Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


5 ways for Scotland to improve: Report card v Georgia

Zander Fagerson - pic &copy Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Zander Fagerson - pic &copy Al Ross/Novantae Photography

After defeat to Australia, we considered 5 ways for Scotland to improve. Having considered how they developed against Argentina, were there further signs of progress when Georgia were the visitors at Rugby Park?

Fix the restarts

  1. Clean (lifted) catch by Jonny Gray 15m into Scotland’s half.
  2. Taken by Ryan Wilson just inside the 22.
  3. Taken by Ryan Wilson just outside the 22.
  4. Taken by Ryan Wilson just inside the 22.
  5. Clean (lifted) catch by Richie Gray midway between the 22 and the 10m line.
  6. Clean (lifted) catch by Richie Gray close to the 22.
  7. Taken in the air by Stuart Hogg midway between the 22 and the 10m line.
  8. Taken in the air by Tommy Seymour midway between the 22 and the 10m line.

A very welcome 100% success rate for Scotland, at last. It has to be said that Georgia’s kick offs didn’t put the home side under a great deal of pressure but given how much the Scots have struggled in this area a perfect record is not to be sniffed at. The positioning and execution were particularly strong – now it’s just a case of ensuring the same level of consistency when teams are dropping their kicks on the 10 metre line…

Grade: A

Execute the exit strategy

  1. Alan Dell strips the ball from a Georgian maul. Russell kicks in field deep past Georgian 10 metre line.
  2. Mark Bennett strips the ball into the 22 during a tackle. Scotland counter and after 2 rucks Bennett carries up to the Georgian 22.
  3. 22 drop out – Finn Russell kicks too close to line and Georgia make sure it is out on the full for a scrum back.
  4. John Barclay lineout steal. From inside his own in-goal, Finn Russell kicks up to the 10m line.
  5. Ryan Wilson lineout steal. Ball is mauled out of the 22 before Alex Dunbar kicks long down field to the Georgian 22.
  6. Own lineout in the 22. Mauled forwards 10 metres before collapsed by Georgia. Ali Price quick tap and break, passes on to Rory Hughes, who passes on to Stuart Hogg. Try.

The first point to note is that all the incidents above took place in the second half. Such was Scotland’s dominance that, after their early try, the Georgians couldn’t find a way to press the home side back into their 22. In the second half the Scottish defence did a good job of winning back possession when they were pressed back. It was then a case of good decisions about when it was on to keep ball in hand and when to kick – and all the kicks from hand were top notch, pushing Georgia deep to cover. The one blot on the copybook was Finn Russell’s 22 drop out which allowed the visitors to milk yet another scrum penalty in a dangerous position.

Grade: B+

Make good decisions every time

When possession and territory are so heavily skewed it takes some of the pressure off the decision making. Equally when the scrum isn’t functioning it reduces the number of options that can be taken! By and large Greig Laidlaw was happy to go for the corner and use the lineout / maul – which was justified by the mostly positive outcomes achieved. He did make the rather conservative call to kick for goal when already 3 scores ahead at 21-5 but if you can’t pad your scoring stats in a romp like that then when can you?

Unlike against Argentina, the execution was a little more precise. There were still some issues though – even in a strong first half there were 3 ruck turnovers, 2 maul turnovers and a couple of handling errors which might have allowed Georgia the chance to relieve the pressure (or build some of their own). The Lelos were seemingly incapable of making a good clearance though – on 2 occasions Scotland lost the ball in the away side’s 22 after a lineout but immediately got it back after a Georgian kick…leading to another linout in the 22!

Overall though this was another step forward for Scotland. They showed they could dismiss a Tier 2 side and not get dragged into an arm wrestle. They generally made good calls on when to move the ball after tying in the Georgian pack. One Finn Russell penalty conceded apart they also made the right decisions about when to kick deep and press the Lelos and when to go for the jugular and attack the line. The Six Nations will be another level in terms of intensity but there have been plenty of positive signs this Autumn that Scotland are maturing as a team.

Grade: B+

Power up the maul

  1. 37m out from Georgia goal line – dummy maul (1st of 6 phases leading to Tommy Seymour try).
  2. 10m out – made 3/4 metres but ball stripped and turned over.
  3. 10m out – made 9 metres before collapsed by Georgia. Penalty try and yellow card.
  4. 24m out – no ground made and ball stripped and turned over.
  5. 5m out – dummy maul leading directly to Hamish Watson try.
  6. 5m out – no ground made but penalty won for Georgian player lifting Richie Gray’s leg.
  7. 42m out – easy 5 metres made.
  8. 7m from own goal line – ball stolen on Georgia’s throw in. Made 10 metres.
  9. 7m from own goal line – mauled forwards 10 metres before collapsed by Georgia. Ali Price quick tap leads to Stuart Hogg try.

A strong showing in this facet of the game, let down slightly by a couple of moments of imprecision. The maul and dummy maul were directly involved in 4 of Scotland’s tries on the day. 3 came from tying in the Georgian forwards but the most pleasing for the coaches would have been the penalty try when the dark blues simply overpowered a pack who pride themselves on being the Alpha Males when it comes to physical confrontations.

Good ground was made on 5 occasions and the Scots won 3 penalties (including the PT). There will be a bit of a debrief to understand how the ball was turned over twice though – once allowing a Georgian to come right through the middle and on the other occasion being caught just as the maul was breaking up.

Grade: B

Have a drop goal threat

There was never really a moment in this game when a drop goal attempt would have been appropriate. With the Scottish attack in such fine form and the Georgian defence buckling under the pressure, going for tries was the order of the day

Grade: N/A

6 Responses

  1. Generally a really impressive performance against a team I thought would be much tougher to break down given their RWC performances and their fans’ loud proclamations that they deserve to be in the 6N ahead of Italy or us.

    However, some of our passing was decidedly ropey. Dunbar threw at least two misguided mispasses behind the winger, Wilson passed behind Hogg in the build up to Seymour’s try and their were other examples. Bennett has got some criticism for a loss of form but if his FH and inside center won’t pass to him when there is an overlap in sight of the opponent’s line it is not his judgement that is wanting. We’ll need to be more clinical against Ireland as they won’t repeatedly give us two or three bites at the cherry.

    The other criticism is obviously Moray Low. He just isn’t up to test rugby any more and it is unfair I keep selecting him in a position he no longer plas for his club.

    1. It was a tough Autumn for Moray. He was involved in a total of 8 scrums against Argentina and Georgia. Scotland conceded 5 penalties and a free kick at those setpieces – and of course Moray was also yellow carded. Even the 2 scrums that were completed against Argentina there was a bit of good fortune in that the ref called use it just before the Pumas started moving forward again.

    2. couldn’t agree more with passing accuracy FF. 6N opposition will punish us for that big time. Good example was Maitland’s try. He managed to step and go through a lacklustre Georgian defence on receiving an innacurate pass. 6N sides would have pushed forward and smashed him way back from the gain line.

      I think Kevin has been rather generous on his conclusive assessment of the maul. Despite having big, physical forwards Georgia’s maul defence isn’t too clever and not up to tier 1 standard. I’d give them a C grade on that front.

      As fans, we really can’t afford to congratulate the squad on this Autum’s test series (not that this article does too much).

      We showed a respectable level of intensity and skill against Australia but more frustrating inability to close out a game against quality opposition. Peter Horn’s missed tackle for that decisive try was unacceptable at this level. Argentina was an innacurate scrapfest and Georgia was encouraging but realistically substandard.

      Demand better, raise the bar. So much improvement required both individually and collectively.

      We’ve seen it year after year after year. Promise and congratulations over an encouraging Autumn test series against 2nd/3rd string Championship nation sides followed by a depressingly inept 6N and pitiful contribution to the Lions squad.

      Vern – Keep cracking that whip and don’t let positive acclaim get to their heads.

  2. I would wholeheartedly agree not to get carried away. The Georgia scoreline flatters in many senses. Absolutely the passing was slack at times and restricting our impact. But add to that on defence we only made 60/71 tackles, that kind of effort in 6N would be a disaster. Scotland’s poor tackle efforts at the crucial times and number of turnovers are still too high if this team is to compete for a 6N championship.

  3. If you compare Ryan Wilson & John Barclay with David Denton & Cornell Du Preez we can debate who is/are the better players, but there’s over 5 stone of a difference – that is fact.

    Our backs are tremendous, we can argue Price/Pygros over Laidlaw & Visser/Maitland/Taylor but whoever plays will pose a threat.

    Its the forwards who are often overpowered/out gunned.

    Personally I think Du Preez is a tremendous player & must play v Ireland, Denton & Hardie would complete a very physical back row to combat the very impressive Stander,O’Brien, Heaslip.

    I reckon we take far more chances as we have players who have the x-factor, with taking chances come errors, Russell is crucial to Scotland & he often gambles, I wouldn’t change him.

  4. I’m not entirely sure we get much from Denton when he does gain ground that is useful but ever other number eight has that ability and an offload now so I reckon we lose alot with him in the team. Great to see Bennet get a score for Glasgow last week. Delighted for Hogg to end his try drought and it has been a drought for Scotland as his play deserves that extra gloss and plaudits that finishing a try off does. It was a fantastic team score his second one against Georgia. Good shout about the change in play when Harley came off. Amazing what someone u dont always notice does behind the scenes in a match. One point of note is looking at England V Argentina with 14 men for 60 mins and Munster v Glasgow for about the same with 14 both recently. Why oh why did we ship 50 points plus when it happened to us against Wales? What did we do wrong that others don’t?

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion