Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 29-0 Italy

Finn Russell
Finn Russell - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

A damp and drizzly Murrayfield was probably not the sort of atmosphere Scotland would have wanted to deploy their preferred brand of attacking rugby, but a sell-out crowd was in sufficient cheer to demand a winning end to the season and a fitting tribute to outgoing coach Vern Cotter.

With handling slippery, the opening passages were characterised by kicking from both sides until Scotland’s pack showed some intent by destroying the first Italian scrum to give Stuart Hogg a shot at the posts; the new father got his game off to a good start by sneaking it over. The next scrum, with Scotland in prime attacking position after Nigel Owens overruled Gauzere’s call, was less successful with the penalty going the way of Italy.

Scotland gave away another moments later for collapsing the maul which highlighted the key Italian threat. In both their big early drives, Ryan Wilson looked even at that stage to be operating below capacity with a shoulder injury. It was no surprise when Italy used the maul again the first time they made the Scottish 22 but the home side managed to hold it well enough to force the Italians wider where they conceded a breakdown penalty.

They couldn’t force the Italians from their half though before Canna was awarded a shot at goal of his own – missed.

Perhaps even last weekend included, Scotland look very confident with the ball every time they enter the opposition half. They don’t always score, but they usually come close.

Huw Jones had a couple of nice darts before Tim Visser narrowly failed to gather a high ball in goal. Jones went off injured at that point after a nice cameo but not how he would have wanted a decent Six Nations to end.

Matt Scott on the other hand was bursting to get on, fine Premiership form finally rewarded. He didn’t have to wait long for  chance, falling on an Ali Price chip that with no small amount of luck ended up at his feet. That was Scotland’s second try, the first coming just after Jones went off.

Scotland had a penalty though and the pack drove it close, John Barclay and Alex Dunbar in particular carrying strongly before Price threaded Finn Russell through the sort of hole he usually puts others into for a try out wide. Russell converted to make it 10-0 with half an hour played.

In that last ten minutes either side of Scott’s try it was the usual procession of penalties, kicking and chasing including another Italy miss. Scotland were kicking better, holding on to the ball and keeping better discipline.

It wasn’t particularly absorbing, but at least Scotland were winning it.

Half-time: Scotland 15-0 Italy

The second half saw the introduction of the sun, hitherto unused in the match and the Scots must have thought they were on holiday such was the casual approach they took in the opening exchanges.

The Italians on the other hand had their maul purring and got the ball within inches of the Scottish line on a couple of occasions, after one they spun it wide only for Stuart Hogg and Scott to hold up Esposito over the line.

Hogg was at it again minutes later, forcing a knock on in the tackle from Padovani which brought a huge roar from the crowd. This one may have been even more vital with John Barclay in the bin for repeated collapsing of the Italian maul. Certainly to send Italy away with no points was encouraging but Scotland couldn’t quite capitalise immediately on Italian indiscpline. Still, with the visitors lineout misfiring Russell and Hogg were content to pepper kicks in behind Italy.

Restored to 15 men by the hour mark, one such kick bore fruit for the Scottish attack.  Hogg chipped over the defence then he and Russell incited panic in the men in blue, before another messy loose ball knocked back into the large scoring areas was slapped down by Tim Visser to cap an industrious afternoon.

As the Mexican waves rolled around Murrayfield it was a curious mix of atmosphere. The game was in the bag and Scotland chasing the bonus point but Scotland weren’t playing quite well enough to avoid boredom for some, with more stoppages especially as players tired. It was perhaps also Finn trying to be too clever at times in the opposition half, when previously simple, direct rugby has served Scotland best.

And so it was that when they put the ball through the hands after several phases of strong carrying, Russell then Hogg gently popped the ball to Seymour who despite a quiet tournament, made his mark on the end of it to seal Scotland’s first Six Nations try bonus point.

When even the Italian maul started faltering, the real chance they wouldn’t score anything probably put their heads down and despite forcing Scotland to defend for the last five minutes this performance will have given Conor O’Shea plenty to think on.

For Scotland, onwards and upwards and real satisfaction at not conceding any points.

Farewell and our heartfelt thanks Vern Cotter.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (Fra)

Attendance: 67,144

SRBlog Man of the Match: The sponsors gave it to Finn Russell but for me Hamish Watson was the standout forward in one of those industrious team efforts where few stand out. Out back, Alex Dunbar and Tim Visser also had busy games.

51 Responses

    1. Can’t ever remember when we would have said that about a Six Nations win.

      Clinical in the red zone again, otherwise forgettable.

  1. plenty to work on but a good win against opposition we usually struggle against. thanks vern you have left us in great shape onwards and upwards

  2. Is their any prize money depending on where we finish ? i kinda want wales and england to lose and still believe it does not take anything anyway from how well scotland have done based on where they finish at this point,but not if it means we could be losing a few mil between 4th-2nd though, which could he put into further development in sru hopefully.

  3. Strange this. Last minute. Wales win we lose the world ranking. France win we lose second place.

    1. Well, curiously as far as I can see, we exit the 6 Nations ranked 5th. I’ll take that, thanks Mr. C – never thought we might get to this exalted altitude- ok, I know the Saffers have major, major problems right now.

      Now GT has to work out the next trick…..

  4. this Wales vs France game is an utter shambles the actual rugby is poor and officiating is showing up international rugby

    1. As much as it was a shambles I literally can not think of a single thing the ref did wrong???

      1. If he refused that replacement then he would be questioning the integrity of a medical doctor which as a referee he can’t do. He would probably be right to question it but couldn’t be seen to do so.

  5. OK win today and overall a positive championship, but does anyone else get the feeling Hogg will be the only Scot on the Lions tour? Not that i’m really bothered, but i won’t be surprised if we have a smaller contingent than 4 years ago when we were a much weaker team.

    Loads of our boys look like near miss contenders for that tour, and Gatland will need no second invitation to leave them out. I’m talking about Grays, Watson, Russell, Dunbar, Jones, Seymour. Presumably Nel and Hardie have no chance.

    1. Yeah there is a lot of competition in the areas we are strongest… so alot of our players are around the fringes.
      Really couldn’t give a monkeys….Lions loss will be our gain. Chance for GT to establish what his 1st choice squad will be.

    2. Not often I agree with you, but I definitely do here. Chance for Toonie to make his mark, and a full pack of cards would be a good place to start.

    3. I think for months we have wanted to cast Gatland as some anti Scottish bad guy when he hasn’t picked the squad yet. Truth is that because of a punishing tour and style of play that he will want to impose it is quite likely a lot of Scots won’t make the initial squad. In fact I think Hogg is the only nailed on and then J. Gray, Seymour and H.Jones are on the cusp.

      That said come the test match you are likely to have injuries and no matter what position it is quite probable that a lot of Scots make the tour late as replacements.

      But as said the time with Townsend perhaps with a bit of siege mentality thrown in is a good thing. Also a near full strength team might even give Australia a good game as well

      1. There will be few Scots and lots of Welsh and we will get pumped.

        My forecast.

  6. Bizarre, bizarre ending to the France – Wales game. Never seen anything like it. Biting? Phantom HIA/cheating? 20 minutes of scrums…disappointed not to finish second…

    1. 2nd…3rd …who cares. Nobody will remember anything other than team who won and possibly the team which came last.
      We proved we are improving … and the results reflect that.
      Considering how many 1st team players we had injured this comp….we have truly improved our squad…still a ways to go..lots to develop…but.. far more positive signs that we are building a top side.

      1. I disagree about the final position, although I agree that the main thing is the 3 wins. It’s all part (maybe a small part) of the psychology for future seasons. The Scotland players would be proud to be the first Scotland team to finish 2nd in the 6 Nations era. In January next year, a lot of people will have a look back at the 2017 table. Finishing 2nd is impressive. Finishing 4th less so.

      2. Yeah… but those people who look back at the table, in any detail, will see that 2nd-4th all had same points, 3W 2L…and that the difference between Ireland , France and Scotland was absolutely marginal.

    2. Personally I’d rather stay fifth in the rankings – any welsh victory would have pushed us down a couple of spots – than finish second in the six nations.

      1. Fair point. That’s why I was actually hoping for an unconverted French try, so it would be a draw (although not 100% sure what that would have done to the rankings).

  7. I fear fourth place is coming our way now. France have been poor this championship. Exciting game to come hope it’s a cracker.

  8. Wales vs France; all the evidence that the IRB need to prove that the modern scrum is a farce. Actually felt sorry for WB, being constrained by idiotic rules.

      1. Not sure what he could have done differently? Thought every decision was correct – happy to be corrected though..

    1. I never realiased what a dirty player he is till last week when his combination of high tackles and dangerous clear outs and ruck entry came to the fore.

      1. Couldnt agree more. Top of my most hated players. High tackles and cheap shots dont make a great player. Shame, as he is very talented

      2. the amount of dangerous ruck clearouts and late tackles around the rucks is somthing that comes to mind from england also although im not sure if thats just me or if all teams are doing it. world rugby needs to sort it out though i think

      3. I just don’t get the fuss about Itoje. Very athletic..sure…he doesn’t do anything that makes me think …wow thats why i love watching rugby.
        He just looks like a typical lock forward to me…and as you say.. gets his advantage sometimes via foul play.

    2. Couldn’t agree more – Could be a penalty liability in NZ as well – but he is an English media favourite so doesn’t get highlighted anywhere.

      1. He’s a truly excellent lock. Excellent.

        He’s not looked that great this 6N because he’s playing at 6 and that’s not the best position for him.

        Cleans out hard and aside from the marginal high hit on Hogg, I can’t think of many instances where I’ve thought he might be out of order.

  9. Good win. Slightly disappointing first half due to the weather but I’m glad I swapped in Visser and Russell to my fantasy team!

    France tried their best to throw their game away. Happy to have finished above Wales. I was raging at my telly with all the gesticulating and arm waving from the Welsh. Bigger, Liam Williams, Wyn Jones should all be taken aside and told to stop whinging and man up a bit or go play football.

    I was amazed that England kept all their players on the park as some of the hits were clearly high and didn’t look all that accidental either. Fair play to Ireland for winning but I think we made England look better than they are last week. Gutting that a few weak tries last week and we end up 4th instead of 2nd.

    And I think we should consider the France game a missed opportunity as they haven’t looked like anything other than a group of big individuals rather than a team. I think we panicked and if we’d stayed calm we could have beaten them.

    As for the Lions, I don’t think we’ll have many going but I won’t get upset about it.

    One thing I would say, to go from being a good team to a great team I think we need to get a lot more physical or we risk getting bullied by the likes of England, Ireland, France and New Zealand. Looking forward to the summer tour and the Toonie era already!

    1. Agree James that Paris was a missed opportunity. Think it wasn’t panic but dislocation and a bit of confusion caused by the injuries. Even then, we were in it with ten to go. Mais, c’est la vie as they say. Still a good 6N for us overall. Side will get even better under Toonie, I’m sure.

  10. Came stumbling along princes street tonight to be met by the Scotland team bus making its way after the match reception to the hotel. Saw Big Vern having a big laugh at some story Jonathan Humphries was telling at the front of the bus. Great to see BVC enjoying his last few days as Scotland coach and getting a great send off in the stadium. It was emotional!! I think he’s been a special coach and leader, a good fit for Scotland and will be sorely missed.

  11. In the Cowgate after having had a few drinks but I’m sure I speak for us all when I say Cheers Vern; haste ye back!

  12. Well done Scotland. Clinical display and I never thought at any point that Scotland were going to lose, and equally felt they had a game plan to get the four tries. How the team has moved on in the last three years (and also drew a line under the previous week).

    In the Ire Eng game the Irish in particular were taking Eng players out of the ruck area who were not attached in any way and then often holding them. They have been doing this for years, which for me is illegal and pretty easy to see. Could someone explain to me the specific rules and why referees ignore it.

    1. Short Answer is they are not trained well enough to control that part of game , world rugby should be clamping down on this stuff and instructing referees to cancel it out immediately, i think their is a lack of clarity on specifc rules and the continuity of them. E.i. the high tackles at the start of the tournament and what is was like at the end.

  13. What I hope is that this is not a high water mark and we regress. We have three away fixtures next year which makes life difficult.

    The backs I’m comfortable with and we have depth in most areas but fly half.

    But the elephant in the room is the pack. We just aren’t big and nasty enough. Where is our CJ Stander or Courtney Lawes? Making 1000 tackles a game like Jonny is fine but somebody needs to be smashing the opposition. Otherwise the template for beating Scotland is pretty obvious. Blow us off the park up front and force the backs to try miracles. I.e what England and France did to us.

    It’s not an easy problem to solve either. It’s not like there are 19 stone monsters playing that we are not picking.

      1. Maybe. I do like Denton his last season before he went to Bath he was Edinburghs best player. But Bradbury needs some more beef I think for international rugby. Exciting player though.

  14. Disagree with the comments above about finishing ‘joint 2nd’. We finished 4th and it was justified (if a little frustrating).
    In a 6 team tournament with 5 games you don’t get to write off a complete performance and result like Twickenham. Even if we’d lost by a mere 28 points we’d still have finished above France in 3rd. But unfortunately we lost by 40 and got royally pumped. Therefore deserving of a 4th placed finish. The table doesn’t lie.
    I am not being negative about what is ultimately a decent campaign on the whole, but let us not fall into the trap of losers with all this ‘joint 2nd’ rubbish.
    Let’s be honest with ourselves.

  15. Agree with that comment, Twickenham was a disaster and we should have scored more v Italy. So 4th is about right. So GT needs to move us to the next level. 5th place still in the world rankings , which is exceptional for a nation with just two pro teams. There is also a healthy respect and acknowledgment of our attacking threat. Huw Jones has added another dimension to our play in that respect and Vissar is finally delivering at test level. Onwards and upwards

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion