day of the week.

    Set Piece: I don’t think we should underestimate how much we’ve improved in both line outs and scrum and this is one area where I think we maintained the momentum of performance from AI’s and Paris – now that our line out is more settled I’d like to see us getting a bit more creative in both mauling from line-out (when we tried the fast ‘running’ maul against France it worked really well) and getting some quick off the top ball straight to first receiver.

    The difference between the teams was very small – same as Paris last week. In Paris, key margins were a bounce of the ball – yesterday, it was small individual errors – not huge in their own right, but when taken as part of the whole, were enough to undermine our performance. I’m not into scapegoating….but as I’m bored and feeling a bit peeved let me flag a few that I think are worthy of a dishonourable mention…

    – Dunbar pass to Bennett when clean through.
    – Defensive line really slow to step up ln build up to Webb try (big Bob Harley excepted)
    – Fin getting charged down (again!) Getting yellow carded at key point in the game (again!) missing touch from penalties to either give us a breather after period of sustained pressure or to give us another attacking platform (again!). Jackson/Weir would have been slaughtered for making these mistakes. I think Fin shows promise, but I don’t think he’s the messiah that some make him out to be. He’s a relatively inexperienced player still trying to find his feet at Pro Club level – so to expect him to suddenly be flawless on the international stage is unrealistic. I wouldn’t right off Weir, Heathcote, Jackson etc just yet.
    – Laidlaw needs to be prepared to change his approach sooner if something isn’t working – be that box kicking straight to one of the best full backs in the business, repeatedly trying to muscle over from 2 feet or persisting with his expectation that he can kick goals from over 35m
    – Visser is undoubtedly good when given a gap, but the problem is just that – he needs to be given a gap. Watched him wander about for 80 mins and only once did I see him go looking for the ball. he’s big and fast but his heid’s not in the game. He needs to up the physicality and aggression and stop checking out his quads on the big screen.
    – Multiple Offenders Slapping the ball out of scrum halfs hands – multiple offences in both France and Wales games. Even our Mini team don’t do that.

  16. Finn Russells yellow card got me thinking ,surely he was the player put in harms way by an opponent.Biggar put himself in danger by choosing to leap 5 or 6 feet in the air and expose players to a boot in the face,remember players do not have to get out of an opponents way as witnessed by the first welsh try where a welsh player ran interference as they call it in american football.All Russell did was try to get his face from being kicked in.As long as someone does not deliberately tackle you in the air it should be play on

    1. The law needs to spell out what is acceptable when competing for a high ball. Russell had his eyes on the ball and realised he was about to get a boot and knee on chest and face and turned away at the last second. If Russell had caught the ball followed by a boot and knee would presumably have merited a red card against the Welshman! Wales have attacked the high ball like this for years doing some serious damage.

    2. Doesn’t matter where Russell was looking. Unless he jumped in the air we was never competing for the ball. He therefore made contact with a player in the air while not competing and it was therefore dangerous. The law is totally clear on this

      1. If you are standing under a ball which is being chased by the kicker who jumps in the air knee and boot leading to catch a ball are you meant to stand aside and give the kicker a free ball. Wales did this time and time again and Scotland lost / didn’t compete in fear of being penalised. If you jump in football with a leading elbow it is a red card Russell would have been seriously injured if he hadn’t turned away.

      2. Hi Douglas. Pretty much yes if you don’t want to wear one. The chaser is going to be doing just that and will leap in the air to take the ball and to ensure that he gets a free catch if noone else jumps for it because anyone on the ground cannot make contact with a man in the air

        This is 100% within the laws and exactly how it is coached. For the defender if he is directly under where the ball is goign to land I suggest he moves and lets someone else on his team advance towards the ball and compete in the air with the attacker on equal terms

        Lets now forget Russell was not stationary. He advance to compete for the ball and pretty well totally mistimed it. That is why it was considered reckless

  17. For a side that had about 5 first caps at Murryfield I think we looked like a pretty gelled side. I understand that everyone is disappointed but just image this team with another 3-4 years under their belt. We are at the stage that Wales were at in about 2004, they brought it lots of youth and then a year later, win the grand slam.

    With Bennet try disallowed for a knock on (even though it wasn’t), Laidlaw stopping so close to the line (at any other time apart from 40/80 mins that would have been a scrum 5 our ball), and dunbars pass (I think it was the pass not Bennets catch) coming so close I feel that luck had an equal measure to play in this loss.

    All in all, everything looked positive, and I think we are still progressing the thr right direction for the upcoming world cup.

  18. Very impressed with how improved Scotland look under Vern Cotter. I am looking forward to seeing them play Samoa in Newcastle.

  19. Pragmatic optimist! Wales and Ireland cheats? LOL you might as well call England,S Africa,NZ and all the other sides cheats then,C’MON that’s a ridiculous thing to say.Scotland do very similar things in the game that you could call cheating also.mmm how many times did Scotland slow the Welsh ball from the rucks and who’s been sited for a dangerous tackle and who was fighting in the last seconds of the match etc etc mmmm could it be the Scottish players? You lost and that is it,you just have to keep improving and like you say learn how to cheat even more!

  20. DP- so do you think cheating is a good thing- remeber Wales lost out on a place in the WC final because of French cheating. Do you think that was fair and just. The same thing happened to us at the weekend. Personally, the referees need to do more to stamp it out. There should be no discussion between the ref and any of the players and any backchat or sucking up should result in yellow/red cards, as it did ion the 70s and 80s.

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