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
- Clean (lifted) catch by Jonny Gray 15m into Scotland’s half.
- Taken by Ryan Wilson just inside the 22.
- Taken by Ryan Wilson just outside the 22.
- Taken by Ryan Wilson just inside the 22.
- Clean (lifted) catch by Richie Gray midway between the 22 and the 10m line.
- Clean (lifted) catch by Richie Gray close to the 22.
- Taken in the air by Stuart Hogg midway between the 22 and the 10m line.
- 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…
Execute the exit strategy
- Alan Dell strips the ball from a Georgian maul. Russell kicks in field deep past Georgian 10 metre line.
- Mark Bennett strips the ball into the 22 during a tackle. Scotland counter and after 2 rucks Bennett carries up to the Georgian 22.
- 22 drop out – Finn Russell kicks too close to line and Georgia make sure it is out on the full for a scrum back.
- John Barclay lineout steal. From inside his own in-goal, Finn Russell kicks up to the 10m line.
- Ryan Wilson lineout steal. Ball is mauled out of the 22 before Alex Dunbar kicks long down field to the Georgian 22.
- 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.
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.
Power up the maul
- 37m out from Georgia goal line – dummy maul (1st of 6 phases leading to Tommy Seymour try).
- 10m out – made 3/4 metres but ball stripped and turned over.
- 10m out – made 9 metres before collapsed by Georgia. Penalty try and yellow card.
- 24m out – no ground made and ball stripped and turned over.
- 5m out – dummy maul leading directly to Hamish Watson try.
- 5m out – no ground made but penalty won for Georgian player lifting Richie Gray’s leg.
- 42m out – easy 5 metres made.
- 7m from own goal line – ball stolen on Georgia’s throw in. Made 10 metres.
- 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.
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