Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Player Ratings: Scotland vs Samoa

Huw Jones and Lee Jones
Huw Jones has Lee Jones in support during Scotland vs Samoa at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

It was a curates egg of a game at BT Murrayfield with a hatful of tries, some superb finishing and the win, but also a worrying lack of defence and direction. Here are our player ratings:

15. Stuart Hogg – always a threat with the ball in hand, kicked well when Scotland seemed to lack direction and showed real leadership after John Barclay went off. He’ll be top of the All Blacks & Wallabies concerns in the next two games 7.5/10

14. Tommy Seymour – created the first try with a brilliant kick ahead and again dominated the aerial contests in which he was involved. Quiet in the second half and saved for next week to allow Chris Harris his debut. 7/10

13. Huw Jones – A great return to the national side with a try: dangerous in attack and solid defensively. Townsend couldn’t have asked for much more – this guy is absolutely the real deal. 7.5/10

12. Alex Dunbar – took his try well and carried hard. Was without much ball early on due to Russell’s mistakes but grew into the match as time went on. 7/10

11. Lee Jones – continued his great club form with a fine showing. Teed up Dunbar for his try with an excellent offload & nearly set up Hogg in the first half with lovely kick. Has surely cemented his place for now, at least. 7/10

10. Finn Russell – An erratic first half performance and too many mistakes from the mercurial Glasgow stand-off gave Samoa easy ball. A few flashy touches that look like brilliance but will need to be better next week. 6/10

9. Ali Price – Kept the pack moving and was vocal throughout. Linked well with flatmate Russell to keep Scotland on the front foot, and made one blistering break that his team-mates should have finished. Replaced by Pyrgos just after the hour. 7/10

1. Darryl Marfo – brilliantly industrious on his debut, with two turnovers the prime evidence of that. Carried hard and the scrum went well (the ref didn’t always agree), but bigger tests definitely lie ahead. Seems a good find. 7/10

2. Stuart McInally – an afternoon that will live long in the memory for the Scotland hooker. His first home start and two tries, both from powerful rolling mauls. Put in a huge shift, he tackled well and carried hard before making way for debutant George Turner on the hour. 8/10

3. WP Nel – scrummaged well and carried hard before making way mid-way through the first half with an arm injury that could rule him out of the next fortnight. Looked keen, so it would be a big loss. 6/10

4. Ben Toolis – combined well with Gray and set-piece went well. Offered himself to carry and made handy yards while making his tackles. Gave away a couple of penalties that will need cutting out. 7/10

5. Jonny Gray – industrious: tackles, tackles and more tackles from the Glasgow man. Worked hard in defence and was a menace at the breakdown for the Samoan defence. Deserves plaudits for the success of the set-piece. 7/10

6. John Barclay (captain) – Quieter than during his brilliant Six Nations performances but that is perhaps to be expected given the skipper’s recent injury worries. Showed lovely hands on more than one occasion and it was great to see him get through 65 minutes. 6/10

7. Hamish Watson – won a crucial turnover with Samoa powering towards the Scotland line but wasn’t as effective in the carry as on previous outings. Also completed 12/12 tackles, leading the defensive effort. 6/10

8. Ryan Wilson – another to have a quiet afternoon, carried well and made his tackles but will need to offer more ‘grunt’ in the next two weeks. 6/10


16. George Turner – A first cap debut for the in-form Glasgow man who was ignored by Edinburgh. His lineout went alright but limited impact in the loose. Perhaps suffered in comparison to McInally who played very well. 5/10

17. Jamie Bhatti – another debut. Apart from a couple of carries, see above 5/10

18. Zander Fagerson – slotted in seamlessly after Nel’s departure and continually offered himself to carry. Showed some nice hands at first receiver on multiple occasions too. Must cut out the handbags and nonsense though and he could be a real star. 7/10

19. Tim Swinson – made a minor but vital intervention with Samoa still technically pushing for a match-winning try. Threw himself into every contact and was the perfect impact sub. 6/10

20. Cornell Du Preez – his lovely offload for Horne’s try proved decisive in the end. Didn’t get his hands on the ball enough as Samoa grew into the game but showed some nice touches. 6/10

21. Henry Pyrgos – came on for Price and there was no drop in tempo. Picked his runners superbly and offered composure towards the end. 6/10

22. Peter Horne – scored the match-winning try and another okay performance from 10 – but doubts must remain about his Test future there. 6/10

23. Chris Harris – not a lot to do in attack and ran one poor line where he and Jones collided. Was caught out for the Nanai-Williams score late on. 5/10


INJURY UPDATE (13/11): Jon Welsh has been called up to the Scotland squad after Willem Nel, Tim Swinson and Rob Harley were ruled out of the next two tests through injury.

Nel and Swinson sustained an arm fracture and hand injury respectively and require further specialist assessment. Tommy Seymour had an MRI scan on his toe which confirmed that the player will require ongoing treatment by the Scotland medical team before returning to training this week.

Harley’s knee injury happened in training last week and he’s back with Glasgow.

66 Responses

  1. So Hamish Watson wasn’t as effective in the carry but made more metres than any other forward??

  2. Very generous marks in my opinion. Attack, fine for the most part, but everyone should be losing a couple of points for the defensive effort.

    We need more aggression desperately and I don’t know where that comes from. The lack of brutality that Dave Rennie talks about is as evident for Scotland as it is for Glasgow. J Gray and Toolis need to spend some time with Big Jim, but not too much….Fraser Brown, Huw Jones and Watson are aggressive, Hardie has it but unavailable and Dunbar used to and it’s hopefully coming back, but we need that in at least 2 more ball carriers who are on the pitch – Strauss, Du Preez, Bradbury, Richie? Other options?

    Townsend has a big week ahead of him.

  3. I think the ratings are about right though I’d give Watson an extra half. You could argue for taking a point off everyone for the collectively dire defence though but I not think anyone singled themselves out with a poor performance.

    I think that when the likes of Cummings and Bradbury break into the team we will see that extra aggression that seems to be missing. I also really look forward to the younger Fagerson breaking through at Glasgow as he is a player who can run through people! This was really the game that Cummings should have been on the bench for though in my opinion.

    I think McInally did enough to keep hold of the 2 shirt, Brown may be slightly more dynamic in the loose but McInally has a much steadier head on him. I also think Fagerson if he can play to his potential in the next two games could start to cement his place in the tight head shirt regardless of Nel’s injury status. It’s great to think that we can put out two really good international front rows between Fagerson, Nel, McInally, Brown and Marfo could add his name to the four injured looseheads who are all international class. Ford, Turner and Berghan in the wings as well!

    1. Crosbie too in the future, makes yards, although despite being 6’5 maybe needs to put on a bit more bulk? I’d like Crosbie and Carmichael (covering lock in a tight spot) to be fighting for 6 Edinbugh and Du Preez and Bradbury fighting out for 8. Callum Hunter Hill to step up to lock in Carmichaels place.

      1. Agree with that MK. Crosbie is a superb prospect at 6….if he could fill out enough…could be an amazing 8 IMO.

      2. Yes definitely. I think our long term backrow could be:


        I think you’ve got three players who can all do a bit of everything there but Crosbie and Fagerson both have proper power. Agree that Crosbie could add some bulk, he’s certainly got the frame. I believe Fagerson has gone from 99kg to 107kg since breaking into the Glasgow team last season. If Crosbie can add 8kg without losing the dynamism then he’ll be a real weapon in contact!

    2. Totally agree with you Scummo – though I’d maybe stretch as far as an extra point for Watson.

    1. Yes.. thought the same. The Pyrgos observation makes me wonder if some folks are watching the same match.

      Some good play mixed with some awful play. McInally, and Marfo (because it was his debut) were only players who stood out.

  4. Ratings akin to those dished out for effort in the bad old days of the likes of Nick De Luca, Simon Danielli, Allan Jacobsen and Hugo Southwell.

    The defence was so woeful that the forward pack should be marked down at least 1 mark each.

    Hogg – 8 – Has came back from injury brilliantly
    Seymour – 5.5 – Anonymous generally except try assist
    Huw Jones – 6.5 – Good try but looked a bit of sync with rest of back line
    Dunbar – 6.5 – Quiet in both attack and defence but great power to score
    Lee Jones – 6 – Did OK with assist
    Russell – 6.5 – An absolute manic (in the best possible terms) but needs to grow up a bit TBH
    Price – 7 – Absolutely first choice Scrum half now

    Marfo – 7 – Did well on debut
    McInally – 8 – Throwing seems to have improved.
    Nel – 5 – Good scrum
    Toolis – 6.5 – Played OK
    Gray – 6.5 – Usual work rate without being unspectacular
    Barclay – 5.5 – Good link ups in open play but no real impact at rucks
    Watson – 7 – Best carrier in forwards and some good jackling
    Wilson – 6 – Not effective at all

    Turner – 4 – Things started to turn into a bit of a shambles around the time he came on
    Bhatti – 4 – Harsh to criticise a debutant but scrum started to creak when he came on
    Fagerson – 5.5 – Questionable ruck defence? Gets himself about the pitch.
    Swinson – 6 – Good maul defence and typical industry
    Du Preez – 6 – Made an impact
    Pyrgos – 4 – Should be behind SHC and George Horne (and also Laidlaw) in the reckoning. Can’t see it with him at all
    Horne – 6 – A clever player who is great to have in the squad
    Harris – 3 – Looked out his depth

  5. Ratings are way off, far too high.

    I suggest watching the game again – we were gash for large parts of the game.

    It was like watching a re-run of the RWC match – every time Samoa had possession for a few minutes they looked like scoring in the second half.

    The half-time score flattered us and we really should have kicked on then – a good side would have snuffed out Samoa in the first 15mins of the second half and put the game to bed – but I fear we are starting to believe our press – I know we are missing many players but yesterday was a ridiculously poor performance.

    Absolutely no coherence in defence, we lost the collisions and Samoa made yards at will.

    We were back to making moronic mistakes – restarts back to being [poor] – even players like Huw Jones knocking on at restarts. Restarts have been a bone of contention with us for years, it’s one of the easiest skills to coach and it’s disgraceful we are still at this stage.

    I know we will be better next week – but to me it was a very worrying performance.

  6. Cummings should be on that bench , not swinson, what does swinson offer over cummings other than experience, somthing which has not fazed him anyway as he looks like he has played pro rugby for years.

    Same goes for P.Horne over prygos, he just needs a little more pro time to work on game management , i would like to see him ready for the six nations and challenging that bench spot with laidlaw and price.

    I thought Nel looked off the pace even before the injury to his arm , yeh he made a good turnover , but he looked very slow retreating back into the defensive line and breathing hard.

    The sooner richie gray comes back in form the better , he looks to be carrying the ball hard and actually gaining yards before his injury. somthing the rest of our locks do not offer. Cummings may be able to do this although he needs the chance the show it at the top level. I could see those 2 being the combination in the future.

    i would like to see du preez giving a start for the next 2 games , he needs continued exposure at the highest level.

  7. I declare these ratings as this week’s HANDS IN THE RUCK.

    How on earth do you manage to score Toolis the same as Gray. BBT was head and shoulders above the Lesser Gray.

    Watson the same as Wilson? You’re having a laugh surely? Pinball was easily the best of our back-row. I’m not saying he should have a better rating, but Wilson was pretty honking.

    Pyrgos the same as Horne and CduP. Really? Big Cornell played his way into the team for next week. Henry played his way onto the train back to Glasgow. Not the fast service to Queen St, the slow one to Central, which is more like how he plays.

    1. “Henry played his way onto the train back to Glasgow. Not the fast service to Queen St, the slow one to Central, which is more like how he plays”

      Haha outstanding patter, I genuinely lolled, comment of the week!

  8. Ha! “the slow one to Central”. Liked that last paragraph…

    I watched the game with my in laws who’re English and given that I was embarrassed that English rugby fans were watching the ease with which Samoa scored tries, that confirmed in my mind that it wasn’t a satisfactory performance…

    And I still can’t quite get my head round some of Toonie squad selections:
    – no way Harris is better than Visser (who appears to be playing 15 for Quins so could also offer useful cover)
    – Swinson needs to be eased out (and I wish Rennie would do the same at Glasgow)
    – Pyrgos (see Swinson)
    – Who’s chips has Strauss pissed in? He was immense in the 6N last year, was a star performer for Toonie at Glasgow and appears to captaining Sale
    – Wilson – just not good enough (but loved by Toonie and Rennie?!)

    But on the plus side:
    – the backline is incredibly exciting and look like that can score from anywhere. And they’ll be even stronger with Maitland and Taylor back come the 6N
    – Cockers seems to have taken the Edinburgh pack up a level. McInally, Marfo and Toolis were excellent I thought and Du Preez showed way more than Wilson. Also, even though I’ve just praised Marfo, I think Sutherland might get the nod next week

    And to finish on that, I Just hope the AB game is competitive… A going over will undoubtedly lead to the the “same old Scotland” dismissal from fans of all other nations…

  9. Is it just me who wants to see more from seymour ? i dont think he has been extraordinary in any game since he game back from the lions , a few glimpes of skill but not enough for me considering how much better we know he can be. defense and high ball solid mind .

  10. Looks like some guys have had their wish granted with regards to the second row. Just announced by SRU that Swinson, Nel, Harley all out for remainder of autumn tests. Seymour likely to miss all blacks game. John Welsh called up to replace Nel.

    Gives Scott Cummings a chance to get his first cap off the bench and hopefully stake a claim for next years 6 nations too. Hopefully he can solve some our problems in terms of lack of aggression and ball carrying…

    Also….get Pyrgos on that train! I’ll chip in for the ticket!

    1. Sadly Pyrgos will be there on the bench for the next 2 matches – even young dynamic coaches cling onto the belief they need experienced players to close out games – regardless of their form.

      1. To be fair to Pyrgos perhaps the team could try to stay on the front foot a bit more for the last 20. It’s certainly nice that we are getting used to the idea of being in front and needing to close games out but if we didn’t try and do this in our own 22 under so much pressure then maybe Pyrgos wouldn’t be box kicking so much. Anyone else ever think this when watching us in the last ten minutes?

  11. Based on the Injuries I’ve seen this morning, the performance (or lack of on Saturday) and Seymour carrying a toe injury I would like the 23 to be:

    Marfo, McInally, Fagerson,
    Toolis, Gray,
    Hamilton, Watson, du Preez,
    Price, Russell,
    Dunbar, Jones,
    Jones, Seymour, Hogg

    Sutherland, Turner, Berghan, Cummings, Barclay
    McGuigan, Pyrgos, Horne

    I still have doubts about Dunbar at IC if you want to play the fastest brand of rugby, but I am not sure Horne is the answer against the ABs (Sonny Bill running down that channel with BB on his inside !!!) and didn’t see enough of Harris to think he is currently a better option to start – Dunbar needs a huge game.

    Waisake Naholo against Lee Jones is quite frightening from a physical point of view, but hopefully he can hold his own and perhaps cause some damage the other way.

    1. Think Barclay will certainly play. Probably Hamilton or Wilson on the bench. Hopefully take a look at Hamilton.

      Otherwise, agree that team seems most likely. IMO probably the best we can field currently also.

      If Seymour is injured who do we see? Think McGuigan into the XV and then maybe Grigg on the bench – Huw Jones can cover wing. Or give Harris another chance. He was anonymous but didnt really have a chance to show anything.

      1. I’d agree with this. Barclay will play. Hopefully CDP to get a chance ahead of Wilson. Very keen to see what Hamilton is like but can’t see Wilson being dropped from the squad.
        I’d like to see McGuigan given a chance on the wing with Harris on the bench again.

        For what it’s worth my team would be


        Hamilton (will 90% be Wilson if he’s not starting)
        Pyrgos (sigh)

  12. A few strange comments.
    Pyrgos not that bad. Way too early for GH and I’m a fan. That was clear from Leinster. If MB and GT still rate HP that’s good enough for me.
    Swinson has been incredibly solid for Scotland and Glasgow for the last two seasons, will anyone identify what he has done wrong other than being a lock and smaller than 6,5′.
    Seymour is lethal. The criticism he’s getting sounds Gatlandish. He scores all the time, sets up others and is solid in deference but vaguely needs to do more?
    The worrying areas going into NZ are – as someone said – LJ on the wing as he could be flattened. Call up Visser now.
    6/7/8. Call up Strauss and Denton now.
    Toony tombola might decimate the front row. Hope he sticks with Marfo, MacInaly and Fagerson

    1. NRS, stop it you are being too sensible.

      Although I love the putdown of saying comments are “Gatlandish”, can there be any worse slur in world rugby?

  13. Having looked at the team the All Blacks have picked to play France XV on Tuesday night it might mean that we see a much more 1st choice All Black team than usual at Murrayfield. ABs being rested:

    Codie Taylor
    Wyatt Crockett
    Kane Hames
    Nepo Laulala
    Luke Romano
    Sam Whitelock
    Sam Cane
    Vaea Fifita
    Matt Todd
    Kieran Read
    TJ Perenara
    Aaron Smith
    Beauden Barrett
    Ryan Crotty
    Anton Lienert-Brown
    Sonny Bill Williams
    Rieko Ioane
    Waisake Naholo
    Damian McKenzie

    With the rest of the squad all playing a test match level game, with travel and some playing twice in a week already, i don’t see New Zealand fielding a much weaker squad than the above. Scary times for saturday….

    1. I’m glad we’re likely to play a New Zealand 1st XV. How else can we make judgments about where we stand as a Test nation in the wider scheme of things? Also, if they field a full strength side then it means they’re respecting us, for the first time in a long time.

      1. never meant it in a negative way, I’m relishing seeing us take on a proper AB team to see where we are, just means we need to be on our game unlike when we ran out v Fiji and Samoa

      2. jc, apologies, didn’t see you as being negative at all. Seemed to me you were setting out the scale of the challenge for us at the weekend. It’s huge of course, but in the past nine months we’ve turned over two of the three sides who’ve beaten New Zealand in the past year. They fell apart second half v France on Saturday. We’re going to beat them one day, and they know it. Might be Saturday, might not. It will happen though.

  14. Agree Lee Jones is good but the sheer size difference against Naholo would be bad news. Townsend put Hoyland up against that massive Fijian winger, it was carnage and Hoyland hasn’t been seen since.

    If Jones is outmuscled by Naholo, Pyrgos gets on the park again and we end up losing this weekend then it’s surely time for Townsend to be fired.

      1. 5 games including an away winnin Australia. Saturdays performance was slap dash but Toonie has plenty of time to get his team to hit a groove. We’ll lose to the ABs, but so long as we defend like our lives depend on it and score a couple of tries i’ll be happy.

  15. I’d go Hogg, Seymour, Jones, Dunbar, McGuigan, Russell, Price, CdP, Barclay, Ritchie, Toolis, Gilchrist, Fagarson, McInally, Darfo

    Horne, L.Jones, Pygros, Watson, J.Gray, Berghan, Cochrane, Bhatti

  16. We know Scotgow Warriors can play rapid rugby. I want to see Scotgow Warriors show the variation in their gameplay needed at this level. Be defensive, kick for territory then go he’ll for leather in their half. We have to play in their half. If Finn can’t do that don’t play him. If he can then he will really start to look like the real deal.

  17. Let’s all face some real facts here, we were nearly outmuscled by Samoa in the second hand of the game, no doubt about it right? This week we will lose to the All Blacks, GT also knows this so why would he bother to field a “bland” team against them, personally I would love for this game to have the tombola feel to it, respectably lose to the All Blacks (20 points or less IMHO) and beat Australia. To me that would logically be a successful Autumn

  18. A vivid dream last night. Russell scores in the left corner in the opening ten minutes. Not much later Barclay catches a lucky bounce from a kick in their 22 and powers over for another. I woke up after that. If it’s correct i’ll be dishing out lottery numbers next week for a commission.

  19. Just read on the bbc sport website that John Barclay has signed a 3 year deal with Edinburgh from next season. It’s in the Scottish gossip bit.

      1. Watson, Ritchie and Hardie all play the same prime position as Barclay. Can only think Hardie is on the way out. JB would be a good addition to the leadership group though

      2. I think that would be a really good signing for Edinburgh.

        The backrow row would then have a nice balance with the youth of Crosbie, Ritchie and Bradbury and the experience of Barclay, Ritchie and Du Preez. Agree with Pio that Hardie must be on his way out.

      1. Thanks, Matto and Rory. You would have thought it would have made a bigger splash in Wales and Scotland.

    1. I’d guess Cockerill bringing Barclay in to add leadership & coach Ritchie and Bradbury…as well as being a very good player in his own right…with experience of winning.

  20. 2 points –

    If anyone should be joining Glasgow from Edinburgh its CdP – he DOES suit Glasgow’s style.

    Getting fed up with all this Scotlands defence thing – the best team we’ve played this year is Ireland – they’ve recently beaten NZ & SA – our defence was fine that day, all we need to have a good go is Russell, H.Jones & Hogg to get ball in hand in space (not to much to ask is it???)

    1. Except when Ireland upped the tempo and ‘brutality’ at the ruck area for the first 20 minutes of the 2nd half, we couldn’t cope and they scored two tries.

      1. Fair point, Andrew. But we came back and battered them for the last ten minutes after Barclay snaffled their line-out less than ten metres from our line.

    2. Our defence was woeful against Samoa. You are only as good as your last game. QED our defence is woeful and needs to improve. I think we’ll find that NZ defence is better than Samoa’s so in order to score more tries than them we’ll need to stop them scoring so many.

      1. I agree with your last sentence and that our defence needs to improve. But I don’t think I agree that “you’re only as good as your last game” and the QED that follows. We were great against Wales and then got destroyed by England. Your last game is one important indication of how good you are, but there are many other variables. What about players playing together for the first time? First time in front of such a big crowd? First game of the series? Getting used to new systems? Unpredictability of the opposition? Players returning to form after injury (Hogg/Gray etc.)? Players with niggles/having an off day?

        There are so many reasons why a defence might struggle one week and improve the next.

        Having said all that, I still agree with you that our defence does need to improve!

      2. I agree but maintain that the way the bench was employed ruined the flow of the game for us. I understand why the mass changes were implemented, obviously to rest key players for this weekend. Had the 1st XV stayed on for a bit longer and we drip fed the changes (as per normal) I think we wouldn’t have leaked those tries at the end and would have potentially scored a couple more ourselves.

        The defence was porous the whole game though but I think they will be painfully aware of that themselves and will have been working on it. Our defence hasn’t been bad recently so I see no reason to believe that broadly the same group of players cannot tackle anymore.

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by Jonny and Iain to look forward to Glasgow's huge URC final in Pretoria, after the win against Munster and skirt around the latest news of the week.
Craig is joined by Jonny and Rory to look back at the disappointing end to Edinburgh's season and Glasgow's march towards the semi finals.
Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion