Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland vs Argentina – Player Ratings

Magnus Bradbury in action during Scotland vs Argentina
[Edinburgh, UK. November 19, 2016] Magnus Bradbury in action during Scotland vs Argentina in the Autumn Test at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

15. Stuart Hogg: 6 – Lucky to get away with just a penalty for a high tackle early in the second half and got a lucky bounce on a kick in the dying minutes. But then don’t great players make their own luck? On the negative side, too easily steamrollered for Orlando’s try.

14. Sean Maitland: 6 – Looked for more work than last week and took his try well, as he should. Almost no ball first half; not really a game for him.

13. Huw Jones: 7 – Used to tackling Jaguares, his highlight of the first half was a crunching tackle that brought the crowd to life and knocked the ball loose. It wasn’t his fault it meant another scrum. Created Maitland’s try single-handed with power and deft passing off the deck before hobbling off shortly afterwards, worth a point for that alone.

12. Alex Dunbar: 6 – Tackled well all night. Didn’t do much else in what was overall a very poor game for both sides.

11. Tommy Seymour: 6 – Didn’t get much to do first half. In the second, his chase won a great attacking 5m lineout before his pack squandered it. Good to see him back though.

10. Finn Russell: 6 – A few too many ineffectual up-and-unders in the first half gave Arg too many chances to play. Took a high ball nicely to earn the first points and tried two drop goals to win it, neither of which came off.

9. Greig Laidlaw: 6.5 – Made some surprising snipes early on. Like the rest of the team, guilty of too much loose passing and his usual foible of poor box kicks. A much more rounded performance from the skipper but once again a kick off the post almost cost Scotland the win. Extra half point for slotting the winner.

1 Allan Dell: 6 – Had a couple of good carries  in the first half but gave away the penalty for Argentina to equalise. Looked more involved this week than last and almost went the full distance. Will start again next week unless Dickinson returns.

2 Fraser Brown: 6 – Filling in for 100-cap Ross Ford he hit his lineouts, but wasn’t able to terrorise in the loose as he sometimes does for Glasgow.

3 Zander Fagerson: 5 – Argentina were up in his face from the off to unsettle him. The scrum was under heavy pressure and his inexperience showed. Replaced on 50mins. Still put in some big hits and once again although under the cosh, it didn’t cost too many points. Would like another crack, I’m sure. Which is just as well because Georgia love a scrum.

4 Grant Gilchrist: 5 – struggled to punch Richie Gray sized holes but didn’t have many carrying chances till the second half.

5 Jonny Gray: 7 – still in top form but had too little ball to show it. Drove one decent maul first half and spoiled an ominous-looking Argentine one in the second. Makes yards or just inches with every carry even if everyone is going backwards. His talents are wasted packing down in endless scrums though.

6 Magnus Bradbury: 6 – taken off on 50mins but should have had more. Some strong tackles that may become his trademark and one nice half break that saw him difficult to bring down.

7 Hamish Watson: 7 – Tireless effort, but was well shackled. Jackalled a couple of good turnovers.

8 John Barclay: 6 – Strong carries the same as last week and had a good tussle with the Argentine pack. He’s clearly relishing role as senior statesman of pack. Some vital driving, or shall we say “mucking about in the ruck” when Argentina were inches from the line  in the first half coughed the ball loose and allowed Scotland to break out.


16. Ross Ford: 7 – The scrum steadied with his heft on as a blood replacement in the first half. It still coughed up penalties, mind. Strong chasing, and impact sub might be a good role for him.

17. Alex Allan: 6 – Only given 6 minutes.

18. Moray Low: 4 – the scrum still leaked penalties when he replaced Fagerson and he was stopped dead on most of his carries.

19. Tim Swinson: 5 – Only had a few minutes.

20. Ryan Wilson: 6 – Carried strongly when he came on and didn’t drop the restart this time. Still on the bench for me though, Bradbury deserves another shot.

21. Ali Price: not used.

22. Pete Horne: 6 – Came on with 23 mins to play but couldn’t get really involved despite the ball being in good positions. Injured on 78 mins.

23. Tim Visser: 5 – Only on for 2 minutes and wasn’t used despite having acres of space on his wing to run into.

74 Responses

  1. I think Dunbar needs a higher score: immense tackling and his attempted ripping or turnovers always slowed Argentinian ball.
    Why was Bradbury taken off having played 10 great minutes of the second half – strange timing?
    I can’t agree with the Laidlaw score; compared with other international scrum halves he is slower to act (still takes 3-5 steps sideways) and his pass considerably slower in the air and with a much shorter range. Gareth Davies passed 50% further but in half the time to Sam Davies for the Welsh Drop Goal. And some point we need to move on from hos level of performance. He does have a knack of doing just enough to retain his place in Cotter’s eyes.
    Back row did very well again.

