Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 48-7 Italy

Scotland scrum down - pic © Al Ross
Scotland scrum down - pic © Al Ross

It was unusually summery weather for Scotland vs Italy at Murrayfield, with a beach party theme a contrast to the weather when we are normally here for rugby and warm-up music at decibel levels that will have done nothing to placate those that dislike pre-match razzmatazz.

Unfortunately that buzz was undone by a scrum straight from the kickoff, but luckily Roman Poite – no great lover of Scottish set-piece skills in the past – only oversaw one reset before blowing up in Scotland’s favour. A very fit looking Scotland pack made a good fist of the next scrum with the call again “binding on the arm” and gave Greig Laidlaw the first points.

Newly arrived in the starting XV with ground to make up, Finn Russell, Mark Bennett and Stuart Hogg were all more than eager to get into the thick of it alongside Pete Horne who is in the form of his life making darting runs testing the Italian defence. Russell’s second or third touch of the ball was a perfectly judged chip kick that found Sean Lamont who gathered it easily to cross for the game’s first try.

Despite all the scrums there was still a party atmosphere to the opening quarter of an hour with the Scots playing fast and loose Sevens-style attack – including some great hands from Jonny Gray in the thick of it – and the Italians kindly spilling what little ball they had.

It was ambitious if chaotic stuff, but just a little too haphazard to get any results as the Italian defence settled, one particular example being Visser blowing a two on one overlap in favour of some hot-stepping.

The scrum was a continual source of possession and territory for the Scots though, with both props earning the favour of Poite; unusual for props round these parts. The pressure wore as Laidlaw kicked another 3 on 23 mins.

Italy had a couple of kickable penalties but Italy were chasing a gap so felt the need to go for the corner. The maul was collapsed and while he had the advantage, Tomasso Allan chipped into the dead ball where both Visser and Laidlaw flapped at it, but it ended in the grateful possession of Michele Campagnaro. It kept the referee’s attention away from any thought of cards but Italy were right back in it.

After a few more scrums and a replacement prop for Italy who were finding it hard going at the coal face, Scotland blew a good attacking lineout chance and the promise of the opening quarter was diminishing as the match headed to half time.

A strong drive by Scotland gave Bennett and Horne some space to cut loose but all it led to was Minto getting binned before the pack took another crack at the lineout drive. With the influence of specialist coach and water carrier par excellence Nathan Hines beginning to show, the drive took the pack close before Barclay splintered and dove over. You couldn’t really see it grounded, but Poite was looking for reasons he couldn’t award it and there weren’t many to be had. A popular score.

The PA announced half time but Poite had other ideas as Italy had a lineout and a first real chance to threaten the Scottish line. Instead, Laidlaw pinched it and gave Hogg and the backs a spirited sprint up the park which promised much but fizzled out.

Half-time: Scotland 23 – 7 Italy

The opening exchanges of the second half were dominated by Stuart Hogg whose pace was causing all sorts of bother for Italian defenders. Slick hands and nicely timed passing almost put Visser in at the corner but the Italians were there in enough numbers.

They were also eschewing penalty kicks in favour of drilling the lineout drive and the pressure from the pack gave the backs plenty of space to work in and a huge looping pass from Russell found Visser in plenty of space.

Pete Horne had fizzed all match in the centre but went off with a knee knock, giving Matt Scott a vital half hour of game time. He instantly shows the extra heft he brings at 12 and the necessity of stopping him gave Bennett and Russell more room to work with.

Laidlaw kicked a penalty but the Mexican wave had started around a series of set scrums that were clearly not of interest to the record crowd for a summer fixture.

Who could argue?

Things livened up when Sean Lamont intercepted Geldenhuys’ pass around the 22 and ran it in for an easy try. Laidlaw couldn’t convert, but by that point it was mostly over and became all about performance for those players still uncertain of a spot on Big Vern’s bus.

The pack responded well, stopping the Italian maul at about the same point it was crumpling us in the Six Nations. A frustrated Michael Rizzo lashed out at Gordy Reid’s head with his boot and spent 10 in the bin, before Visser made the most of Italy forcing play to intercept and go the distance for a huge cheer.

A period of uncontested scrums and a fully-clothed streaker did little to dispel the listless atmosphere with the result thankfully long beyond doubt, but things got a fillip right at the end when Mark Bennett gathered a loose ball and streaked away. Visser could have had the hat-trick but Bennett’s has pace of his own and earned perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon to put the gloss on a solid hit out for Scotland.


Tries: Lamont (2), Barclay, Visser (2), Bennett
Cons: Laidlaw (2), Russell
Pen: Laidlaw (4)

Tries: Campagnaro
Cons: Allan

Referee: Roman Poite (FRA)

Attendance: 43,831

SRBlog Man of the Match: Plenty of positives up front including Nel, Dickinson, Barclay and Gray but Finn Russell created two tries with his own skill and was at the heart of nearly every attacking move Scotland tried. The players outside him profited and the score was a reflection of how far ahead Scotland’s backs were today.

23 Responses

  1. Jeez..three interception tries at Murrayfield involving Italy. Never thought i’d see the day..oh wait!!! :) Well done Scotland. Still to see a few main players back too. Unfortunately Samoa didnt look to shabby v the baa baas. South Africa starting to sweat a bit now?!

  2. I had planned to post earlier that we should all manage our expectations as it was the first competitive game for a lot of our top players. Glad I didn’t now! VC has got them firing and having fun it seems. Italy were particularly poor, but we forced that on them early on – particularly psychologically with those first few scrums. Off frequent front-foot ball, I thought Laidlaw’s service was quick and we had far fewer misjudged no-chase kicks. The couple of box-kicks he sent up still weren’t great, but he put in an impressive performance overall.

    It’s amazing what a difference that set-piece stability/dominance makes. Well done the front row. How to choose between Barclay, Wilson and Hardie? Cowan under pressure now (only got 20+ minutes as a sub)? I think the other three look more effective, despite Cowan’s industry.

  3. What a great win. Thought we might beat Italy by a few points, but it was one of those nights where everything Italy did turned to dust.
    Really pleased with he pack. The front 5 didn’t buckle at all, even when Italy put huge pressure on in the first two scrums.
    The backs had plenty of front foot ball to work with and looked good.
    The back row were immense, and this is where the selection decisions will be tough to make.

  4. Great result and great performance. I dont want to put too many flies in the pie but please dont get too carried away because Italy were particularly poor. Nevertheless, this is more like the Scotland that played in last years Autumn internationals. The same players played in the 6 nations but were poor. So what has changed- attitude, commitment and determination. Maybe they are playing better owing to competition for places on the bus to England. I just hope we can carry that sort of form to the WC. There have been too many false dawns over that last 5 years.

    However, it should not retract from a great performance. Well done Scotland!

    1. Shaking my head a full 180 degrees in disbelief at this pesimistic post.

      Scotland held their shape and discipline the whole match, played as a team and took almost every opportunity presented.

      This demonstrates the attitude is right. Scotland were clinical in their finishing and I have never seen them present such quick ball.

      The self belief within this team is infectious, They clearly believe in themselves , why should we not believe in them ?

      1. I’m shaking my head at your complete over reaction. When does he say he doesn’t believe in them? He’s praising the team but calling for cautious optimism. Were you shaking your head at Verns post match comments?

      2. ‘Calling for cautious optimism’ ? is that the same as pessimism and why spread it around, ‘catch it and bin it’ I choose to build on the positives rather than re-emphasize the negatives.

        No scotsman will get carried away , but on Saturday they won so get over it.

      3. Get over what? You seem a bit wound up. Cautious optimism is not the same as pessimism. Thought that would be fairly obvious, you could always google the definitions though if that would help.

      4. Hardly wound up , I think that is you.

        I am positive about the build up and have no need for ‘cautious optomism’ which is really hedgeing your bets in case it does not work out. I am just looking forward , not back. However you can reflect with the negativity of last season , it is a personal choice , but just keep it personal IMO. We have done all that already in here , several times over.

      5. Where am I “reflecting on the negativity of last season”?I didn’t post anything negative regarding the result. I was commenting on you getting your knickers in a twist about another poster that was refusing to get carried away.

  5. Well done Scotland. Great result and a controlled and exciting performance. I love the way we are playing.
    Front 5 was awesome today for the first 50 minutes and even with the changes we were a very strong unit. Our clearing out was so accurate it gave Laidlaw time and options. He played well today and only a couple of weaker box kicks. The backs can still improve (Bennett was a bit rusty in bits) but by god they look as if they can take apart any team – All Blacks included.
    Back row played really well and I thought Wilson and Barclay earned a place on the bus. Vern has his work cut out between now and Monday.

  6. Nice one, Scotland. Just about to watch the recording now having only been able to dip in and out of the live coverage. Scrum looked strong and that’s encouraging. Line out throwing and catching impressive too. Barclay looking like he’s in the 2010 Killer B’s zone again. The back row RWC selection options must be really hard for Vern and co to wrestle with. Not getting carried away of course in the euphoria of a 48-7 win, but it’s all progress towards a strong RWC Group showing I hope.

  7. Well I have to say, that was above and beyond what I was hoping for (which was a solid victory). For the first time in a while pretty much all aspects of the game appeared to be executed well (with the caveat of being at the match, so may have missed some details). It could easily have been 50 – 0 if not for some flappy hands and a couple of missed kicks. Lots to praise, but I particularly enjoyed Wilson and Barclay’s speed and effect at the breakdown, the scrum dominance, and the work around the maul. Our seats were better than usual and just as I was enjoying some huge hits from Lamont and remarking that he could do a good shift at 6 if he wanted to extend his career by a couple more years, he grabbed the interception and whisked off. Class! Some really good players out there and the fact that we are getting record attendances on the back of a 6N whitewash shows that there is a sense of hope and belief in this team. Shouldn’t end on a negative, but the end to the first half was farcical, The clock (which the player has to take his cue off) was at 40, and then to add insult to injury Poite blocked Horne on the counter attack! Well, thankfully it was a result where we can be relaxed about such things. On to France now and I hope that the team will build on the intensity, rather than bath in complacency. Also hope that the injury count will stay low.

  8. Thought Poite had a mixed game. Reffed the scrum and breakdown well, aside from one point in the lead up to Bennett’s try (highlights on Scottish rugby YouTube channel, happens at 8:15). McInally tackles Geldenhys and gets back on his feet to contest the ball legally but is cleared out blatantly from our side of the ball by an Italian prop. Not that it matters given the conclusion of that phase, but it was a blatant offence and it annoys me that it went unseen. And of course the whole half-time farce was a shocker. Poor game management and communication from the ref. But enough of the ref, great play all round by Scotland. All the forwards had good/great games, Russell and Lamont shone in the backs. I wouldn’t change the team much for France, perhaps play Haride and Barkley as the flankers, Richie Gray in for Gilchrist, and Seymour in for Visser to give him a run.

  9. Re the half time farce – for me the responsibility lies 100% with the SRU They are responsible for the clock at Murrayfield. They are responsible for stopping and starting it and should be checking with the official time keeper to see it is correct. If the TV can get it right why can’t they?

    Trust me poite is at the bottom of my list for competence but on this occasion he was playing official time while the stadium clock was in fantasy land

    1. I omitted to say the responsibility lay with Russell and Laidlaw to confirm with ref that the stadium timer was correct

    2. Having been at the game and a couple of pints to the good I was indeed a bit fuming at the whole farce. Having now watched the replay, I can see that Poite did nowt wrong and indeed Russell should have checked before hoofing it (and the stadium clock should keep time t avoid confusion). As Paterson said in the commentary though – it’s a tough lesson (which he’d also experienced) and better to learn it now than in the tournament proper.

  10. Visser stepped up big time. Looked hungry, menacing and very likely changed the perception that any Italian tacklers had of him. Good stuff big guy.

    Laidlaw – touch less flapping and quicker release of the ball would elevate this chap greatly. Any moves in our backs begins at the moment the 9 gets the ball. If the 9 holds onto it, unless it’s an intended part of the move, our backs need to compensate which in turn reduces our line shape and speed. There was a difference when Pyrgos came on. It was more fluent and allowed the 1st receiver to orchestrate things.
    GL was a lot more prominent as a Captain, kicked his goals well and his assist with Barclays try was awesome. Great vision from him there. Some wayward passing I won’t criticise as it was his first game back so likely down to being rusty. Deserves his rating on the other thread. Towards the end of the game I thought he was a contender for MOM. Let’s see a repeat performance next week with a few tweaks. Having said that I would like to see how he does off the bench.

  11. This was a great result and our boys played well but I just wonder if it is deja vu. Remember how well we played in the Autumn internationals of 2014 and then remember how poor we were in the 6 nations. My point is- please do not get carried away by a victory over one of the also rans. Laidlaws pointless garryowens and box kicks would have been punished if we had been playing a semi decent team. For some reason our forward pack dominated the opposition giving the backs, and Laidlaw in particular, more time on the ball. That’s probably the reason he played fewer stupid kicks than he normally does. However, had we been playing England or Ireland, with our forwards on the back foot, he would have almost certainly showed his true colours. Just remember Ireland vs. Scotland in the 6 nations. That’s why I think Pyrgos has to be our number one choice at stand off with SHC as cover.

    I genuinely think we have a chance of rocking France next weekend but the real test will be the WC. If we can keep up the momentum and play Pyrgos then I think we will come in second and may even push SA close. I just worry that VC is so keen on playing Laidlaw and that could cost us dear.

    On a plus note, the forwards played quite well and the team seemed to gel, even if it was against mediocre opposition. A more accurate test will come next weekend.

  12. Neil, I agree on two points you have been making. Firstly we should not get carried away too much with the result but it was a really good win and boosts confidence and vital momentum. It has also given BVC a lot of headaches re his final 31 – great news and which has finally put us on a par – as far as player depth is concerned – with the likes of Wales and Ireland.

    As much as I agree with you about Laidlaw – whose two ” kicks” were poor and returned with interest – he is the squad captain and will be the starting SH. It’s as simple as that so we accept it and hope and pray he plays well. He has the respect of the players and management but any dip in performance will see Pyrgos and possibly SHC replace him at any point. As I said in an earlier post we are lucky to have these three.

    So we wait for our final 31 – no doubt plenty of chat about that this week and just as importantly another performance against France. This match is so important guys. We don’t need to win it but another big performance is required. A big well done again to the original squad of players that took Ireland so close. It was this gutsy display that has set us up nicely for the WC!!

  13. I commented after I think it was the Irish game about Jackson not coming into the defensive line and now I am wondering if this is a tactic

    When Visser got his intercept the Italians were 10 yards out from our line and Jackson was crabbing along the goal line.

    Visser was facing a 2 on 1 and if he hadn’t intercepted then their wide man was unmarked with only Jackson coming across to defend.

    I question whether he would have been able to stop the try.

    This is as opposed to being further across and up and in a position to take man and ball before he got any momentum on

  14. Scrums – I know we did a lot better and for that I am pleased. Having said that I believe there is an inherent instability in them. Take a look at the pre engage.

    The problem

    You can see the middle rows moving around everywhere. The reason is simple – they have their inside leg back and positioned while their outside leg is forward and on their knee

    Ok first thing is Why do locks or coaches insist on the outside leg being forward while the inside one is stable? It is the outside shoulder that is on the prop and this side is the one that must be stable at all times especially just prior to and during engagement

    So what is happening is that as they come up and into their “stable” positions immediately prior to engagement there is instability which can be seen by arses flapping in the wind and different heights between the locks

    While they are trying to stabilise themselves the engage is called. The result is a lack of stability on the props and a fight to get balanced by the front and middle rows

    The solution.

    Both knees on the ground and the feet already in their pushing spots. No 8 then pulls their arses up to help them rise and they are straight away stable

    If you look at Denton you will see he is not providing any assistance to the middle row to get on their feet pre enagement so they are fighting on their own

    Take a look at any ABs scrum tape or the Quallabies and you will see they have this sorted

    To me this is a serious problem. Don’t be fooled by our performance against a well sub standard Italian 8 at the weekend

  15. Great all round performance against a very sub par Italy, will be looking forward to the French match before making my mind up completely but a great showing never the less.

    Will try not to repeat everyone, but I was impressed with Lamont, he seems to be really enjoying his rugby at the moment and its great to see him playing so well.

    Was also great to see Bennett and Visser getting scores as this will boost their confidence come the real world cup.

    Laidlaw was solid and didn’t waste too much time although I was worried with him missing quite easy kicks with no real pressure on, when it comes to WC time making your kicks is one of the most important parts and leaves me wondering who our best goal kicker even is?

    Was great to see the scrum performing but it will be a better test when we play the French (same thing with the line out).

    Just hope we can keep up to consistency, but for once, with this bunch of players, I actually feel quite confident that we can.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion