Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Italy 27-29 Scotland

Italy v Scotland
© Scottish Rugby Blog

Scotland’s Six Nations campaign stuttered to its conclusion with a disappointing performance in victory over Italy in Rome.

A try from Stuart Hogg with eight minutes to go helped Gregor Townsend’s side to their third win of the campaign, but it was far from perfect as the Italians produced their best performance of the championship, scoring three superb tries to take, at one stage, a 12-point lead.

Scotland, though, opened the scoring after weathering an early Italy storm, with Hamish Watson lasooing the ball wide to Fraser Brown, who went over in the corner.

Laidlaw missed the conversion, and Italy hit back when former Scotland U20 stand-off Tomasso Allan exploited a gap between Huw Jones and Willem Nel to cut through and touch down. He converted to put the Azzuri in front.

And Allan was instrumental once more as the Italians scored a second try on 15 minutes – his deft grubber found Stadio Olimpico grass and with not a Scotsman in sight, full-back Matteo Minozzi dived on it to score.

Allan added the extra two points for 14-5 before Scotland hit back with a try from skipper John Barclay – his second on as many visits to the Italian capital. He latched on to the back of a maul and powered his way over the line for a sixth international try.

Laidlaw’s conversion cut the gap to 17-12, and that’s how it remained until half-time.

HALF-TIME: Italy 17-12 Scotland

Gregor Townsend hooked the whole front row at the break after a below-par opening 40 minutes, but their arrivals did little to stem the Italian onslaught.

First, Conor O’Shea’s side were denied a try by the TMO, before Allan ghosted through for his second try of the game, latching on to a pass from the impressive Jake Polledri to touch down. He converted to extend the hosts’ lead to 24-12, spurring Townsend into three more changes – Richie Gray, Ali Price and Pete Horne on with Laidlaw now to stand-off as Russell left the field injured.

And the former skipper was at the heart of an outstanding score that brought Scotland back into the match.

With a Scotland maul powering towards the line before it was illegally halted, allowing Laidlaw to heave a pass wide to Sean Maitland, who scored his ninth Test try. Laidlaw converted.

And with eight minutes to go, another well worked move saw the match turn on its head, with Stuart Hogg going over out wide for Scotland’s fourth try. Laidlaw converted once more, the extra two points putting Scotland in front into the final stages.

The drama was far from over, though – the Italians won the restart ball and a penalty after Jonny Gray was penalised, allowing Allan to kick the home side into a one-point lead once more.

But the thousands of Scots in Rome breathed a huge sigh of relief with just 90 seconds left on the clock, when the Scottish forwards fashioned a penalty, and Laidlaw sealed a third Six Nations win of the season.

Less than convincing, to say the least, but Townsend will have been pleased to see his side come through with the win.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Hard to pick out one Scotland player, they were largely out-played by their Italian counterparts. Pass marks for Barclay, Laidlaw and Maitland though. Man of the match goes to Jake Polledri for an outstanding first cap, but Scotland’s star man was Greig Laidlaw.

176 Responses

  1. Gutted with that, bet on Italy at 10/1 and feel robbed.

    The players shouldn’t have been allowed to get pished after the England game, half way through the tournament. Reeks of a lack of professionalism. Today was a total get out of jail job.

    Get Toolis, Hardie, Berghan back in the squad for starters. I get that Swinson can play at 6 too but he’s 5th choice lock at best, surely. Since Nel’s injuries I think Berghan is the better player these days.

    1. Italy played out their skin – no shocker that Scotland had to fight to the death for the win. They were expecting that.

    1. I wouldn’t say Nel is past it. He needs a string of games to get back into match fitness mode.

  2. Disappointed all round, but a wins a win at the end of the day. I hope Gregor has learnt his lesson for the 6N; Don’t experiment and don’t try to tinker with things that have been going well enough. Continuity counts for a lot more in this tournament. Everyone looked half baked from the start. Good to come back in the end but…….

  3. Same. We were off our game. Italy showed up with surprise attack; like they saved it especially for this home game. Nevermind those other games, looks like they really expected to win today.

