Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


France 22-16 Scotland

Stuart Hogg
Stuart Hogg - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Scotland came to Paris in search of a first win since 1999 while France were looking to get their campaign off the mark after defeat to England.

3 or 4 turnovers inside the opening 3 minutes set the pace for another breathlessly-paced first half of rugby. Maitland almost got loose up his wing but was hauled down as he cut back inside. France signalled their intent with the offloads early on while the Scots were slightly more conservative in approach, sitting off the French defence slightly.

The first scrum came and went without incident but France had the first points moments later when Strauss handled on the deck.

Scotland pressurised France again and managed to thwart their exit strategy with a “choke” tackle that earned them a good scrum position but the largest French pack assembled proved irresistible and Strauss knocked on at the base to reverse possession.

Patient play for Scotland resulted in their first try, Huw Jones ensnaring two French tacklers to pop the ball away and put Stuart Hogg and Hamish Watson into space. Hogg backed his pace to dive over but Laidlaw’s conversion hit the crossbar.

France, clearly up for the fight, came straight back with another Lopez penalty at the very next set of phases to retake the lead after a frenetic, chaotic opening 20 minutes.

A superb turnover in the tackle from Fraser Brown kept France from scoring again straight away but at that point Greig Laidlaw went off injured with what looked like an ankle knock. Ali Price got straight into the action by shoving Lopez whilst trying to collect the ball for a quick penalty he was never going to take. Lopez missed the kick to spare his blushes.

France kept up the pressure through 18 punishing phases where their offloading game was to the fore, until Gael Fickou dived under Hogg’s tackle in the corner. When France were flying, they looked really dangerous but the defence was led by Brown and Alex Dunbar. Huw Jones put in a huge amount of tackling work too, even if Scotland didn’t have much ball for him to play with.

They attacked the very next restart and stormed to within a metre of the line. Russell kicked the penalty after the Scots couldn’t profit, then slotted another moments later when he could easily have been on the receiving end after an iffy challenge in the air.

France had another spell attacking but the Scots defence held.

Half-time: France 13-11 Scotland

The second half didn’t get off to the best start for Scotland as John Hardie went off for a head injury assessment, only just on for John Barclay who had already failed one. The impact of the bench Cotter would have hoped for late on was already looking lowered.

Swinson, on for Hardie, didn’t show it though with a nice support line for Tommy Seymour, who had regathered his chip kick deep in the French half. Unfortunately, Russell made a mess of the simple conversion after the ball flopped off the tee. Would it prove crucial?*

Lopez equalised the scores to 16-16 with another penalty as France attacked, then Russell – who was hit or miss as usual but had brilliantly put Seymour into space to create that try – fluffed the restart, and the French were back attacking from the set scrum, their most potent weapon and on half way easily within range of Scott Spedding.

Spedding booted it wide of the mark, keeping the scores level with half an hour left but the next long range penalty awarded by referee Jaco Peyper went the way of Scotland. Hogg was inside his own half but he went about as wide, although he had enough distance to keep France wary as they emptied their much fuller bench.

As Strauss went down with a knock on the hour mark (and Dunbar went off for yet another HIA, although he passed and returned), it looked like the physicality had put paid to the idea of running the French ragged in the last twenty minutes and Scotland looked a tired bunch. Strauss in particular was putting in a superhuman effort from the back of the scrum, carrying tirelessly when he looked all but broken every time he got up.

France went for the kill with a penalty on 65 minutes kicked to the corner. Scottish defence was courageous in the face of imperious rolling mauls. Fraser Brown, who had been superb all game, finally gave way for Ford as the French took a scrum with their advantage. A penalty try, a card, anything here would have killed the Scottish resistance. The scrum miraculously held firm but the decision went to the TMO after Lamerat looked to have slapped the ball down over the line.

As expected, Scotland’s scrum to clear from the knock on came under huge pressure but Peyper saw it Scotland’s way when France didn’t drive straight and Russell was able to clear it to touch with a lineout in their favour with 10 to play.

It was nervy stuff, and France’s line speed was still fierce so there was little surprise when Scotland were pinged for holding on. Lopez kicked it and France crept back into the lead, before slotting another with 4 minutes left.

With the French scrum dominant, Scotland spent most of the last period of the game defending a seemingly tireless onslaught and they conceded penalty after penalty. For a game where the Scots fitness had been seen as the key beforehand, they simply were running out of steam due to the back row injuries.

Scotland attacked again, but where they had been so precise last week there were knock-ons and balls stripped out of contact. It was, all things considered, a vastly courageous effort from Scotland and they were – on paper at least – in it to the end, but to come away with the losing bonus point will have been little consolation.

The French line speed meant we didn’t see the best of Scotland going forward in a hugely attritional match. The worry now will be who is left in the pack to face Wales.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Alex Dunbar absolutely played his part in a mammoth defensive effort, acting as another back row when Scotland were losing the real ones to injury. Fraser Brown was also excellent. Huw Jones played his part in defence, but had a few key spills in attack that blotted his copybook. For me though you have to look to Josh Strauss when never stopped even when he and his team looked physically broken, and was the standout forward when it came to standing up to the French pack.

* thankfully no.

92 Responses

    1. Not only not pass it inside or out both would have been fine. But he actually handed the ball back to the French. Had he made that pass I think we were in for a try.

  1. The Scottish scrum descended into an embarrassing shambles as the 2nd half progressed, and along with the French dominance in the driving maul meant there was only going to be one winner. Again we built a lead only to see it overturned. This time there was nothing left in the tank.

    Valiant tackling kept Scotland in the game along with flashes of individual brilliance – Russell’s back of the hand flip to release Seymour.

    Price impressed bringing zip when he came on. Stealing the ball at the breakdown several times released the pressure.

    A reality check this weekend with 5 losses (International, U-20, Womens & the 2 pro-12 teams).

    Noticed Scott Johnson surfaced in the sporting press saying what a great job he was doing. Call me cynical but is his contract up for renewal?

    1. Can’t see any timeline to Johnson’s contract length or expiry date, I would assume that his contract is either open ended in the higher position of “Director” or it is up soon as you say, either way it is incredibly hard to actually see what Johnson is doing for the game in Scotland, this includes at club and professional levels…

      1. Glasgow get to the quarter finals of the Euro, Scotland have won 7 of their last 10 games, we’re producing better younger players than we have for ages, then us Scots rave about the new era of Scottish rugby. Then we get beat off a powerful French team away from home having out scored them on tries, with our first choice props both injured and somehow Scott Johnsons involved? I agree we need a reality check as we still have a bit to go, but we were overpowered today and i’m not sure how Scott Johnson can help that, hopefully the return of Denton, Nel and Dickenson and progression of Bradbruy and Ashe will be able to bring a bit more grunt to our game.

      2. Well said MK. I don’t actually know what Scott Johnson does, but then I don’t know specifically who in the SRU is really mainly accountable, or creditable, for what. As far as I’m concerned things are moving in the right direction. The relationship between the SRU and the rugby supporting and playing public is vastly improved on the last administration, and things are on a positive trend along almost every significant axis. I am happy to give due credit to that. Whenever we lose some folk seem to need to have a scapegoat. A close losing encounter in Paris is not what any of us hoped for, but it is nothing to be ashamed of either. Clearly we were totally outplayed at the scrum, and France were actually pretty decent when they got their offloading game going. We showed a serious lack of composure at times. I don’t know how any of that leads to SJ… For the first time in a long, long time the other participating nations are viewing us as a genuine threat, and treating us with genuine respect. That outside looking in perspective is telling, as on the inside we are often blinkered by hope and desperation, unsurprisingly, given what we’ve experienced since 1999. Now we ‘just’ really, really need to beat Wales, and all scapegoats and finger pointing will be forgotten.

    2. If you’re meaning the Times article today, it says his contract is up for renewal this summer.

  2. A fair result, on reflection…even though it was there for the taking with three minutes to go.

    Reasons we lost:
    1) destroyed in the scrum (although we’re back to the bad old days of the knock-on basically meaning a penalty to the more powerful pack – another ref would have carded our front row).
    2) French power and offloading
    3) Battered to a standstill, including key serious injuries
    4) Too harried to avoid mistakes, leading to scrums, leading to penalties (see 1)

    Other talking points:
    – French non-try by Lamerat; lucky…
    – Russell’s conversion was just weird – they said he got the hurry-up from the ref after only 30 seconds when he had 90 to take it. Can anyone confirm that? Replays showed him complaining afterwards.
    – Lucky to get a penalty to us to make it 13-11 just before half-time when Russell’s aerial challenge could have had him penalised/carded.
    – Price impressive, but lucky to get away with missed reversed penalty after rush of blood. Would we have been more likely to have won with Laidlaw on the field? How much extra pressure did that put on Russell (leadership; kicking duties, etc.)? Price will have learned a huge amount from this experience.

    Brave, brave effort from all Scots. Thought we would pull it off at 16-16 after 65, but can’t argue with this result.

      1. I don’t agree that we would have won with Laidlaw on the field as Finn Russell’s kicking from a short range (apart from TEE GATE) looked every bit as good as his, I think it may well do the team good to grow without their leader, we need to think about a time when we won’t have players like Laidlaw, Barclay and Ford, this will mean having to put up with some mistakes from the likes of Russell, Hardie Brown and Price but these guys don’t just become world class Kiwi beaters over night, they need experience at that higher level and they also need to mature quicker than those that have come before them, some of the best teams in the world start blooding guys from the age of 18/19/20, we should be looking at this and adopting this model, look at the talent that we have in the likes of Archie Russell, Adam Hastings and Blair Kinghorn, it’s all about trust and development in the future generations otherwise we end up missing the cycle for guys like this to come through.

      2. I didn’t actually say we would have won with Laidlaw on the field, Ross. Just asking the question for debate…

      3. “start blooding guys from the age of 18/19/20”

        18 definetly too young I would say but yes, 19/20 for sure. We have done so with the likes of Hogg, Gray x 2, Barclay etc. but have far too many 23-27 year olds with a handful of caps.

        I’ve long maintained that we don’t play anywhere near enough rugby matches when compared to Ireland/Wales/England. Even games against the B nations in Europe could be used to blood more youngsters, and a lot earlier too.

      4. All evidence says it was Hines and apparently as he came on he was told or thought himself that there was an infringement in the lead up to the try so he wanted it taken quickly to avoid a review. I’m sure there has been a case of review before kick off and after a conversion but still didn’t see anything clear and obvious. It was poor from Hines, you take it quickly but under control and telling the kicker to hurry up in a panicked way is not going to help him. Even then is Russell not allowed to put the ball back on the tee if it falls off before he has addressed the ball? Laidlaw would never have allowed that to happen. I think that was a key moment. It was 16-16 for a long time after that and being 18-16 down the French would have kicked a penalty and we would have had field position again and the pressure off for a while.

        We also held out for so long at that point and crazy play resulted in a penalty in front of the posts. When you’ve held out for so long get Hogg to clear it as far up in touch as possible and regroup.

      5. I agree, Referendum. I know it takes pressure off Finn to say that 2 points wouldn’t have made the difference in the end, but that doesn’t take into account all the psychological intangibles and strategic changes that Scotland being 2 ahead might have imposed on the game.

        That being said, any game is full of variables and lucky/unlucky moments, so let’s just hope it’s all part of the many lessons being learned by this brave, developing group of players and coaches.

    1. Price played well, but we definitely missed Laidlaw’s captaincy in the last ten. Heroic defence kept our like intact but we were a bit headless chicken when we had the ball. To be expected given the calamitous procession of injuries I suppose.

      1. Unfortunately, a few of those headless chicken moments came from Finn. Another grubber against the opposition legs, kick-off out on the full, a few dodgy offloads (although one sublime one for Swinson’s try) and the conversion. It’s just hard to measure how many of those might have been different if Laidlaw had taken leadership/kicking pressure off him. It reminded me a bit of Townsend, who took too much on himself because he knew he was a game-breaker, but didn’t have enough leaders around him to take the pressure off. Sometimes it would come off and sometimes it wouldn’t.

      2. I agree, there was no leadership when laidlaw left the pitch. I have no idea who was in charge when Barclay departed.

  3. Unfortunately the thing that worried me about this game beforehand — France’s potential scrummage dominance — materialised on the pitch. So much territorial gain can be won by this simple factor, and often, as we know, anything from 5 to 7 points for the attacking team via a rolling maul. This, in my opinion, is the one area where Scotland need to make a vast improvement and where we are most vulnerable against the “big” teams. Unfortunately we can’t simply pull great props out of a hat (though Fagerson is shaping up to be one) and even when Nel and / or Dickinson return serious effort must be made to identify talent and develop it for the future. There is already considerable promise at U20 level.

    1. Think Fagerson still needs time, him and Gordon Reid look a bit “raw” still, at this stage in his career and meaning all the best to him I think Gordon Reid may well be running out of time but young Zander still has all the time in the world, I believe that when WP Nel comes back and he is given a bit more breathing space this may well do him the world of good!

  4. I kept hoping for a ‘Toonie Flip’ or something similar, like in 1995. We were in a very similar position then…och, well…

    1. I was waiting for one excellent moment of genius from the likes of Hoggy, Finn or Ali Price but unfortunately we need to give some credit to the French defence as well in saying that they were for want of a better phrase “rock solid” at times today and our attack really struggled with it, combine that with the forced errors and our game plan which we tried to deploy ended up in bits along with injured players, I may well sound negative but don’t think that this six nations has been a total disatour in any way shape or form.

  5. The boys did well given the circumstances and all the injuries, have to wonder what a difference it would have made if Hoggy had passed the ball in his big break for freedom, we could ponder for ever but unfortunately I think we will be confined to a maximum of 2 wins this year.

    1. Really? England is probably a stretch, but surely
      Wales and Italy at home are there to be won if we play close to our potential…

      1. I think Italy the way they have been playing this year is almost a sure fire bet, but then again you never quite know what they are going to bring, in terms of Wales, they have looked much stronger this year, I think it’s been a very positive 6N but I’m still saying 2 wins from 5. Ireland and Italy, think we will push Wales close just like France.

      2. I might adjust my optimism based on how injuries pan out over the next couple of weeks, but I think we should still be favourites at home against the Welsh, or at least 50-50. However, we do need to find a way not to get destroyed at the scrum. If we can do that, I think we’re favourites. If not, then Wales would fancy themselves to win. But do you really mean a ‘maximum of 2 wins’? I.e. we have literally no chance against the Welsh?

      3. Wales were very impressive against England until fatigue and pressure produced an appalling finish for them.

    2. I’ll eat my hat if we don’t get a bonus win at home vs Italy; they look as poor as they’ve ever been.

      I’ll eat my hat if we win at Twickenham; it’s not happening.

      I’ll eat my hat if the Wales match isn’t won by a single score from one side, let’s hope it’s the team in blue…

  6. Disappointed with the result…however fair play to France who were aggressive and played to their game plan for the 80 mins. Fair result ..but a game Scotland had their chances too.

    We were well beaten in the scrum …but we were playing with 2nd and 3rd choice props so that was always going to happen against a very big French forward pack.

    The other aspects of the game I thought we went toe to toe with France… and the result could have gone our way had we not made a mixture of handling errors… poor kicking… and decisions to off load when it looked far wiser to hold possession.

    We struggled to find our game at times simply because of injury disruption.

    Dunbar looked like he has played himself back to his old self. Played a great game. Took too many knocks hard to imagine him being fit Vs Wales.

    Jones has had a bit of reality check in his 2 games. Has not played badly… but has made some bad mistakes. He can play far better than he has I feel…but he does seem to have hit the learning curve at the moment.

    Glad that Price got such high level game time under his belt… he’ll be our long term future no9 id think. He showed attacking intent and aggression in the tackle. Missed Laidlaw at times tho… he does lead the team very well.

    Not a bad performance… the French are a far better team than last few years…tougher to beat. We look much better also tho… even if we do make mistakes.

    Will be interesting if we have any players left after that….what a bruiser of a game!

  7. Too big ( literally ) an advantage for France in the scrum, and whilst there was no lack of effort and some genuine instances of class ( absolutely agree with Strauss as our MoM ), I don’t think anyone could argue with the overall result. We did get a couple of breaks with the disallowed try ( although to me it was telling that Lamerat didn’t even think about celebrating ) and Russell’s aerial challenge. But with all the injuries, to compete throughout and get the LBP is not the worst result ever.

    Only one point – with five minutes to go and a miracle score required, who swops Russell for Weir unless Russell can’t walk ?

    1. I thought the pictures on the try were inconclusive, but probably there was still the slightest of connections with his finger tips.

      So it was potentially a fair try in reality. However, there’s no way it would have been given in the pre-TMO days.

    2. Due to the fact that France were not being turned the game plan should have changed. We should be making them turn and try again pin then back play in their half.

      Weir would have done that and been more secure in the kicking.

  8. Looking at the match. the team did well considering the limited amount of ball they had in the second half.
    I expected the scrum to be under pressure, but not that the French would demolish it in the way they did. I’m now worried about next games.
    The line-out was comfortable, they defended the mauls well, but seemed to be caught offside continuously. Presumably the touch judges were advising the refs on offside, but they appeared to ignore several French offsides which was irritating.
    Thought Scotland competed well at everything except the scrum. How they sort this over 2 weeks I really don’t know.
    Josh Strauss and Hamish Watson had great games, but the number of injuries are a worry.
    Any team can be considered unlucky to have the number of injuries Scotland had.
    That’s 2 consecutive Paris matches, where our scrum weakness has allowed France off the hook.

  9. Our scrum has been dismantled twice, referees will be aware of this. A long Six Nations awaits I fear.

  10. How can the scrum be quite so bad? We were competitive in Autumn against (supposedly) strong packs and from memory we were missing Nel, Dickinson and Sutherland then too…

  11. Disappointed that we weren’t able to impose our style in the game and many of our influential players like Russell couldn’t bring out their best. If we’d had a scrum we would have been able to build pressure and get under France’s skin a bit more.

    However, I thought the team showed remarkable resilience and the raw materials are still there for a very good side. I thought Josh Strauss really stepped up today too.

  12. Scotland lost because they don’t yet know how to win these types of Tests, yet. That’s okay but learning to adapt to different threats needs addressing.

    the scrum and restarts are still a massive issue. Finn Russell’s kicking is not pro standard never mind Test (he decides to kick before seeing the play unfold, leading to charge-downs and his restart kicks are too long for the forwards to compete).

    Depth is a huge problem. Laidlaw, Russell and Hogg are way ahead of any would-be competitors. Slow ball from rucks and losing the contact battles on the gain-line is very costly, especially against physical teams.

    Lack of patience with ball in hand leads to kicking away possession or becoming one-dimensional and easy to defend. Still, lots to improve but that French team is only big, not skilful or really that good, therefore losing grates.

    Have to beat Wales or the Ireland win is meaningless. Much work to do by the coaching staff.

  13. That performance for me, considering we lost our captain and two open side flankers as well as the influential Dunbar for ten minutes and considering the superiority the French had in the scrum, showed just how far the team has progressed. In previous years, we would have been beaten comfortably under that sort of pressure, instead we held on with great defence and some counter attack and could even have won the game at 16-16 with 10 minutes to go. Keep this squad together and get international experience into the young props as well as a few others like Price and we will have a good team for the next world cup and beyond. Great performances from Dunbar, Russell, Brown, Gray, Gray, Watson and Strauss.

    1. Totally agree with you here – too many nay sayers jumping on the teams back. Brilliant effort, and a game we would be likely to win on other days. And as an exile living in Wales – I say BRING IT ON!

  14. Wow – what a game! I know we have been here before but I truly can not bemoan the effort put in by the lads today. Too many injuries early on – maybe have to address our tackling policy on this, instead of going low then high I reckon the high/low tactic would’ve disrupted the French off loading game, and reduced our head injury count.

    Sadly, I thought we looked rudderless when Laidlaw when off. I truly thought Johnny Gray would’ve stepped up to the mark and taken control? I reckon we need a strong leader to keep Finn Russell under control…..

    Too many early injuries, lacking in the front row and leadership – however, we did win the fighting!

    1. Barclay was vice captain and we were looking steady till he went off. Finn had one of those games where 60% went ok, the rest was flaky. Injuries buggered up any chance of keeping things ticking over. Credit to them for stayin touch despite everything going against them during the game. That level of intensity against the Welsh,whose pack is nowhere near as strong as that, will do fine thank you

      1. A lot was because we struggled to break the gain line or get quick ball. In those circumstances he’d have been better sting for territory and pressuring France into mistakes in their half, but then our second try came out of nothing because he was forcing it, so you gotta take the rough with the smooth I guess.

  15. This is a strong and competitive team even in adverse circumstances, we have not had that in years!!

    The boom or bust mentality of our support is hugely disappointing and ultimately self-destructive. We are still in this tournament, we have 2 home games out of 3 remaining. If we win those this will be another massive step forward for us. Of course it will be difficult with our depleted front row but we are in with a shout and off the back of 2 really strong performances. One of which we won against figuratively ridiculously strong opposition one which we lost narrowly to literally ridiculously strong opposition! We need to recognise the improvement and get behind the team at Murrayfield for our remaining games! So many reasons to be positive build them up don’t knock them down!

  16. Good on you Murrayfieldsong -aye brilliant, competitive and strong performance. With our first choice front row, our captain for the full game I reckon we would’ve won.

    “So many reasons to be positive build them up don’t knock them down!” – exactly!

  17. I thought we matched France in almost all aspects of the game. What have been perceived as weaknesses in our backline play all stemmed from a lack of good scrum ball. Strauss was immense despite this, making great charges even after picking up from the base of a retreating scrum. The whole pattern of our play, however, would have been much more threatening if our first-phase possession from the scrum had been more secure. Despite their losing, I salute this team for giving body and soul to the Scottish cause. We may yet correct what went wrong today in time to cause an upset at Twickenham.

    1. Have to agree with both of you. I thought Strauss was immense today, possibly his best shift in a Scottish jersey.

      Much to be applauded, let’s hope the injuries are repairable in time for the Wales game.

      Losing both Laidlaw and Barclay wouldn’t have had an impact on the scrum problems, but certainly didn’t help the game management.

      Wales next, and they will offer different challenges. I expect BVC to rise to that and come up with some challenges of our own.

  18. Well that was very frustrating. I thought the game plan would have been to keep them turning, play for territory and wear them out. That did not happen, we tried to take them on, made mistakes and gifted them scrums (penalties), every time we did try to pin them back they ran back at us, got their offloading game going and made ground every time.

    That said somehow we were technically in it the whole game, got a bit of luck with the non try, I thought it was a no seeing it in real time but when the replays came up I thought yes it was, lucky. Russells high ball was fortunate too, on a different day a different ref could have gone against us there. I’m amazed none of our front row got carded too.

    I don’t even know what to say about the tee fiasco. I’m not too familiar with the kicking rules, for a conversion if it falls off the tee can the opposition play the ball? Why the rush, although I am seeing a few folk saying he was given the hurry up (I was in the pub so couldnt really hear the commentary)? Ali Price I thought was decent when he came on but that rush of blood potentially cost us another 3 points. I thought giving Hogg a chance from over halfway was foolish, how many of them has he actually scored, I can only think of one for Scotland? It was a good opportunity to get possession and territory wasted. Hogg squandered a good opportunity by trying to do it all himself with players outside him. Restarts, again how hard can it be.

    The amount of knock ons was ludicrous but fair play to France they put us under enormous pressure. Losing Barclay and Hardie was very unfortunate, along with Laidlaw you have lost 2 of your leaders and 2 of your best tacklers there.

    If there are any positives I thought Strauss, Dunbar and Richie Gray had great games, Watson was making a nuisance of himself again but the power of the French clearouts slowed most things down.

    I still reckon we can take on Wales and win, we will have to sort out the scrum though. England are just being England, two sloppy performances but none the less two wins, at Twickenham I think they are a bridge too far. Italy will no doubt decide to show up against us like they usually do, why is it they always completely capitulate against the other teams (taking nothing away from Ireland they were clinical)? Does our points difference no favours at all. p.s. I’m raging that I dropped Stander and Earls from my fantasy team!!

  19. That was a seriously brutal game so credit to the Scottish defence today. Dunbar was great along with Watson at the breakdown, but sadly the scrum lost us the game with the relentless pressure it brought. I’m not really sure what we do about getting shoved around so much as the referee just blows a penalty. How do you deal with a 24 stone lump just leaning on you? Any wisdom from front row players? As a former scrum half I tended to stand watching and thinking why would anyone want to put their head in there!

    Strauss was incredible going forward given what he was running into, but our main problem is that no one else seemed able to do the same (Richie Gray on a couple of occasions) and he was barely able to stand come the end. Given we were struggling to make yards why persist with what I thought was quite a narrow attack? I would’ve liked to see us go wide quickly where we could maybe make easier groud, or at least have more time to deliver a well placed kick to turn them round and apply some pressure. The type of play Wales use a lot with Jonathan Davies, though perhaps not the best example given his kick on Saturday. Russell was average today with some poor kicks, though nice flick up to Seymour for the try. Some spark from Price but a bit keen with the tap penalties.

    Disappointed to lose the game but we can definitely play better and think we’ll beat Wales if we get the back row guys fit. If Laidlaw is injured and Price and Russell are starting the remaining games it may not be a bad thing. Let them have an opportunity to show they can control the game and grow into their roles and become players who can lead the team as it was very obvious someone needed to take control after losing Laidlaw then Barclay, but it never happened.

  20. Not wishing to be too negative but I think the lack of scrum power/props is quite alarming. I hate watching games where a knock on equals a penalty as it destroys the flow of the game and there is no way you can win when a knock on on half way means a kick at goal or defending a driving line-out. It puts too much pressure on the defence and attack – attack as I’d imagine psychologically the players know that any knock on will be punished.

    The team has defended very well for two games and deserve a huge amount of credit for not folding this afternoon. We are as capable of any northern hemisphere team of scoring tries which is great to see.

    I felt Russell was poor today (and I am a big fan) in terms of game management – a few times I felt we should have kicked to touch, especially with scrum issues from any knock on. Suppose he is still young and will learn – a lot of pressue on the guy to be the game changer and his offload for the Swinson try was sublime.

    7 wins out last 10 is good. We beat Ireland who hammered us up front at the scrums, and got a losing BP away to France in Paris when we got absolutely smashed at the scrum – feel pretty gutted after today’s game which is probably a sign of our progress which is good!

  21. Feel I must point out that of the 23, only Ford, Barclay, Laidlaw and Strauss are the wrong side of 30 (unless I’m mistaken). That’s a young side and we can only improve. Get the front row sorted and we will see some better, cleaner, quicker ball which will allow us to release a bloody good back line. Bring on the Welsh!

  22. What a game from both teams! Unbelievably physical with some great passages of play (mostly from France) and some phenomenal defense (mostly from Scotland).

    If we could cut out the silly errors we’d be a match for anyone. Sort the scrum as well and we’d be world beaters!

    Oh, and please, for the next two weeks, practice the f***ing restarts!

    Not much more needs said but if I’m being analytical- Finn needs to learn at times to play the percentages; the Hogg penalty from almost on our 10m line was a waste and should have been sent to the corner, we weren’t at a time in the game when we needed to take a sub-50% shot.

    But so many fantastic individual performances. Well done boys, 4 from 5 will be ok by me!

    1. Totally agree – boils my pi55 that we simply cannot secure a restart.

      Thought Hogg was maybe seeing his name in lights at the end instead of passing, but, on current form you can’t really blame him. His 500m penalty was a v. poor choice as well.

      Maitland to 15 and Hogg to wing? Maitland seems to be a superior tackler while Hogg can attack from anywhere it seems.

  23. josh, best game in scotland shirt, lockerbie boy awesome,richie awesome, ali price great game. finn brilliant contribution but don’t force game when you don’t need to.
    so proud guys, kept us in it till last moment, hope heads alright!

    1. Alex Dunbar, one more from Lockerbie’s production line of centres. Not bad considering there’s not even a rugby team there.

  24. scrums go up, scrums go down, scrums go back, but if one pack clearly winning the ball, why is it a penalty? scottish props doing their best and putting in huge effort in the game as a whole, just hugely unfortunate that first choices and others injured!
    If barclay and hardie injured for wales we have harley, ashe and bradbury, also duncan taylor could come back in midfield. think we have faced strongest scrums so look forward to next game.

    1. Strictly speaking, just being beaten at the scrum is not a penalty…..But the ref needs to do something when it breaks down and people pop up or fall down. A free kick often just means another scrum…so a penalty it is! Play on I reckon.

  25. In the end the betting line was France by 7 points and they won by 6, so nobody should be too disappointed by the result. You’d have won money with a bet on Scotland.

    Finn is a worry and in particular the grubber kicks and goal kicking if Laidlaw is out the tournament. Cotter is a very smart man and top coach and he presumably will now look to bring in a specialist goal kick and grubber coach, my choice would be Dan Parks.

  26. Great game and a huge effort , very gritty to hold belief after so many disruptions. You have got to be proud of them, yet the feeling of frustration, will not go quickly.

    History will show France won, yet we know Scotland lost it.

    I have to disagree with Rory on whether that kick made a difference. It would have put us ahead and given a pack that were being buckled, mangled and physically battered a mental lift.

    You are pushing water up hill all game, men dropping like skittles, they must have been wondering what on earth they needed to do to win the game. France were mentally dominant from that point forward.

    Full marks to Jaco P the ref, he could have carded and killed the game but he allowed it to flow. I hope they are kind to him in the post match debrief, he really did a great job IMO.

  27. Just read we need to beat wles to stay in top 8. No idea if that includes possible result from Italy game or not.


      1. Comment in guardian. Don’t know how informed but there is a rankings calculator floating about online somewhere. Will have to root it out.

      2. Have run the numbers in a calculator. A lot of variables still but assuming we beat Italy by 15 or more a draw or win against either Wales or England will be enough. Otherwise yes we would likely drop below Argentina barring something weird like France losing the rest of their games.

      3. Thanks, FF, Rory and Ross. So, in Top 8 ranking terms, to use a football analogy, yesterday’s game was a 6-point match. It seems yesterday’s loss in Paris was almost a 2-point swing from Scotland to France (1.72), so if Scotland beat Wales, could there be a similar swing, seeing Scotland overtake Wales in the rankings as we are currently 1.5ish behind them?

        Although they played very well against England, Wales actually have a really tough run-in, with Scotland and France away and Ireland at home. All potential losses and all potential wins.

        According to the link you sent, Rory, Italy only lost 0.23 ranking points when losing by 50+ points at home to Ireland, but Scotland lost 0.86 ranking points when losing by 6 points to France in Paris. Not sure I understand how that works…

        Ultimately, we just need to keep focusing on performance, not rankings, but it does add to the significance of the next three match weekends.

      4. Hi Andrew,

        Basically a certain amount of points are available for a win or loss. What you win from an opponent they lose. The amount is calculated based on relative ranking. Italy dont lose a lot to Ireland because Ireland are well above them in the rankings, its expected, but Scotland and France are very close so more points change hands. Theirs a bonus for winning away and for winning by 15 points or more.

        Wales would win more points from us beating us at Murrayfield then they would beating us at the Principality. That’s where the damage is done rankings wise if they win.

  28. I must be the only person in Scotland who thinks Fin Russell needs to be dropped. The simplest game plan would have been to kick to touch and play the game in their half. How many times did we turn them over? Quite a lot. With their big pack and turnovers at the breakdown, we should have used our backs to stretch the French!
    Instead, we tried to match them physically and got hurt. Fin Russell on too many occasions hesitated to decide what to do and ended up trying to run or lose possession.
    We really need to have a decent stand off to bring out the best of our young team. I say drop Russell until he starts being consistent.

    1. I partly agree with Dave B… Whilst Russell remains our best 10 by some way, it just wasn’t working for him yesterday and keeping it tight was only going to lead to knock ons and then a penalty via the scrum…

      Weir isn’t nearly as gifted as Russell but the last 20 was surely the time to get him on and pepper the corners of the French 22. They conceded something like 12 penalties in the loose so making them defend in their own red zone would surely have borne fruit. And that way the immense Strauss could have done damage where it mattered as opposed to the halfway line.

      And as much as I love Ali Price, the absence of Laidlaw showed again why he’s so crucial to a professional Scotland performance. You never see Laidlaw rushing a conversion or getting a penalty overturned and I think he’d have coached Russell into better decision making as the game wore on…

    2. I agree that he was poor. I have yet to see much evidence of good rugby brain in Fin i.e. the instinct to know when it is on and when it isn’t on. I’m fed up with his daft wee chips (in a Glasgow shirt) from deep within is 22 (gifted a try against cardiff). His handling of the last five 5 minutes of munster game was poor (no drop goal and then lost possession with a daft wee chip that was never on).

      When it comes off he looks like a genius but quite often it doesn’t come off (e.g. his intercepted grubber against Ireland or forced offloads yesterday) and that puts us under huge pressure. He is the best we’ve got, no doubt, but he could be so much better. Frustrating player who flip flops between genius and brainless rugby.

      1. The difference between Hogg and Russell is telling. The lack of pressure on the jersey doesn’t seem to make any difference to Hogg who just gets better and better. Didn’t play that well yesterday but still scored a try and still likely to produce. For me, whilst recognising that FR is the best we have at 10 and that it is his shirt for the foreseeable, it is increasingly frustrating that he doesn’t seem to do it in the big games. By contrast, this shows why we rely on Laidlaw as we do. My word how he was missed yesterday. Often Laidlaw slow ball and dictating of play is used as reason for FR not imposing himself. Well yesterday he had the majority of the game without Laidlaw in which to make his mark and yet it didn’t happen. I don’t want to be unfairly critical, it’s a position on the field with great expectation and one in which you can’t hide. However, it’s also a position that wins rugby games and unfortunately at the moment we’re not strong enough here.

      2. Dave: You have a point , we are back to that word ‘Consistent’ again.Rugby is about teamwork and I wonder how long it will take before those howlers will start to really irritate some of those hardworking, less valued colleagues. He seems to shrug them off, an admirable quality, it took Andy Murray years to stop them eating him up. However If it becomes a problem, the others will suffer before we drop him.

    3. I think it was clear from BVC that the tactic was to kick behind them and make the big French props run backwards, rather than forwards. I didn’t see enough of that and I Finn plays plays before he reads the situation. I think he does bring more good than bad though. i.e. would duncan weir given that offload to seymour for the swinson try? For the conversion, it could have easily happened to Greig too. Anyone remember Chris Paterson’s conversion v Romania in 2011 RWC?

      1. Weir would probably not been in that position, BUT, the team would have been spending more time in the Frech 22 from raking touch kicks. Thought that was the plan?

    4. Kicking to touch would have merely handed possession back to the French and given them a platform to launch their thundering driving mauls which Scotland struggled to deal with.

      Scotland’s game plan went out the window when Laidlaw went off injured. With a rookie scrum-half inside him Russell took on too much of the decision-making but then the team is lacking in leaders at this level. J Gray and Barclay come to mind but thereafter I’m struggling.

      1. I disagree – France were offloading at prodigious rates but making regular mistakes. If we kick to their half and force mistakes we might get a crack at penalty or kick to the line in their 22. Trying to run them ragged when we aren’t getting quick ball or breaking the gainline consistently was a mistake. Fine for that as Plan A but we needed to switch to Plan B when we were struggling to hold on mid-way through second half.

  29. Going to start with the negatives:

    Finn Russell – not a boy anymore. Needs to get his head screwed on.
    Scrum – schooled. The Welsh and English will be licking their lips.
    Stuart Hogg – very guilty of thinking it’s all about him, and his defence could cost him his Lions shirt.
    RESTARTS – an absolute shambles.


    Josh Strauss – collosus.
    Hamish Watson – maniac.
    Alex Dunbar – best defensive 12 in the NH without a doubt.
    Committment – never let the heads go down. Could have won the match which for large parts of we were without almost half of what would be our first choice side (Dickinson, Nel, Hardie, Denton, Laidlaw).

    Frustrated but proud. Players will learn a lot from that one. I imagine they’ll start eating a little bit more for their dinners and be pushing out a few more reps in the gym. Rugby has went up another notch in terms of physicality and we’re in danger of missing the boat and ending up years behind the curve. The Chiefs were always the fittest side in super rugby so looking forward to Rennie at Glasgow.

    1. I cannot disagree with that . At least Hogg never put out a swinging arm when defending the try. Tacking is an injury likely situation and this is not a time for an ambitious guy to pick up an injury.

      I have to say , going forward, he found the gaps , credit where it is due.

      1. Frankly like to see who would have stopped the French guy at that range, and with a bit of pace. Bouledogue has it right, there would have been arms and allsorts.

        Yeah closer in you have at least two so a lot easier. As for Lions shirt, Williams L wouldn’t even have made that effort.

        It’s on a par with when you know you are going to get mauled over, why pull it down and give the PT and YC.

  30. Finn Russell is a rare talent and will have learned much from this game. His ability to weave through heavy traffic and offload is something to be nurtured and honed by experience. One of his line-kicks in the game was superb and practice will make this skill perfect. Tactically the balance between the bold and the pragmatic needs further coaching.
    Regardless of the injury status, I think Tim Swinson could develop into an excellent no.6, giving us further go-forward in the loose and another lineout option. It was noticeable that he was the one in support of Seymour to score the second try. So a starting backrow of Swinson, Strauss and Watson would have a formidable balance — and Ben Toolis could provide second-row cover on the bench.

  31. Re-Finn Russell’s perceived failings and the comments on “headless chickens”, it takes little imagination to understand the effects of lack of possession and constant defending against waves of attack would have on both body and mind. Naturally our attacking energies will have been sapped whenever we have the ball.
    Our problems in the scrummage are like ice cracking — the scrum is the main crack but plenty of tributary cracks will spread across all other areas of our game. Parity in the scrum will be essential for success against Wales.

    1. You’re right but that is exactly where experience and leadership kick in. When others (Jonathan Davies for example) are losing their heads, taking poor decisions and failing to execute skills under pressure, individuals with lots of experience and teams with strong leadership are taking the right decision and minimising mistakes. England have won the last two games because in the final ten minutes they collectively knew what to do to pressurise their opponents and take scoring opportunities. Not because they were the better side for the preceding 60-70 minutes. That is the difference between winners and losers at this level.

    2. If that was Sexton or Biggar or Farrell they would be sticking the ball in the corners. It would change the dynamic of possession and territory and galvanise us. Finn still has lots he needs to add to his game. Could have been a Lions player this summer but not the finished article yet.

      1. If that was any of the three above, they would be most likely on the front foot. I would like to see how accurate they are retreating. Not IMHO a valid comparison. Russell needs to learn a whole heap about game management for sure, but for guys on this board, please tell me when he has been dropped as you wish, who are you going to bring in, and what are they going to add. When you make your suggestions, please explain why they will succeed now when they have failed in the past, unless of course you have uncovered another unpolished gem.

        Busy Little Bee, this does not mean “bring back Parks”!

        Rant over.

  32. Dunbar, Watson, R.Gray & the colossus Strauss were all sensational, the scrum was demolished latterly (Thomas Castaignède said that the French had their best props on the bench so that may explain their late dominance).
    Russell struggled behind a struggling pack, its easier for a 10 operating behind a dominant pack, Weir is simply too slow & apart from 1 kick V Ireland has been poor for Scotland.
    I do think we need to try Du Preez v Wales, 19st is very handy & on form Du Preez is a tremendous asset.
    Price suits our game better but Laidlaw is a very good captain.
    Highland Bear makes a fair point re captaincy issues above.

    1. Think we need to see who’s fit. Leadership is a major issue. AND we need to rethink the front row. Wales are decent there, but don’t offer the brutality that France did. I would at least expect us to hold our own on our own ball. After that……..down to game plan. When we can impose ourselves and what challenges Wales offer. Each game so far, just a bit different.

      Thankfully there’s a rest week this time round.

  33. incidentally not good news on the HIA front.

    Brown and Dunbar are considered concussion victims and will be subject to the graduated return to play protocol.

    Hardie looked punch drunk.

    Barclay HIA & shoulder……….

  34. Strauss was fantastic yesterday. Much as I admire Finn, he was not at the races and really does have to work on his game management. Not blaming him for the defeat though. Have yet to watch a recording, but I’m sure when I do it will confirm that this was a brutal, titanic struggle between two sides of equal ability except in the scrums where we were humped big time. Actually, I think that one area cost us the game, a game we were still in right until the last five mins, when France then did to us what we did to Ireland last week to shut it down. Credit to the French.
    After two rounds, I’d say there isn’t much difference between the five sides above Italy. Any of them could beat any of the others. We’re not out of this tournament by any means. Yesterday’s losing bonus point could be very significant come the last round.

  35. I get the impression that Russell would benefit from a 2nd 5/8 type @ 12 (like Townsend did did when John Leslie was inside him)

    1. We don’t have a 2nd 5 type of centre though. Russell played that position in a few of his earlier games for Glasgow I’m sure

  36. Correct Andy, Horne is closest to it but he’s injured too,

    Russell is very much a front foot player

    I was bewildered @ Weir being allowed to go to Edinburgh when he clearly doesn’t suit Scotland’s game plan / not up to it.

  37. Surprised at the issue of the world cup rankings as I thought beating Argentina secured us in the top 8 at the cut off for the draw. We must have taken a good few points beating Ireland- just as well as otherwise we could have been needing a win at Twickenham. I would also say I am very impressed by the research done to check this out.

  38. What a game! A fine example of Test-level rugby (As was the Wales/England game on Saturday).

    While it’s a sore disappointment to lose, there is no disgrace in giving your all and being beaten by the better side, which was my view of the game – France just edged it.

    Plenty said about the performances of the players – we would have lost this by 20 points a couple of years ago, so no complaints from me.

    FF makes the point that England win games by having the collective nous and experience to make the correct decisions at the sharp end of the game. This has taken years to develop, starting under Lancaster and improving under Jones. Scotland are on that path, but it is a long one and there will be days it doesn’t work out.

    Last thing – my bugbear with rugby at the moment. If you have a line out where each of your players is a foot taller than the opposition it does not mean you get a penalty from every restart of the game. So why is this the case in the scrum? If the ball is at the back foot for 2 seconds then it MUST be played. It ruins the game as a spectacle and makes a mockery of the laws of the game which state a scrum is used to safely and quickly restart the game. Drives me mad seeing a scrum half standing over good ball, staring at the ref in hopeful expectation – just play the effing ball!!!!

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