  2. Disagree with this assessment quite strongly:

    Hogg: 6.5 Quiet game again but still a very dangerous player,
    Maitland: 6.5 Didn’t see much of the ball but was there when needed
    Jones: 7 Likewise didn’t see much ball but was solid in defense and great for the try
    Dunbar: 7 Not a headline grabbing performance but made lots of crucial tackles and turnovers
    Seymour:6.5 Great under high ball quiet game though.
    Russell: N/A unfair to give him a rating due to the horrific service he received
    Laidlaw: 3.5 Simply put, He is not a good scrum half, absolutely horrific perfromance

    Barcley: 6 Quiet but effective
    Watson: 7 has made the step up to international rugby with flying colours
    Bradbury: 6.5 Strong carries wonder why he came off so early
    Gray: 8 Sensational work rate, stats don’t lie
    Gilchrist: 6.5 Good carries, less of a distributor than Richie
    Fagerson: 5.5 Struggled in scrum but he has bags of potential
    Brown: 6.5 Solid performance odd poor throw here and there though
    Dell: 7 Looking international standered

  3. Jonny Gray and Watson stood out in a team that struggled to get control.
    Laidlaw was truly awful and as a result the backs had no opportunities

    1. After all the comments made below in his defense I stand by my comments on Laidlaw. And I am not a brigade, whatever that might be! ‘Best we have” is a poor justification of mediocrity.
      The comparison is not other Scots but No 9’s in the other National teams. He is not the best at anything in the SH’s arsenal of slights, tricks & tactical manouvers, except place kicking.

      1. I think you are wrong about Laidlaw, but that is by the by, we are all entitled to an opinion.
        But surely the only point of complete negativity about a particular player from a fan is to propose an alternative who would improve the team.
        That makes the ‘best we have’ argument pretty persuasive.

  4. Sorry but the ‘Laidlaw-is-terrible’ brigade have got this one wrong. He didn’t have a great game by any means, but then no one did barring the two flankers and Jonny. That said, I hope Price gets some decent minutes against Georgia or we’re going to be screwed when Greig retires. Bradbury looked good on debut and was unlucky to get pulled off so quickly. Fagerson probably lucky not to get carded given the chasing he got at the scrum, but he’ll learn.

    1. I agree with this. Laidlaw is the best we have. I’m a Glasgow season ticket holder and Pyrgos is not the answer for Scotland. Price needs to be given some game time but indicative of current standing of scrum halves that Laidlaw plays all 80 in tight games.

  5. I’m not a Laidlaw hater but the decision to take the drop goal play (second one) was baffling. The ball was so slow Russell had no chance, although he didnt look like he was in the right place.

    On the positives, J Gray was awesome- shame lions second row looks so competitive.

    Jones outside step looks world class- lions bolter?

    Overall, Scotland looked like Glasgow against Munster in terms of a lack of zip or intensity. Pressure was on and I would say they froze. Saying that, beating Argentina, even if under strength, when playing poorly as a team is a step forward for Scotland.

    The core and also depth of a good, competitive side is there. Fingers crossed!

    1. Huw Jones 9 too. Second time in a week, phenomenonal outside breaks to make the difference when it matters. Class.

  6. Whatever the score you want to put on our lads,they were all one point ahead of their opposite numbers.

    Scotland were the fitter side and had the game gone on a bit longer, only one side had the legs for it.

    Some years ago they would never have had the confidence to back themselves in a drop goal shoot out. A far from perfect performance, but the heads are staying up after the howlers, and there were a few of them.

    I think they are finaly managng to master the famous quote by Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t , your right’.

    Now that is a breakthrough IMO.

    NEXT please.

  7. Inaccuracy was the order of the day. Thought Brown was really poor at the line-out – even the ones we took weren’t clean and the over-throw on the 5 yard line was criminal. Again Ross Ford came on and showed why he continues to be our first choice hooker. When your scrum is struggling you NEED your line-out to function and the pressure we were under off the back of the scrappy set piece led to more inaccuracy out wide.

    Watson was phenomenal and Bradbury showed up really well – the two got around superbly, both in defence and attack. Wilson also carried well when he came on.

    Maitland was completely comatose for that Argentine try – it took him half an hour to get on his bike – and let’s face it anyone could have finished off that try after Jones’ break. Also he never wins the collision – he’s so afraid of contact that he falls over before he even gets there in his desperation to avoid it – Hoyland needs to get a crack at the Georgian back three next week – he and Seymour are our only Test-worthy wingers at the moment.


    1) The average age of our starting 1-7 was just 23 and they stood up well.

    2) We won and we’re up into 7th (behind Wales and South Africa who both appear to be in serious decline) and we’re almost certain to stay there given FRA have NZ and ARG have England, so long as we don’t slip on a Georgian banana peel…

    3) If we do beat Georgia next week we’ll have won more games than we’ve lost this calendar year – first time since 2010.

    4) Jones’s work for the try was superb but if he’s taken a knock we’ve got a perfect replacement.

    5) 14000 more people showed up to this game than the same fixture 2 years ago – the public are definitely responding to our improving side.

    1. Really good point on the ages of the 1-7. They also averaged less than 9 caps. The Argentina front 7 averaged over 33.

  8. We’re a hard bunch to please, play well against the wallabies and lose and we’re not happy, play badly against the pumas and win and we’re not happy.

    All in all a fairly terrible match, so many handling errors and messy scrums it was impossible to get any flow going, don’t think the ref helped as he seemed to be pinging everything (on both sides).

    As I was at the game for a change I’ll have to rewatch but I have to say I (unusually) don’t agree with the Laidlaw bashing. He by no means had his best game, he threw a few wonky passes but I don’t think he was that pedestrian, when we were going forward he was quite snappy. I think Russell wasn’t standing deep enough for the second drop goal, I said at the time he’s too close to them, he was right in front of the posts so dropping back another 5 yards wouldn’t have hurt him.

    Restarts are long beyond a joke, not quite as catastrophic today as last week but still a shambles.

    Think we should be pretty happy, grinding out wins not playing our best is something we struggle with and something the pumas are very good at.

  9. Finding a way to win has always been problematic but they did it….the Argies are always hard to beat but they were outfought by this team and these games are never going to be a showcase because we don’t have too many stars. However we had at least 15 “triers” yesterday and for once they went for 84 minutes! We were better than the two teams we have played in the past 2 weeks. That’s important and these players worked hard for this win and grinding it out is the only way. Well done!

  10. Agree with most of the above, that was a game that we would’ve historically lost, the guys put in a tremendous effort against a team that no-one beats easily.

    We do still struggle in an arm-wrestle

    In Huw Jones we seem to have a guy who is from the top drawer.

    The line-out is a puzzle

    If you consider Dickinson, Nel, J.Gray, Du Preez, Strauss, Taylor would be in the 23

    Laidlaw is a very good kicker but has he the game to make the most out of this team & the way we need to play??

    Du Preez to start next week & Hughes/Hoyland on the wing………

  11. Going into next week the team I would pick would be:

    1- Dickinson, 2- Brown, 3- Nel (If Fit), 4- R Gray, 5- J Gray, 6- Bradbury, 7-Watson, 8- Du Preez
    9- Pyrgos, 10- Russell, 11- Seymour, 12- Bennett, 13- Jones, 14- Hoyland, 15- Hogg

    16- McInally, 17- Dell, 18- Fagerson, 19- Gilchrist, 20- Barcley, 21- Price, 22- Dunbar, 23- Taylor

    1. Agree Nel at tight head first choice but no idea how ready he will be for an international match.
      It would be a tough call to drop Barclay to the bench after an excellent display v Oz and a decent showing against a tough and streetwise Arg pack.
      I think Dunbar’s value to our national side is underrated, and he has the bulk, pace and muscle to compete at tackle points with the big Georgians. I see no reason for dropping Dunbar from the starting line-up. Having said that, I’d like to see Bennett get some game time, more likely from the bench as wing or centre cover.

      1. Nel is being rested for the full International window, he may be assisting at training (Dickinson is) but won’t be involved. Likewise very unlikely Taylor will be back.

    2. Dickenson and Nel will not be match fit and it makes no sense to start them, if indeed it makes any sense to include them.

      Dell had a good game and is capable of competing with Dickenson for the start place.

      On the other side Fagerson was competent. Towards the end of the first half the ref finally worked out it was the argy was the culprit.

      The guy who was finally exposed to the general public as a poor tackler was Hogg. He is a great attacker who breaks the line however in my book scores average only on team work and low on tackling. Is his place in any danger? Never, but playing him shapes the rest of the back line.

      The point I make is that he comes at a higher cost than anyone thinks, as in, someone else needs to be there to put in the tackles before they reach him. That someone is Dunbar or Bennett, no wonder they are always injured.

      As for Maitland , said it all before, an also ran. Yesterdays try was on a plate and an average club player could have finished that one.

      No arguments with his exclusion and on balance, if there is any International in the next 6, to try out a new winger , this is it.

      I suspect we will not innovate, play safe choices, cement the Top 8 ranking and defend it in the 6N.

    1. No – we are Scottish and our glass is always half empty – we’re all now waiting for Georgia to put us in our place next week ! :) :)

  12. Was at the game this week and last, its fair to say i was delighted this week. We’ve won a game we maybe shouldn’t have but that breeds confidence. We have our two first choice props to return (which would turn our scrum around from a weakness to a clear strength). We’re missing our 1st 2nd and 3rd choice No. 8 (Strauss, Ashe and Denton) so Barclay played there admirably and did what he is good at but he is not an international 8. We’ve unearthed a gem of a centre (which we seem to have a knack for lately). And climbed up the rankings. Good weekend.

    Also anyone remember we were getting a bit of stick after the our summer tour to Japan but Welsh were a lot luckier than us to win their game against the brave blossoms, and they were at home!

  13. Surely giving the young front row another chance to play together and gain experience is merited? If Nel and Dickinson are fit then 20 mins off the bench seems better than breaking them by throwing them on from the start. Edinburgh tried that with Nel already and that didn’t go well!

    The more opportunities Fagerson and Dell get means they will (hopefully) get better and we will be less worried about injuries to Nel and Dickinson.

    1. Don’t feel we need to throw Nel and Dickinson need to play this last game, no offence to Georgia. I was just saying they will add strength to the team moving into the 6N.

      1. Totally correct…no real need to re-introduce players just back from longer term injuries…but as the last game of three also no real need to rest anyone either.

        Suspect the best team is status-quo with perhaps a few injury-related changes.

  14. I was just thinking about the problem Cotter has on his hands when it comes to are first choice team when everyone is fit and on form.
    I would pick:
    1- Dickinson, 2- McInally, 3- Nel, 4- Gray, 5- Gray, 6- Hardie, 7- Watson, 8- Bradbury
    9- Pyrgos, 10- Russell, 11- Hoyland, 12- Dubar, 13- Bennett, 14- Seymour, 15- Hogg

    16- Brown, 17- Sutherland, 18- Fagerson, 19- Gilchrist, 20- Barcley, 21- Price, 22- Bennett, 23- Taylor

    1. Bennett starting and on the bench.

      Laidlaw is captain and kicker so he’s not being dropped especially for Prygos, your team has no cover at 10 either.

      1. Not to mention no Huw Jones. But the salient point is ‘I don’t like Laidlaw and want rid’ – a thinly-veiled reminder.

      2. Oops meant to put Jones starting Bennett on the bench. And the problem at 10, I would have Hogg ready to move in or Jones both could do a job, and as kicker if Russell went off either Bennett, Hogg, Pyrgos would cover.

    2. But that is a pipe dream. This autumn series, to date, has been positive in the blooding and developing new props, back row forwards and a centre. The team, as many point out, needs to develop back-up for both half-back positions which are vulnerable if our starters are injured or out of form.

  15. Constant references to Dickinson and Nel as panaceas for our scrummage problems I find worrying, if we at the same time claim new strength-in-depth. The front row is the most attritional, combative, and physically-wearing place to play and it is absolutely imperative to our future CONSISTENCY of success that we have two front rows of near-equal quality. We do indeed have some young, up-and-coming props who with a bit of test exposure will soon fit the bill. Unless we have sufficient reserves in this area, we will always be vulnerable to teams that can engineer penalties in the scrummage and gain cheap points ranging from 3 per penalty to 5 / 7 from lineout drives.
    I actually thought Fagerson held up well yesterday and it was only when replacement props were brought on that our scrum really crumbled.
    Re-Hogg, I find it a bit of a mystery why Peter Murchie, his “understudy” at Warriors, isn’t given some international opportunity. Maitland and Visser always give me the impression of a lack of hunger. Bring on (e.g.) Hoyland with his attacking flair and conviction.

    1. In truth the LH situation is OK. Dickinson has anoother few seasons in him, and Sutherland is a young, able deputy. Dell and Allen are young and look promising, and Reid can do a job too. We’ve just been unfortunate that all the injuries have come along at once.

      TH is looking a bit sparse though. Nel is quality and Zander has a bright future, but beyond that the cupboard is bare (as far as I’m aware).

      Re. Murchie: Great servant for Glasgow but he’s nothing more than a dependable Pro12-level player.
      For me fullback goes Hogg….daylight….Maitland, Seymour, Kinghorn…more daylight….Murchie

      1. For me the Prop situation is ok , we have plenty options at LH. Dell is athletic as well as technically capable and I do not recall having that combination since Tom Smith.

        TH is the vulnerability and we are still looking for a third option however at least we have two.

        As for Hooker , I really so not see a complete player in any of them. Brown throwing to the back is not even a 50/50 call anymore, Ford is what he is and I doubt McInally can raise his game to meet the technical side of the front row.

        Pat McArthur is inconsistent and a club player at best, however I can see both him and James Malcolm coming on a bit if they can learn from Corey Flynn at Glasgow.

        Not sure if Flynn is being used in the academy’s however I suspect the SRU have been looking well ahead when they hired him for Glasgow.

        Bring on Georgia , we are ready for it now.

      2. Callum Mcullum (?) has out in some big performances for Edinburgh after moving to TH – he played LH in the same front row as Fagerson for the u-20s. If he keeps getting game time he could definitely be on the fringes of the squad by the next World Cup.

      3. Nope tht isn’t right -Murray McCallum is who I mean. He was very impressive against Quine alongside jack cosgrove

  16. Laidlaw was lucky not to lose us the game this week again, I can’t help but feel that he has served the country well but with the appearance of Ali Price and Henry Pyrgos his international career must be getting near the end. Greig is a dependable pair of hands (too slow at the breakdown and waves his hands at the referee looking for penalties) on the plus side his kicking is often one the best attributes to be seen from a NH player for around the last 5/6 years.

    1. The latter point is the decisive factor though. I wouldn’t want us relying on Russell’s kicking. He (or Hogg or Pyrgos) needs to first prove he can be reliable from the tee for Glasgow before I’d be happy for Scotland to go without Laidlaw’s boot.

  17. Georgia are probably the best scrummaging side in the world, in fact they may be clearly the best. Fagerson and Dell should get another oppurtunity to learn and gain experience but anything close to parity will be a huge achievement. I think it’s imperative Ford starts and I’d keep the second row the same to maximise the heft and grunt in our tight five for what will be an attrional encounter, the backrow and the backs will win us the game but the tight five must strive not to be utterly destroyed. I’d have Allan and McCallum on the bench if it was me as well. Reid is a decent club player but not international class and the less said about Low the better. Stick the young lads with potential on the bench instead.

  18. I can’t help feeling that the Laidlaw bashers just see what they want to see. If you concentrate on the performance of one player whilst watching you are bound to see all the mistakes – the Scots way of glass half full. I decided to test this and re-watched, concentrating on Russell and Hogg – two “golden boys” who I’m sure the Laidlaw bashers would regard as beyond reproach. I was sure after the first watching that neither had their best game in the jersey, but watching a second time and concentrating on their positioning, handling, accuracy of passes, defence and general demeanour I was sure at the end that neither should be picked for next weeks match. Honestly – doing your own “player watch” means you see your heroes in a totally different light. Try it yourself. If I had time I’d watch the match again 15 times just to prove my point – nobody has/had a perfect game. Except maybe Jonny Gray! Another top tackle count and none missed.

    1. It is not the mistakes he makes though it is his actual ability, his pass is too slow, not just on occasion but every time he takes to the field. He is simply not good enough as a scrum half.

  19. Completely agree re:front row. Need to continue to be bring the young lads on and they need the Georgia test towards that. Looking ahead to February 4th, if we’re leading Ireland by 4 or 5 points going into the last 20 minutes and, with all due respect, the likes of Reid or Low are coming on how comfortable do you feel? This is what seems to mark us out against the other sides at this level.
    We’ve actually now got the competition and strength in depth across the backs (perhaps over-reliance on Hogg) and the back row is looking really good now with Watson and Bradbury coming on. In the second row, IF Gilchrist can stay fit we have three genuine options so a little light again (can’t afford for any of the three to be get injured IMHO) but at least there is ‘some’ cover and it’s a position that doesn’t perhaps have the same toll over 80 minutes. However, the front row IS the area you need to make changes and this, for me, will mark out whether we can be competitive in the next few seasons. As I say, we need to do all we can to bring through the young lads. Ok, Nel, Dickinson and Ford may not be young lads – but they are obviously our first choice front row and the props should have another season or two in them (hooker doesn’t concern me as much). My argument is that the likes of Reid and Low have had their day and don’t represent a realistic chance of being part of a replacement front three to compete at the top level. We must bypass them altogether and go straight for the next generation because if the likes of Fagerson and Dell are not ready (there is no reason why they won’t be) when Dickinson & Nel hang up their boots then we could be in real trouble. I’ve heard Welsh being mentioned for a recall but again would that not feel regressive?

    1. We desperately need a back up FH. Horne is a fine player and decent utility back but we should not rely on a guy who normally plays centre to back up the most important position on the pitch. Hopefully Kinghorn or Hastings will be ready come RWC 2019.

      1. Josh Henderson (Stage 3 Glasgow) is a serious talent. Think he’ll be the most likely to challenge Russell going forward but at 19 needs maybe 3 years. Hastings is skillful but his defence is seriously suspect – think he could be one of those fly halves who cause anguish as often as they cause celebration. For me, Kinghorn should stick at 15 – He’s been superb there for Edinburgh and we need an out and out fullback replacement when Hogg gets injured/to provide competition and rotation. His double act with Hoyland at Edinburgh is quite something – can’t wait to see the likes of McCann, Robbins, Appleson, and Graham join them.

      2. Good points Robbie. I can not see Laidlaw being replaced and holds his place in the English Premiership. No small achievement. Furthermore I actually see we need a replacement for Hogg. I get the impression he is difficult to play with and perhaps one of the more self centred players and as we all know, that can be a mixed blessing. So as long as he is there we need to pick a side that complements his strengths, by backfitting his shortfalls, like tackling.

        I think the issue with our side is just there are a lot of compromises. Look at the evidence , we continually pick dream teams , however could they work together to give you a team ?

        I have some sympathy for Cotter. Hookers that cannot throw, limited choices at tighthead, halfbacks that do not quite complement each other, Russell and Hogg who are mavericks, Centres always on the injury list as they tackle like the crack of doom ,covering shortfalls elsewhere. Restart lotteries and a kicking game that is inconsistent at best. Our star for consistency is one of the youngest men on the pitch (both sides) and is a secondrow.

        All in all , we are doing alright when you look at the job he has on his hands.

        Just in case anyone wants to pick holes in my loyalty, I am well proud of them and the efforts they are making to a man, just saying, it is about balance which is needed to complement to lack of bredth and depth.

  20. Wow. 7 for Gray. Talk about coming to expect the exceptional.

    I watched him for most of the match (and for the most part, it’s the same thing as just watching the match). Here’s something I found interesting: for the last 20 minutes, Argentina chop-tackled him. No trying to push him back or hold him up – just get him on the floor, we’ll try again next phase.

    I’ve only ever seen this technique where a team’s giving away a lot of size to their opponents. This was Argentina, who bossed us at the scrum and the breakdown. And they gave up on trying to knock him back. For a second week in a row, JG gets special treatment from the opposition. Albeit a lot less violent than the special treatment Skelton handed out.

    Elsewhere, Watson was joyfully combative all day, Bradbury looks at home at this level, the young front row hung in there amongst much more experienced opposition, and while the backs didn’t get to do much, Dunbar was like having an extra 7 and Jones showed his class again.

    The half backs had a tough day, but they’ve been so pivotal to so much of our good play this year (check out Rugby Dump’s videos of Scotland’s attacking platform during the 6 Nations) that it would be suicidal to get rid.

    And then there was the ending. Frustrating that we missed 3 chances to win the game, impressive that we made a 4th. It was Russell (with Dunbar), who created the turnover in the last minute. He owed his team one there, but man, did he show some fight.

    1. I thought Scotland’s ability to create those chances at the end was impressive. No panic, controlled the ball in right areas of the pitch and got the end result.

  21. Why no rating for Heather Stanning? She was still on the pitch as the stadium announcer was screeching out the kick-off countdown. She’d have lent a much needed extra pair of hands to help us compete for the ball……..

  22. A lot of the comments above are about the need to develop back up and/or plausible depth. Whether or not you buy into the argument that Laidlaw, doughty competitor that he undoubtedly is, is restricting our potential to play more effectively due to his limitations, surely we should have been giving alternative scrum halves more game time in the last year or two so that we could actually imagine life without Greig. It may have forced other place kickers to pull the finger out too.
    Another scrum half should definitely start vs Georgia. Ali Price’s fizzing long pass and his running pace would run the Georgians ragged and Pyrgos’s speed of thought and good pass also.

    1. A number of issues here. I also would have liked to see Price get a chance, long fast pass will make Russell function better. However, I suspect World Ranking points have been a key issue in selection of our starting SH, Pyrgos hasn’t quite made the step up and I expect Laidlaw to start against Georgia and stay on until the game is secure. That I suspect might take a bit longer than we might hope for.

      Moving on, I hope there is a proper plan to move Kinghorn and Hastings forward. Decide if Kinghorn is a 10 or 15 at top level, let’s not have another Paterson situation. Right now Hastings isn’t getting enough top level game time, that has to be sorted. All our other 10’s have been tried and found wanting. So, to my mind we have to develop youth.

      Same applies at prop. Neil and Dickenson probably have a couple of years left in the tank, possibly longer if looked after properly. So to add to Fagerson (a toddler in prop terms who will come good), Sutherland and Dell (who I have been quite surprised with) we need the next few identified and developed. PDQ.

      Isn’t that what SJ is paid for?

      1. The idea of binning Laidlaw out of the team to give game time to Pyrgos (proven frequently he’s not as good as Laidlaw) and Price (might come good, not sure) is absolutely mental given that we need to desperately cling onto a minimum of 8th position in the rankings by May.

        It might be in the fullness of time that Laidlaw is supplanted by others but in competitive rugby, there absolutely no justification for throwing in another option just because they might end up being better in the future than the incumbent.

        Again though, no moans about him last week when he played behind a pack that was fiercely competitive and providing fast ball. Loads of moans when we were in a scrap for every bit of ball we could put our hands on.

        The common denominator here guys is that Laidlaw plays well when our forwards give him a platform to work off. Saturday would have been a test for almost any scrumhalf.

  23. I have to say that I’m not Laidlaw’s biggest fan, but given the precarious state of our World ranking it would be foolish to start messing around with the scrum half position at this time.

    Yes Laidlaw didn’t play particularly well, but it was by no means his worst performance in dark blue.

    I think that Georgia will be a tough nut to crack and we should start with as strong a team as possible, but maybe have more scope to use the bench if it gets to the last 20 minutes and we’re out of sight, and maybe take that as a chance to see how certain players cope with International rugby.

    Injuries permitting I would like to see:
    Dell, Ford, Fagerson
    Gray, Gray
    Barclay, Watson, Wilson
    Laidlaw, Russell
    Seymour, Dunbar, Jones, Maitland, Hogg
    Subs: Brown, Allan, Low, Gilchrist, Bradbury, Price, Bennett, Hoyland

    As I said though, utilise the whole bench so long as the result is safe. If ranking points weren’t important then I would like to see Hoyland start ahead of Maitland, Bennett in for Jones (although he may get the start anyway), and Bradbury in for Wilson.

  24. People say Pyrgos hasn’t made the step up, but when exactly has he been given any opportunity that he has squandered? Frankly it’s bizarre that his club understudy, by some distance, is somehow keeping him off the international bench. Can’t help but think that as co-captain he is tied in with GT and Cotter is keeping him out in the cold. I think a club spine of Gray, Pyrgos, Russell, Hogg is the way forward. Like them or loathe them if the team revolved around these teammates, rather than an individual scrum half who plays a diffent brand of rugby, I think we’d be seeing more of the team’s potential.

    Separately, I think Jackson is a seriously overlooked resource. If we’re talking about back up for fh and fb he has ability. Shame he can’t seem to buy club time.

    Th and lh seem pretty OK, a hooker would be nice. What has MacInally been like at Edinburgh this season?

    1. Off the top of my head, Pyrgos started in the World Cup warm up, started in the World Cup against USA and started the second test in Japan. The last two Scotland struggled badly until subs came on. These are the kind of opportunities players have to take if they are going to overtake a key player in the squad. This was also the tournament that we only squeaked past Samoa because Laidlaw dragged us over the line when most of his team mates were having a mare – Scott and Bennett in particular.

      Pyrgos has also been hampered by injuries ruling him out of big chunks the 6N for last two years i think and illness which ruled him out of the start of these AIs. Pyrgos gets better and better in his fans minds the longer he doesn’t play for Scotland – two years ago the same people were calling for SHC to replace Laidlaw and now he can’t even hold down a place in the Edinburgh team.

      It is frankly nonsense to claim Laidlaw is playing a different style to his team mates when the attacking shape Cotter has developed revolves heavily around him – there are online analysis posted here before. It’s pretty simple: either you think Cotter isn’t doing a good job and has rubbish judgement on his players or you think Cotter is a good coach and is probably right to make Laidlaw the most important figure in his team. Because Laidlaw has played a key role in Scotland’s improvement under Cotter.

      1. Pyrgos is a very good player at club level, but has never quite showed up whenever he has had a chance at International level, which is a shame as I want to see him succeed.

        Cotter clearly has Laidlaw in for his leadership qualities and his ability to run a game, as there’s no way he could be justifiably picked for his passing or box kicking!

        I can’t see Cotter omitting Pyrgos down to the GT connection because if that was the case then Sean Kennedy would be in the 23 not Ali Price.

        FWIW I think Kennedy is a very good scrum half, have always thought so, and I also rate Scott Steele but for whatever reason he has never been near the Scotland squad.

        Finally, Not Rocket Science I think that Jackson is very much out of the picture for Scotland. It’s quite telling that a centre is seen as the best back up for Finn Russell rather than Jackson.

      2. Finally a bit of sense FF! Henry and SHC have had chances and not taken them. Any scrum half has to show club form to be vastly superior to Greig’s before given a starting spot. If on the bench, they have to show something rather special when they come on, whether it’s for 30 minutes or 3. Pyrgos and Price have yet to do either.
        That said, I hope one of them gets a decent run this week, as we desperately need competition in this position. If only to ensure Laidlaw plays as well as he can (and he can play very well).

      3. Is Jackson potentially a backward step again (as with Low/Reid)? Do we need to be looking forward instead? If the likes of Pyrgos and SHC have had their chance at SH (as per comments in this thread) then surely Jackson has had his go at FH? Just search his name on this very blog and you can see the criticism laid at his door from years gone by. IF a player hits a rich vein of form and more to the point gets regular game time that may alter things – but this isn’t the case. All we need is someone to suggest Weir and then we’ve gone full circle!

      4. It’s not good that Jackson is getting such limited game time this season, just as he did last, but the fact that he can’t break in as a starter for either of these two pro outfits does beggar the question as to whether we should be considering him for test rugby (outwith desperate scenarios). I agree it’s not ideal, but I would much rather see Horne there – he’s much more consistent. 3rd choice Hogg with Maitland/Seymour/Kinghorn covering 15. Far from ideal, but until new talent comes through we should stick with players who we know can perform at this level, rather than those that can’t get a pro start. I wonder if Hastings may move north in the next wee while.

      5. Who knows Matto, but Priestland is now injured for 3 months so hopefully Hastings will get more gametime particularly when Ford is playing for England in the 6N.

      6. With Priestland out injured, Hastings should hopefully start getting more game time at Bath. Still pretty light on FH cover though – such a shame Tovey is Welsh…

  25. Overall impression from Saturday? Pleased that we got the win, and even more pleased with the way a very callow pack handled themselves against an experienced Argentine side.

    Scotland weren’t able to clear ruck ball as quickly as versus Australia, and this obviously slowed the ball. I doubt many scrum halves would have looked good on Saturday when dealing with that, so I feel criticising Laidlaw for his service is unfair.

    Given their age, and lack of experience at Test level, I think the performances of Fagerson, Dell, Bradbury, Watson and Jones have been exceptional. Neither Australia nor Argentina are soft sides, but these guys didn’t give an inch and this is great news for Scotland. We all know that we don’t have the biggest pool to pick from, so it is heartening to see players stepping up and transferring club form to the international stage.

    Gray and Barclay were very good – yet again Gray topping the tackle count. He is a beast!

    While it may have been a scrappy game, defensively Scotland looked secure for the most part. When Argentina did threaten, such as with the excellent break by Lajandro, we managed to turn over ball thanks to strong tackling and great work on the floor.

    Could Hogg have done better with their try? Possibly, but he had about a second to deal with a guy coming back, at speed, against his direction of movement – I doubt he would have been able to stop the score even if he had been able to go lower.

    Looking at Georgia – we should dismiss them at our peril. Unbeaten in the Pacific Islands this summer, narrow loss to Japan, then beating Samoa in the last 2 weeks. These last two games played in front of a capacity 22000 home crowd. They have a lot of guys playing Top 14, so they will not be over-awed by the occasion, their under 20s finished 10th at this years JCW and only lost by a point to Wales in that tournament. They are clearly a side on the up, and don’t rely solely on forward power.

    In some ways I feel Georgia are more of a threat than Japan, as so many of their players are used to playing in Europe’s top competitions. Scotland had to work hard to beat Japan, as did Wales last week. The gaps between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations are narrowing rapidly – great for rugby in general, but we can’t afford to stand still.

    Saying that, I think we will win on Saturday, but it may be tight. I’d love to see Bradbury get another run, and the front row needs as much time at the coal face as possible. Bennett back in for the injured Jones, and Price to get some time off the bench IF it is comfortable.

    Dell, Ford, Fagerson, Gray, Gray, Bradbury, Watson, Barclay, Laidlaw, Russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Bennett, Hoyland, Hogg

    Allan, Brown, Low, Gilchrist, Wilson, du Preez, Price, Horne

    1. Agree with almost all you’ve said except for Georgia not relying solely on forward power. The crowd on Tier 2 Rugby blog were lamenting exactly that! Check out their latest article about Georgia’s recent loss to Japan and all the shortcomings they complain about relate to the inability of their backline (reminiscent of Scotland in 2000s?).

      Of the 48 Georgian players appearing in professional European leagues only three are backs and only one of those appears in the top league (Vasil Lobzhanidze who plays for Brive in France) – the others play in D2 in France.

      1. Hadn’t read that, thanks for the pointer. I made the remark based on what I saw at the RWC, where Georgia did look a side who were at least trying to play 15 man rugby.

        Whatever their game plan, they have won 28/30 games in the European Nations Cup, so will not be mugs

  26. I like Horne, I am not saying who should be the utility bench player. But Jackson is 28, has more experience than any other specialty fh and is young enough for this world cup cycle, at least as a squad player. His career has been blighted by injury and circumstance, most recently leaving a quality club where he was vocally respected because Cipriani was a marque signing. Nonetheless, when he plays – club or international – he plays well, particularly in recent seasons.

    As to Pyrgos, he had limited time in the warm ups but showed well, played decent against Japan and then was injured. If you can do the business against Munster / Ulster rolling forward against the Glasgow pack, and you have a strong partnership with the most important back and most influential forward you have a strong shout. I won’t be surprised if he is straight into the team when GT is in.

  27. Laidlaw will be, injury permitting, one of the first three names on the teamsheet for the following reasons:
    – leadership qualities; in the recent past leaders on the pitch have been conspicuous by their absence. This is gradually changing as new players have been brought in and find their feet internationally but thereis still a vacuum in decision-making at critical times of the match.
    – international quality goalkeeping. No-one else in the team or the wider Scottish rugby scene is an international level kicker and until one appears or is manufactured the team cannot afford to miss out on any points on offer.
    -lack of a credible alternative. Both Pyrgos and SHC have been given opportunities at international level (they have 18 and 9 international caps respectively) yet neither has shown the ability to challenge Laidlaw for the no. 9 jersey. Their form at club level has been inconsistent and does not evidence the ability to step up to international level. If they were of the standard required do you think either would still be playing club rugby in Scotland?
    – performance. Laidlaw would not have got 55 caps without being competent at international level. He plays his club rugby at a higher level than Pyrgos or SHC.
    As a critic I assess that he is not to say he is a complete player, but he is the best in his position in Scotland in the current time.
    In the past Scotland has been well served in the scrum-half position, with far better players with fewer caps than Greig (his uncle comes immediately to mind), but that is not his fault.

    1. With scrum half I think we are in a conundrum – without trying others Laidlaw will be backed up by his CV with no-one else able to muster the same evidence. I agree that dropping Laidlaw seems marginal in that every match seems to be must win and change seems like risk. However, I am not sure that I agree that Pyrgos (or S H-C) have been given a fair chance. Many of their caps have been very short cameos at the end of games – not really the chance to build an international career. Also, in some of those games they were limited by the general team performances relative to the opposition (just as Laidlaw has been at times). One could argue if Pyrgos had played as many games as Laidlaw he would have proved the leadership skills and produced some excellent performances. However, injuries have played a part in his story. When SHC was in good form two years ago he got almost no game time and then he too suffered injury.
      I would like the decision on scrum half to be based on the actual level of the key skills: speed at breakdown, speed of pass, length of pass, attacking threat, defence, box kicking and decision making. On many of these Laidlaw is objectively not particularly strong and without trying someone else who has stronger attributes we cannot aim to develop our game further towards its potential. If someone comes back at me to say decision making is where Laidlaw outscores the others I think that is only because we have seen him doing it lots: sometimes very good, often average and sometimes poor. We do not know if others would have done better.
      Ali Price certainly seems to be a good prospect so let’s find out what he can do. So start with Price and have Laidlaw on the bench – either we have our eyes opened on a new era or if not, Laidlaw comes on to show his oft reported worth. How young was Gary Armstrong when he was blooded?

      1. I strongly suspect that Cotter will stick with Laidlaw. Doubt Price or Pyrgos will get more than cameo appearances, injury always permitting. I support this strategy, we have got ourselves into a good place in terms to World Cup rankings. Provided (and it is a big caveat) we beat Georgia on Saturday, a half decent 6 nations will get us a second tier seeding (so that makes Wales a totally key game), that would start Toonie as a second group seed, and then time to start putting his ideas into action.

        I hate to say it, but GT has to turn down the Lions (even if he had been offered it), suspect Fatland will give it to his Welsh pal in any event.

        There’s an interesting summer schedule with nothing at risk. That is is time to start changes, such as they may be. And I would have as a priority a rest for Laidlaw.

      2. Armstrong was 22 when he was capped, starting against Australia. No bedding in with comfortable cameos from the bench in those days, but rather thrown in at the deep end against the Grand Slam Wallabies. He was selected as good enough to replace a Scottish legend in the position.
        I am a believer in the ‘no cheap caps’ rule so Price needs to be more than a ‘prospect’ before he gets the starting berth.

  28. I think that Fagerson got a raw deal here as it was so obvious that he was being targeted by the Argentinians (and the TV commentators!). How important he was in the scrum was only really demonstrated when he came off and our scrum went to pot.

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