Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Edinburgh 9-13 Ospreys

Scrum in the rain
[Edinburgh, UK. March 03, 2017] Murray McCallum, Neil Cochrane, Alasdair Dickinson and Jamie Ritchie scrum down during Edinburgh Rugby vs Ospreys in the Guinness Pro12 at Myreside, Edinburgh - ipc © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

In the opening twenty minutes of this match at a rainy Myreside, Edinburgh had plenty of possession but nothing more to show for it than a Duncan Weir penalty.

Conversely, the second part of the first half belonged to the Ospreys who scored a well-worked try created by the impressive Sam Davies and finished by centre Josh Matavesi.

Edinburgh scrabbled hard for turnovers in appalling handling conditions with some success but were almost inevitably turning it over in kind on their own ball. If there was a theme for the night, it was ball retention.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Rory Scholes may have felt their positions more secure with Sean Kennedy and Tom Brown packed off to Las Vegas for the Sevens but it wasn’t necessarily reflected in the performances as kicks went astray.

Ben Toolis continues to be in the form of his life and has put in Jonny Gray levels of effort these last few matches with little to show for it. Still, not even a brief spell off for a Head Injury Assessment could stop him. If Richard Cockerill can teach the big man – still just 24 – some better tackling technique then he could have a weapon on his hands.

Edinburgh ended the first half camped on the Ospreys try line, a Sam Davies penalty the only further score, but they couldn’t make the passes stick in the conditions and a grateful Ospreys side jogged for the welcome respite of the sheds as George Clancy whistled up.

Half-time: Edinburgh 3-10 Ospreys

Edinburgh, led by Duncan Weir and Cornell du Preez, resumed the match at high intensity but the score remained locked at 3-10 for some time. The Ospreys looked content to soak it up, knowing that was probably the quickest way back home to Swanswea.

With the rain making it difficult from the tee, Weir put a penalty into the corner and the Edinburgh pack stepped up with a series of pick and go attacks as the Ospreys defence looked like it might be testing the patience of Clancy. Unfortunately their momentum was arrested during a maul that might have led to a penalty try but didn’t, and Al Dickinson leaving the field on a stretcher. Surely it all but puts paid to his chances of a place in the Scotland squad next weekend.

The Ospreys escaped and that scoreboard remained stuck where it was.

The home side had their best spell around the hour mark, but even then a clear cut try scoring chance was dropped by Chris Dean and Magnus Bradbury limped off. Dickinson, Bradbury and Cornell du Preez may all have had a chance of a spot on the bench for the Calcutta Cup but only du Preez emerged intact.

Depending on Rob Harley’s performance today for the Warriors, the prospect of both Toolis and Swinson on the bench isn’t so far fetched.

A Duncan Weir penalty after 63 minutes pegged the gap back but Sam Davies moved the Ospreys further ahead just 5 minutes later with a penalty of his own. For all their intent, Edinburgh found it hard to capitalise on the holes they were punching in a dogged defensive line. With 8 minutes to play Weir took another 3 points from in front of the posts.

A win was clearly what they wanted, not the draw. But they needed the ball, and a superb high take from Damien Hoyland followed up by a kick chase gave Edinburgh a chance to pounce. They had the ball and were taken int the Ospreys 22 after a nice angle from substitute Mike Allen.

It was a frantic and muddy battle for every yard in slippery handling conditions and the resolute Ospreys defence held until the almost inevitable knock on came. The win puts them top of the PRO12 table.

Once again it was a game Edinburgh probably could/should have won but were left chasing too hard in the final minutes. As yet they don’t have the killer instinct to make those chases count.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Appiah and McInally made a good impact off the bench, Du Preez and Weir ran themselves into the ground but Ben Toolis was the standout performer for the home side.

Referee: George Clancy

Attendance: 2,873

62 Responses

  1. Anyone know where an exiled Scotland south of the wall can see pro 12? I’m with BT, refuse to support the Murdoch empire. I don’t seem to get Alba on my youview

    1. If you go on the BBC red button or via the Beebs’ website you can watch the games. And if there is no Glasgow or Edinburgh game you can pick up the Welsh or Irish games that will be on instead.

    2. Crazyjoe, As a fellow exile I’ve changed my location settings (home page bbc) to Edinburgh on my chromebook, this allows you to watch programmes in selected area. (bbc scotland / alba)

  2. This was a better performance from Edinburgh than the last few weeks, but they lack a cutting edge, and apparently a big dollop of self belief.

    In fact watching Edinburgh last night was like watching the Scotland team of 5 years ago. Lots of possession, but no oomph. Opponents happy to defend knowing that there will be interminable pick and goes followed by the inevitable knock on or turnover.

    We have seen Scotland progress, so I’m sure Edinburgh can do the same – hopefully Cockerill can get it all kick-started next season.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. Reminded me so much of the side to side movement of the Scotland sides of the noughties without ever really threatening to break the line. Still, there was enough in this performance in a narrow defeat to the top of the table side to make me feel that this Edinburgh side is capable of beating La Rochelle in their QF. That’s all there is to play for now, unfortunately.

      1. Wouldn’t be too sure. La Rochelle are currently second top of the Top 14 and if they can be bothered to play then Edinburgh are going to have to improve markedly. The only plus at the moment it seems is they’re playing at home and the French teams generally don’t like travelling.

        Cockers can’t get here fast enough to kick ass BIG time.

  3. I thought it seemed a bizarre performance considering Ed are coached by a former backs player.

    The forwards continually made progress deep into opponents territory only for the ‘finishers’ to look absolutely clueless as to how get the ball over the line.

    Im not sure Id even want Hodge coaching the backs in the future….should just be let go.

    Just not good enough.

    So sad re Dickinson…I thought he was having an excellent comeback until that injury. Hugely dissapointing for him and Scotland. I dont know if he’ll ever reach 100% fitness now…at his age…and type of injuries.

    1. With and without Solomons. Hodge has been given his chance and failed miserably. Serious questions need to be asked of the SRU as to his qualifications as a coach at this level.

    2. Indeed, and Hodge was reported to have been ‘disappointed’ not to have got the head coach job!! What planet is he on??

      Just recalled one moment when after multiple phases SHC fires the ball out to his left to give his winger – whoever he was – a 1 on 1. Surprise surprise he loses the ball into touch! Another promising move thrown away when a bit more patience…

      Just clueless Edinburgh at the moment.

      1. And yet, and yet……I was at the Stoop to watch Embra absolutely cuff the Quins (scoreline belied just how dominant the visitors were). So there’s still hope based on pieces of past form that the Gunners can do it. Agree with you that French club teams don’t like travelling. Likewise their fans. There couldn’t have been more than a couple of hundred at Murrayfield when Edinburgh beat Toulouse in the Heineken Cup QF a few years ago.

  4. Off topic but the Glasgow report isn’t in yet – I’ve just looked at the league table for the first time in a while and it isn’t pretty reading.

    Glasgow’s best total is 71 with an unlikely 5 point win in every game. Scarlets only need 18 to get to that total and have games against Edinburgh, Dragons and one of the Italian teams in their last 6.

    Am I being overly pessimistic but is their any hope of Glasgow getting into the top 4?

    And Connaught are only two points behind so any slip up and they may not even be top 6! Thank goodness for the ruling that every country gets a team in the champions cup…

    1. Top 4 is beyond Glasgow. It’s all about the CC now. Europe is all that is left for Embra too. Still, I’ll take victories in both of those cups and a 6N win and call it a moderately successful season…

    2. I’m on Glasgow duty James so will have that in soon.
      In a nutshell, it was all a bit too easy to get across the gain-line right in the middle of the park, Newport’s missed tackle count tells it’s own story (31 missed, 131 made). I still expect to you read the whole thing though, so won’t give too much away just now. ;-)
      Given the respective run-ins, Glasgow making top-4 is unlikely, but it’s a chance to give some young guns required match time, particularly if the star names can’t drag us into the play-offs once they return from international duty, or the semis in Europe.

  5. Yeah …would be a huge blow if Champions cup inclusion was dependent on league placing this year.

    Glasgow left themselves with far too much to do. It highlights the lack of depth in terms of quality.. not so much numbers.

    1. People say that Glasgow (and theoretically Edinburgh) are adversely hit during international periods as we only have two teams to draw from. Whilst that is undeniably true, the counter argument is that depth at these clubs should be deeper as the player pool is concentrated.

      It shows that whilst Scottish rugby is undoubtedly on an upwards trajectory, it is still lagging behind where we should be in terms of playing numbers; I take the other two Celtic nations as being our yardstick.

      It’s also damning evidence against those asking for a 3rd pro team. Diluting our small pool around three teams would make them all terrible. Work still needs to be done to expand the game in Scotland. The SRU have done good work recently with the creation of the academies, and improvement in the 7s and women’s team, as well as the men’s. Success will help grow public interest and so participation numbers.The next aim I feel is to get more state school kids playing.

      Hopefully the fact that many of the poster boys of this young team: Hogg, Russell, J Gray, Bennett, Dunbar are all from non-private school backgrounds will help lift the stigma around rugby in Scotland.

      1. Indeed, there is no point expanding unless it can be used to counteract the talent drain to England and France. A nice idea but with current earning capacity we are better off with more concentrated resources.

      2. There is the counterargument that a third side exposes the players to a higher level of rugby on a consistent basis and hence speeds up the development process – Connacht are a prime example of this. I don’t think we are quite there yet, but one of the aims of the academy system should be to produce more players at a higher baseline standard so we can have a third team in the next 5 years say. Funding may be the bigger issue than player numbers down the line.

  6. And fewer than 3000 people there to watch. Depressing. Things can’t get any worse surely.

    But there’s hope for next season with Cockerill and the team looks ok on paper. Nel, Ford, Dickinson, Toolis, Hardie, Watson, Bradbury, Bennett, Hoyland, Kinghorn.

    1. On paper, Edinburgh’s pack is up there with Munsters as the best in the league. Cockerill may not get Edinbrugh playing champagne rugby like Glasgow but I’m confident he’ll get the forwards pulling their weight.

  7. If a team Is winning and playing decent rugby they will turn out regardless of the weather. Losing 2000 people off the gate (40%) in a matter of weeks is alarming.

  8. Urgh – it’s hard going with Edinburgh just now. As noted above, a real lack of cutting edge in attack (Bennett will help). And the defence just opens right up at times. Decent sides are able to cut huge holes. I don’t think the players are lacking commitment. They put in some great individual tackles, make some nice breaks, but lack structure. There is plenty talent in the squad. Lacking in a few positions, but not to the extent of a lowly 22 points from 17 games. That is really really poor. If I were a incoming coach I would be wondering what elements of the current setup are working and worth keeping…

  9. Any update on Dickinson? Whilst harsh on Dell my thoughts were that Dickinson might get a half against England. Reid did well against Wales but ran out of gas and as soon as Dell came on we went backwards in scrum. My fear is England will ruthlessly exploit the scrum which we have kind of got away with so far.

    1. Dickinson injury looked bad. He won’t be playing this 6 nations I’d say.

      Big blow for Scotland. Our scrum goes backwards everytime Dell plays…guaranteed penalty every scrum. England will exploit that. Free points for England before we even start. Reid is far better than Dell in the scrum but is only good for 40 mins… looks like he is on a diet of pizza, beer and doughnuts.
      I’d rather we saw Fagerson switch to loose and Berghan at tight in 2nd half.

      Taylor also looks out… limped out of Sarries match.

      1. There’s bad luck with injuries, then there’s Duncan Taylor. And then there’s Grant Gilchrist. Should Gilchrist ever get the call to tell him he’ll be Scotland captain again, the phone will probably explode in his face.

      2. It infuriates me that the players based in England are getting played in the off weeks! Maitland missed the Wales game due to injury yet he’s starting for Saracens, Taylor missing all 6N, starting for Sarries, Scott in contention for a bench spot, starting for Gloucester.

        I know why it happens, it’s just not helpful when we are already affected by injuries, and our players that then come in line for a place in the 23 are put at risk of further injury.

      3. I am at a loss as to why Welsh isn’t in the squad. Berghan hasn’t played enough for Edinburgh to show he’s even Pro12 class, let alone international level. Welsh has by all accounts been good for Newcastle this season, and was a solid player for Glasgow. Has he fallen out with Cotter? It’s the only explanation I can see really.

        This is one thing I won’t miss about Cotter; he seemed to have a similar problem with Barclay before the 2015 WC, opting to choose Strokosch and Cowan over him, much to the chagrin of pretty much every Scottish rugby fan.

        I feel him continually overlooking Scott, picking the hopelessly out of form Bennett instead, is another of these issues.

      4. Richie Gray played for Toulouse today as well. Not sure if he came through unscathed? Thats the risk you run when you’re playing outside Scotland. If you were good enough and you were really in demand (Hogg, J Gray etc) maybe you can put something in your contract.

      5. I don’t speak French but couldn’t see anything about Ritchie mentioned on Stade’s twitter account and he didnt seem to be subbed off. Would presume no issues.

      6. VC clearly doesn’t rate Scott.. he is probably behind Horne in VCs thoughts.

        Jon Welsh is a good shout. I dont know what Berghan can or can’t do…does anyone?.. he hasn’t played much rugby. He has, however, trained with the squad this 6 nations and at least he knows the drills.
        Whether Reid lasts 40 or 60mins won’t matter, I fear. The time he is off the field and Dell is on will be a nightmare at scrum time. England will kick penalties as needed to either play catch up or finish Scotland off.

        It would just look desperate if we select Denton. He has looked so far off the pace at Bath…. he shouldn’t be anywhere near our national team. If we could get a Denton to play like he did against Australia…but from the subs bench….then great….but he just isn’t anywhere near that form at the mo.
        Probably should try Du Preeze now….. lets see if he can raise his game. Not on merit unfortunately …more in hope.
        Taylor, for me, is a loss. Better all round rugby player than Bennet.
        Unfortunately England’s depth is already beginning to look an important advantage before the ball is kicked.

      7. Hang on Ruggers! So with regards to Denton it’s:

        “It would just look desperate if we select Denton. He has looked so far off the pace at Bath…. he shouldn’t be anywhere near our national team.”

        But in the next sentence:
        “Probably should try Du Preeze now….. lets see if he can raise his game. Not on merit unfortunately …more in hope.”

        Why isn’t desperate to pick Denton, but not Du Preez? I’ve not seen anything of Denton in the last few weeks, but I have had the misfortune of catching the Edinburgh games and Du Preez has done nothing to merit a run in dark blue. The guy may have some talent, but at the minute he looks completely shorn of confidence, and it would hardly be fair on him to throw him in at the deep end at Twickenham.

      8. Yeah I did think it might sound hypocritical before saying Du Preeze ahead of Denton. I guess Du Preeze has been fit and back playing for a wee while longer whilst Denton is just back from a long lay off.. and doesn’t look fit enough. Denton even at his best is a crash ball player….whereas Du Preeze does that and has better handling when on form. Id be surprised if we didn’t have one of those guys on the bench. Only having a lock on the bench, who can play if asked, isn’t going to be sufficient for 80 mins against England’s range of pack options.

      9. It all depends, as I said elsewhere, Swinson gets one spot. Who gets the other. IMO, but not my choice Harley. Is there a case for another second rower, just to counter the Ingerlush who will be using brute force?

        Frankly there isn’t a stand out option IMO.

      10. Yeah… wouldn’t be surprised to see Harley as the chosen bench option. Just don’t see what he will bring off the bench at all at international level. A good club player but zero bench impact in a game we need something better than that to have a chance of winning.

  10. Reid went off as he injured what looked like a calf muscle in warm up. It looked bad at the time so I was surprised he lasted as long as he did. I would expect him to do 60 at least next week

  11. Not bothered about Taylor, we have Bennett or Scott as cover however I am bothered about how Denton played, anyone?

    1. He looked complacent, especially when attempting his try. And lazy in both defence and offence, except for a couple of decent runs. Can’t see him getting picked for the England after such a lackadaisical.

    2. I watched most of the game but also had the Glasgow game on so can’t say I scrutinised him closely. OK is about all I can saw for it. Seemed to get involved well enough. Didnt see him carry a whole lot – think I say him get through the first man once though.

      He played with the number 7 shirt weirdly enough. He actually got in for a try but was just in touch before the grounding – much like Rhys Webb against Scotland. Ultimately Bath looked outclassed by Wasps and his performance didnt stand out. Mind you its a still a lot higher level than playing the Dragons so he may yet get a call up.

      Hastings played 80 mins also – his third prem start. He was also OK but tbh his style seemed more similar to Weir’s than the Russell-eque heir to the 10 shirt that we all seem to want him to be.

      Think Toolis still my first choice for the bench spot against England, with Swinson covering the back row. Don’t think Bradbury, Du Preez, Denton or Harley stood out enough for me. Cummings did well covering 8 but that would be a bold call up indeed.

      Should find out tomorrow whether Vern has called anyone up though. Even if he doesn’t there’s still an argument for any of Toolis, Gilchrist, Du Preez or Harley to make the bench so we don’t exactly learn much.

      1. I often think J Gray would do a better than decent shift at 8. He rarely goes backwards… tackles like a demon…is always mature in his performances. We have several locks who are very good that could fill in for him.

      2. Hastings, to me, looks like his playing style is somewhere between Weir and Russell. A kicking game with some nice flicks and offloads. I think he has potential….needs a fair bit of development…Dave Rennie will be good for him I think.

  12. Any chance Ford could step in for the last 20-30 mins instead of dell against england ? he has the experience and hes only good for a scrum now anyway.

  13. Watching the games this week my points were these:

    Edinburgh v Ospreys, both teams struggled with conditions the only real chance to score a try came from Ospreys with some class from the Welsh flyhalf. Over 80 mins the Edinburgh boys probably did enough that they should have won but lacked any high risk rugby to threaten the defensive line, on another day less errors they would have won.

    Glasgow v Dragons, the Dragons looked terrible and they came across a team that has now played 4 games together with a couple of key players returning to match fitness, I thought Swinson made a difference a brought some leadership to the pack.

    I really hope Vernon and Dickinson are ok, Vernons looked bad really hoping it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

  14. I know nothing about the technicalities of playing prop, how hard is it to switch from one side to the other? Could Fagerson or a hooker like Ford play loose head? Dell did OK in the AI matches so its disappointing he’s struggled so bad in the scrum this tournament, it’s becoming a real headache. Dell looks more like a back row forward or even inside centre to me, I wonder if he can kick better than Dunbar. He’s too tall and handsome to play prop.

    1. its not that hard tbh , as long as you can squat, push and grab the other dude it dosent make a real difference. just need bulk imo which is why i think dell struggles , always seems like the no 3 he is up against is twice the width.

      1. If their was any real technicalitys playing prop , the average rugby fan would know them by now, but even the commentators who normally are ex pros these days cant give a clear answer most of them time as to what happens.

    2. I think that is part of the problem for Dell. He just isn’t aggressive enough to play in the front row. He is very similar physique to Dickinson…..but Al is aggressive and experienced in the scrum and Dell is not.

    3. Prop switch is pretty hard I believe as techniques are different…so it might happen in event of an injury or other emergency, but I don’t think it should be considered for the 23..hookers are hookers end of story..loosehead needs a loosehead, tighthead a tighthead and hooker a hooker.

      1. Long time since I played but from my experience, I would agree that prop positions are specialised, hated having to swap sides on the scrum.
        Hopefully Dell will improve with experience – there was once a time when Al D was arguably a bit of a liability at scrum time but he’s turned into one of the best loose heads around.
        Welsh would probably have been a sensible call and surprised he hasn’t been given a chance but probably too late in the day for this tournament. Would be great if the younger Edinburgh props push on under Cotterill’s watch.

      2. Shifting from one side of the international scrum to the other in my young day occurred occasionaly (Fran Cotton comes to mind; and I’ve come across reference to David Rollo moving across – a bit before my time; while more recently Jason Leonard was able to cover both sides of the scrum). Regarding the move from hooker to prop, John Smit did it at international level for South Africa.
        What one is talking about are a small minority from among elite international players who excelled in their position and were able to cope with the change. Not sure if there is anyone in the Scotland squad who would fall into that category.

  15. Was a good analysis a while back on aussie site green and gold rugby….showed how Dickinson and Nel..with help…worked together to get scrum penalties. Precise body positioning and “nous” can’t just be got overnight.

      1. That’s a very interesting read. Think I am in the minority in that I actually enjoy the scrums, in particular it’s been great with the front row we had then in the World Cup when you know you have a good chance of gaining the upper hand and resulting penalty/field position from it.

        Watching the stormers games in super rugby with particular interest now with the impending arrival of oli kebble to the warriors. Have to say the man looks a unit, when he came on Saturday every scrum went forward at a rate of knots. Questionable as to the legality of some of his scrummaging but it’s fair to say that he won’t be going backwards much in the pro 12. In fact a front row of kebble, brown and fagerson is a frightening prospect for next season and hopefully Scotland in the future..

      2. That was very interesting. I am a complete hypocrite when it comes to scrums, hate how long they take and how they are milked for penalties but happily take them when we are the beneficiaries.

    1. What’s the role of the second rows at scrum time? Should we be looking at the Grays to see if they are giving enough help and support to the front row? I’m no expert but on some of the overhead shots at scrum time the Grays haven’t looked as tight as I would have expected.

      1. im sure ali williams aka the big coke boss mentioned that also during the ireland game when giving analysis.

      2. Cannot believe nobody knows what happens at scrum time on this blog! Are you all girlie backs or just have never played? Or maybe forgotten in the mists of time?
        Firstly, there is a huge difference between loose and tight-head. About the same as between inside and outside centre, or openside and blindside flanker.
        The LH has only one shoulder against the opposition, so generally has to bring his left foot forward for support. He still has to push straight but the natural inclination is to “wheel” round, which gives an attacking scrum the edge but is illegal. So he has to try and push straight (to not get penalised) but wheel at the same time (to get an advantage).
        The TH goes between the opposition hooker and LH, so has two big guys to push against (and try to beat). Slightly less technical as pushing straight is easier, but you have to be a bit of a beast to cope with two opponents. Generally the “rock” of the scrum – if he goes backwards you all do (or wheel). If he goes forwards, however, you all do too. Can also niggle the opposition hooker to put him off the “strike”, although that’s less important now the ball is put in at the second rows feet!!
        Talking of second rows, these are not called the “engine room” for nothing. If they aren’t performing the props have a bad time of it. Can help a defensive scrum by locking out (legs straight) and can make the difference between going forward or not. However, it doesn’t matter how much you push in the second row if the front row is collapsing/standing up/hingeing/wheeling.
        As for hookers moving to prop – be serious!! OK for the 3rd team down the club but at professional level they’d be sent to hospital. Props can move to hooker – especially now hookers don’t need to hook. Jan Smit was mentioned as a hooker who moved to prop, but he was first a prop for SA U21s, then moved to hooker, then back to prop later.
        All rugby positions are slightly specialist, and to find a player who can play at the top level in more than one is the exception, rather than the rule.

  16. Yes, propping is very technical. Ray McLoughlin, a British Lion prop of the ’60s, had a degree in chemical engineering and is reputed to have applied his scientific knowledge to good effect in the scrum by adopting the optimum body-position. Though switching from loose to tight, and vice-versa, is no easy task, I feel that some of our props could benefit from a switch to hooker. At international level today, to weigh 18 stone + has almost become a prerequisite, and props below that weight could perhaps function best as hookers, especially as the angled put-in renders the reflexes of old-fashioned hooking virtually redundant. Props like Ryan Grant and Alan Dell could perhaps be most effective in the middle of the front row.

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