    They played better rugby and we only just hung on. This performance was not what I had hoped for. But again, there will be plenty in this match for Scotland to learn from…

    1. Not really fair to Italy: they played with an intensity an accuracy that we couldn’t match until after 70 mins.

      1. Agree but Laidlaw was so slow that they just lined us up in defence. When Price came on and we sped up service we started to create holes (even though Italy did tire as well). Look at France yesterday. They had Wales on the rack but were so slow with the ball from rucks that Wales just lined them up. We should have done that earlier

      2. Absolutely agree about Laidlaw being slow. It was awful. But people seem to be focussing on his kicking instead (again).

  4. Yes, but maybe we are learning how to win ugly away from home, coming from behind. And we did end up 3rd in the championship. I thought our last 10 minutes were great, and shOwed a lot of character.

  5. We’ll get all this Scotland were rubbish and this guy and that chap were thinking it would be easy. Sack the coach etc etc.

    I’ll look forward to watching it properly later but I think we all underestimate Italy. They’ll show it next year in the six nations . They are better than the results show. A bit like Scotland in 2015.

    I’m thankful we have them first up and at home. They could get three wins next year and I just hope we are not one of them.

  6. We needed to put Laidlaw to stand off and hook Russell. We did hang in, got in front at the end, that deserves credit. This team need to work off the pitch on positive mental attitude.

    Russell will be out the road and lost in France next season. I do not see him ever being mature enough for the French game.

    Come on seriously, did we really think we were going to Italy to go in at half time with the bonus point secure.

    1. I didn’t think we’d go in with bonus point secure no. However I did think we were now past nervy dogfights with Italy.

      Still, as others have said, at least we managed to pull it out the fire. I’m certainly happier to be on the right side of a mugging for once. Empathy for Italy though. We know only too well how sick they’ll be feeling tonight.

      1. Total nonsense. There is not an international 10 playing today that doesn’t have good days and bad days. Sexton is probably considered the best 10 in the tournament and had some decidedly non-desirable stats in some games. He has 7-8 years international experience on Russell. Russell is the best 10 we have had in a loooong time and by far the best option we have currently. He also adds to the magic which sees us in a better position than we have been in since the turn of the century. I find the negativity towards some of the best players we’ve had in a generation mind-boggling.

      2. Matto :There is some truth and a lot of fog in the comment. Here is my opinion. The truth is they all have good and bad days , what you are fogging over is pespective.

        The player ratings in here are roughly representative , so looking back, he had a great day against England and Ireland , a bad day against Wales , France and Italy. Nothing inbetween. By great I mean outstanding and by bad I mean dire.

        That is far too inconsistent to be the foundation stone of your international team. Sexton will never reach the highs of Finn, but he will never reach the lows either.

        We need someone we can depend on and we need him now, not in 7 years IMO.

      3. Do you not think the reason we improved when Russell went off was because Price moved into scrum half. We shouldn’t ignore Price because of one bad game against Wales. Laidlaw, apart from goal kicking, provides little for the team. For summer tour, Price to start with Horne on bench. Laidlaw should still be in camp but not in 23

      4. I hope that was sarcasm Frank !

        Sexton was once thought of as too flaky for international rugby.

        Russell is our biggest talent at 10 for a generation and is still very young in terms of experience.
        The way Townsend wants us to play is going to lead to games whereby Russell and the rest are on the edge between genius and disaster.

        But as Townsend matures as a coach so will Russell as a 10. Class player.

      5. Who is that one for Jonny. If me, then it is the answer to a different question and comment. Fact is 5 games , three dire , two amazing no middle ground. Nothing to do with Laidlaw , his Glasgow turnouts are similar and that is Rennie not Townsend any longer.Eventually folks will run out of people to blame and just accept somedays he is Buzz light year (Infinity and beyond) and others he is like Dylan out of the Magic Roundabout (Hey man). I would be happy with someone that can bring stability , someone we can build a team around, it is afterall a team game.

      6. Now Frank, What reason would you have to say such terrible things about Finn. He will come good one day.

  7. That is what I really don’t get – all the armchair warriors who want to ‘sack the coach’. Not our best showing today, and we blow hot and cold, but Toonie has a win / lose record of 7 / 4. Sack him – lunacy.

    Think Toonie needs to look at his support staff. Defence not good enough, and can O’Halloran be seconded to training camps somehow, even for a few days, without upsetting his Glasgow duties.

    Anyway, end of another campaign- and I am having a great evening reminding all my friends south of the border where they finished in the table. Not often that pleasure is on offer. ???

    On balance a positive campaign and hopefully Toonie will focus on where the improvements are needed. I, for one, am sure he will.

  8. Glad to see Toonie giving Horny some credit. He brings a lot of balance, and the half backs (all combos) work better when he’s on. Amongst stiff competition my choice at 12. Outplayed Farrell in the CC and does the same job V well. The rest of them (Jones, Dunbar, Taylor, Scott, Bennett,Grigg – where the hell did this depth come from?) fight it out for 13.
    One thought – Toonie made it quite clear that the tactics were going to be to attack through the middle, and so it transpired. It didn’t really work. Italy were, unsurprisingly, well set. I would question the wisdom of revealing your actual tactics in advance of the game, and then apparently doing little to adapt when it wasn’t really working…
    On the other hand, i find myself wondering, whether the plan was actually to keep it tight and then use the (very strong and effective) bench in the latter stages to seal the deal. To be fair – whatever the intention was – it worked, by a baw hair…

    1. I did feel like many, nervous for today but didn’t think it would be this close.

      I did think that if we were within touching distance with 20 to go we’d be able to recover a deficite. But we were only just that. There were chances I heard for Italy to go three scores clear. I doubt we’d have come back from that.

      With Italy going in the lead on 75 I had a sinking feeling. I thought they’d hold the ball for the final minutes and that would be that. I never understand kicking possession away especially when a side is mauling you to death like Scotland. Take ur chance that they’d jackal a pen which was unlikely with Pascal in charge.

      But Italy are no mugs and they are clearly improving. They’ll have a decent summer and Autumn and it’ll be battle we have to be up for come February.

  9. We looked tired and played a ponderous game trying to build momentum from a flat attacking line. Contrast this with Italy who didn’t do anything particularly bewildering but hit the line from deep with pace and built scores. We were in serious danger of being overrun at the start of the second half, but hung on and luckily the sunstitutions made the difference.

    I don’t like to criticise Laidlaw but he wasn’t great until he moved to 10 with Price injecting some pace to the game. Bad day at the office all round, but we still won with a bonus point. Let’s look forward and take the positives from the championship. We’re a much better team than we showed today, but credit to Italy for their play; very unlucky not to win.

    Congrats to Ireland on a well deserved slam. Also really enjoyed Wales vs France.

  10. Watched it again and even more convinced that the defence coach needs sacked.

    Also Jones, Barclay and Wilson were absolutely terrible.

    Laidlaw looked done and Nel and Reid done absolutely nothing.

    1. I think that Jones needs a break as should not go on tour this Summer – 18 months rugby is taking it’s toll. As for the others, not sure we should take Russell – time to get someone else in that position to generate competition and find someone who knows game management. Laidlaw doesn’t know how to play fast or snipe so time we laid a marker down and give the younger guys a string of games (have Laidlaw in to teach them game management). I know it is easy to pick holes but feel we need these changes. Feel that Scotland also fininshed off things in the 22 under Vern rather than harem scarem at time under Townsend. A happy medium please !!!

  11. This tournament has shown how important home advantage is. If Italy had played like that in their other games they would have more than one point.

    The number of teams meaning three home games one year and two the next gives a side with three home games an adavntage of wining the tournament that year. With all the talk of Georgia, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let them in and then each team has three home and three away games every year.

    1. You’re making the assumption that playing in Tblisi would be an equal disadvantage to other away games, which is probably unlikely. It’s only in the last 2 years that Scotland have established a strong home advantage and all teams would still be optimistic to win in Rome. A 7 nations schedule of Rome, Tblisi, Murrayfield, would be viewed as more favourable than Twickenham, Dublin, Cardiff, so the underlying issue would not necessarily be resolved, all fixtures not being equal.

  12. Strange feeling when your team get a bonus point win on the road but it’s still feel like you had to play both jokers and your get out of jail card to get it!
    Well played to Italy who really turned up today and took the game to Scotland and had us on the rack at the start of the second half and with a bit more composure would have put us away. Let’s be honest Scotland were downright rank for the first 60 minutes of this match but deserve credit for grinding out the win at the end.
    On the positive side if we had been offered 3 wins and third place at the start of the competition most of us would have taken it and it’s doubtful we would have won a match like that 2 years ago. On the down side apart from the first half against England we have stuttered and stumbled through the championship and have shipped 12 tries ( and a fair few in the autumn internationals as well). Our defence just isn’t good enough at present and teams don’t seem to have to go through many phases to score against us so plenty to work on!
    Last word goes to Ireland – well played and worthy champions!

  13. A bonus point away win. After trailing for much of the game. You’re right…pass me the knife I’m going to slit my wrists at how bad it all is. “Get Laidlaw to standoff”….GTF

  14. Criticising Scotland’s performance does a disservice to Italy.

    Italy played really well, have been improving and nearly beat a team 10 points ahead in the rankings. Underestimate them at your peril, not even Ireland put out an experimental team. They blew them away at the end but still.

    Massive positives to take from this season, Townsend got his first away win in the Six Nations on his 3rd go, which is More than can be said for Cotter. Being able to dig in and claw back the lead and win shows growth from the Ireland and the Wales game. They just need to get better and do it against better teams than Italy, but it’s a start.

    3rd place in the 6 Nations is great, and finishing above England is even better. They should have a think about doing the captains run at Murrayfield for away games though.

    Also, did I mention we beat England? :)

  15. Scotland (at home) is the one game that Italians think they can win (because they have in the past). They are not a particularly “brave” rugby team in that they are often beaten before they take the field. Against us, at home, they believe in themselves and therefore routinely play better than on other occasions. Belief is everything to them.

    The key, therefore, is put them points down early to take the wind out of their sails. Clearly we didn’t do that and they scored two decent tries as we failed to match their intensity in the collision. Once we started to play, the key was the 34th minute, when after multiple drives on their line Gordy Reid got isolated and was penalised for holding on. Put that one away and we’d have been ahead and their heads would have started to go down.

    As it was, we compounded our errors with Wilson’s shocking missed tackle, gifted them their third try. Watch the game again, though, and you’ll see that for the last 30 minutes we were dominating the collisions and with our speed of play they were visibly tiring. No surprise that we got our third and fourth tries and, despite multiple individual errors, we ultimately deserved to go on and win that game.

    More widely, we know where we are…heads screwed on, with near our best team fit, we can take on everyone. If we are carrying players having an off day, or just coming back to match fitness, we struggle. Our pack is neither good enough nor big enough to be anything other than wholly committed. Attitude is everything with us.

    Major positives of this campaign- the emergence of McInally, Berghan and Gilchrist as core players and Kinghorn as a future talent. We still struggle with our back row mix, our general lack of power, competition for Finn and our physicality in midfield.

    Having Italy first up next year at home is a welcome change and we should put them away professionally. Hopefully the start of a big year for Scottish rugby.

    1. Do u mean a calendar year? Cos we’re almost halfway not really the start anymore…

      1. I think Jonty means 2019.

        I agree with your summary of the game and where we’re at.

        If we’re a bit off our game, then the high-tempo style we’ve adopted becomes stressed and we don’t have the brute strength to change styles and grind it out. We do have excellent fitness though which can be the difference between sides in the last 20, especially at home where the crowd puts wind in our sails.

        The great challenge is collectively finding a way to put wind in our sails away from home. Small moments to build momentum.

      2. This six nations the TMOs have got many decisions wrong not good enough really Ireland’s first try against England a prime example.

  16. Right some 6N (and beyond)ramblings…..

    3 wins (1 of them v England) offered at the start would have been gratefully accepted by most.

    We can score tries against anyone, however we lack the beef, the physicality to “earn the right” to impose our game plan on the better teams consistently (especially away from home).

    The lightweight backrow selection should be re-visited especially away from home. (Not entirely sure why Strauss isn’t in the equation). Bradbury looks to be worth a look. Also John Hardie offers a hardness to the back row.

    Stuart Hogg should be starting 10 @ Glasgow next season (especially now that Kinghorn & Maitland are good alternatives @ 15).

    Has Jonny Gray developed as we had hoped, exceptional tackle stats but does he do “enough”?

    Alex Dunbar needs to be “fixed”, utterly crucial IMO.

    Some of the mistakes yesterday (and v Wales & Ireland) suggest there is a real need for a sports psychologist. Huw Jones is on the whole a wonderful 13 but how do you explain “that pass” v Ireland & the Allan try yesterday.

    Paradox, Price suits the game we strive to play much better BUT Laidlaw’s control seems to be required.

    Grigg is a good player but far too small to be his type of player at international level.

    Finn……………….. only got 700 characters left :-)

    1. I think Price should be starting, he only had 1 bad game when the whole team around him fell apart.
      Quite simply we cannot play the fastest brand of rugby on the planet with a slow 9.
      Having said that i value Laidlaw and he seems a good option to close the game out and command it with 20-25 minutes to go.
      So put him on the bench and he can cover 9 or 10.

      1. Yeah his bad game was him starting. He was blamed big time for the match and rightly so. But this comment to me sums up the knee-jerk reaction here perfectly.

        Nel is too old this week. Needed to start last week.

        Russell will be lost in France this week. The messiah against England.

        Laidlaw is too slow this week. How we’ve missed him he’s not as slow now against France.

        Huw Jones needs a rest against Italy. He is by far the best 13 in the world against France and England.

        Horne should be binned he is just terrible against Ireland. Probably changed the game in Italy and best centre to ever put on a Scotland shirt against England.

        I could go but you get the picture. This forum is not by a stretch the worst for this but it’s knee-jerk and reactionary at best.

        Scotland are doing well and building something. With big bumps in the road. I’d take this beyond grinding out a narrow defeat most weeks with a fortunate win coming every five matches.

        Critic yes. Don’t just flip flop from one extreme to the other.

      2. Amen to that.

        Everyone seems to want to alternate players between being absolutely great and absolutely awful, game by game.

        If “world class” means “in the conversation for a World XV” then we have one player who fits that description – Stuart Hogg. Ireland probably have three – Sexton, Murray and Furlong.

        We therefore have clear positives and negatives with most of our players. The point being, criticising individuals week by week is largely pointless – we have to get to the point where Ireland now are, where individuals slot into a system where everyone knows their role and performs it with high intensity, game by game. A true “next man up” situation, with 2/3 players per position (which Scotland has never had at any point in its history). We have very clear gaps, but we are staring to get there.

        Let’s not kid ourselves that many of the Ireland GS team of 2018 will go down as legends of the game – they are simply very good players, coached extremely well, with a very clear view of what is required of them in every situation. A powerful combination.

      3. Jonty : I think I might be in agreement with you. I can not think of one single ledgend in the Irish side, a lot of good players. Recent Irish legends are Keith Wood, BOD and maybe Paul O’Connell, IMO and just saying.

        Maybe they are just a decent side who lost to Scotland last year and beat us this year only after we made enough errors to convince ourselves it was not our day. I dont actually think Ireland were seriously tested this 6N.

      4. On the contrary, I think that Ireland 2018 are a truly excellent side, probably Ireland’s best ever…just that they don’t have many truly outstanding individuals.

        They are very much like the ABs, just a step down….players are made to look even better than they would playing in other teams, because everyone is doing the right thing at the right time, rather than being 15 individuals.

        Taken out of that environment, most of those players wouldn’t look exceptional. It’s why ex ABs often slightly disappoint when they play for clubs in Europe…the other players in the team aren’t doing their jobs properly.

    2. Can we PLEASE kill the Hogg to 10 nonsense? He is the best 15 in the NH where he regularly makes match winning interventions. He is arguably the best 15 in the world on his game. He has played fewer than a dozen pro games at 10 in his career, with mixed results.

      Finn Russell, on his game, is one of the best 10s in the NH. He is still very inexperienced for someone in his position, and he is still young. We are putting a huge amount of pressure on him with the way we play; further caps will help him make more consistently good decisions and we will see him at his best more often.

      Let’s not weaken the team in two positions with stupid ideas like Hogg at 10.

      1. Agree with you. I don’t know why people keep bringing this rubbish up about Hogg going to 10. He played one game at 10 for the Lions 5 years ago. That’s it.

      2. Actually, Hogg started out at 10/12 when he was playing in the Borders. However, I agree that playing him at 10 now is a crazy idea. As full back, he is excellent, drawing other players in and giving his team mates space to work with.

        Interestingly, I don’t think the Italians shut him down as much as the other teams did, which is what I think led to him getting his only try of the tournament and to others not having such a good day.

        We need Hastings to come on strongly and with Russell away next season, I think that will happen.

      3. wonder what Hogg’s thoughts are on playing more 10. Would he relish the opportunity or rather stick to what he’s already good at. I’d rather Hastings gets more game time but with limited options, then pressure on these guys. Having only 2 pro teams is restrictive to establishing a pool of good stand offs. A position where game time and confidence is key. Having Finn elsewhere will hopefully help deepen the pool and Glasgow don’t bring in someone from overseas.

      4. Russell has nearly 40 Caps. Be should be one of the leaders in the squad. This daft mercurial maniac routine is wearing a bit thin. France will either make of break him. In the interim we need to look at a successor/backup

      5. Considering we have zip all options at 10…I don’t think its ridiculous to consider Hogg at 10 more seriously considering how he plays the game. Hogg sometimes looks wasted at 15 but then for the most part he looks perfect at 15…but if not then Kinghorn should get a go…but please don’t anyone say Horne or Jackson can be 10…that really is nonsense. They aren’t even good enough as club 10s. We are screwed if they are it option wise. The problem is that Russell goes from looking like one of the worlds best 10s in one game…to a player that would struggle to get a game for Stirling…for the next couple of matches. The fact we have to revert to Laidlaw when he goes pear shaped says it all.

      6. Re Hogg 10 – agree with RuggersB – 0 options. Edinburgh will have Hickey & VDW @ 10 next year. Glasgow will have Horne, Hastings. Hogg the new maturity he seems to have got, the way he plays is worth a shot, seem to be quite well sorted for 15 with Kinghorn, Jackson, Maitland available. Hogg can run, tackle, pass, kick so why not?

      7. I can see the benefits in getting him out of the way at 10 and the defence coach would agree with you.

      8. It’s a very useful shorthand for me to know how much attention to pay to your opinions on rugby. If you suggest moving Hogg to 10, I’m as out of the discussion as a weird belly-button.

        (And I *will* judge you;-)

      9. The thing is its obviously not nonsense and this old fashioned attitude that a player can have only one position needs left in the dark ages.

        Hogg has everything you’d want in a top class 10 and we should be exploring that option. What do we have to lose? He’s not going to forget how to play 15 and the gain is that we get our most talented player in position to consistently affect the game rather than stuck at fullback where he can often be peripheral.

      10. As Gordon D’Arcy pointed out on commentary during Ireland vs Scotland, Hogg is a world class full back who forces defences to act differently and cover him, creating space for others, including Huw Jones, who is more a finisher than a creator.

        Messing with that just reduces Hogg’s own impact and limits the team overall. Far better to have him come in as a “second first receiver” alongside Russell in broken play.

        Or do people not remember Christian Cullen and the debacle when the ABs moved him from 15?

    3. Laidlaw will go when the tme is right. Hogg wouldnt, shoukdnt and coukdnt play at 10.

  17. Two good wins, two hammerings, one last minute win vs Italy. After Italy we have lowest points for and highest points conceded. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, after 18 years of turgid garbage I’ll take that all day long

    1. Not sure about TWO hammerings. For sure score not good against Ireland, but we threw away 20 points that day, and gifteda couple of tries.

  18. This championship has been a real curate’s egg for Scotland. Plenty to be frustrated about: the Cardiff no-show, a historic victory passed up in Dublin, a back to the future performance versus Italy.

    Yet we have consolidated our position at 5th in the World rankings, finished in the top half of the table, won the Calcutta Cup and got another monkey off our backs and generally established ourselves among the championship contenders. Our victory against France looks a hell of a lot better with hindsight and we have the added satisfaction of doing the damage that sent England into a fatal tailspin.

    Next year the fixture list is on our side. But the progress we’ve made (even if it is just consolidating our position) shouldn’t hide the fact we have plenty to improve on if we are going to make a serious tilt at the title – we still have a pack that can go toe to toe with Ireland in Dublin, or be bullied out of the game in Rome. We need to find a way to get more dog on the pack without sacrificing mobility. We have a coach who is prone to selectorial howlers and a FH who mixes the sublime with the ridiculous. Above all we must get more consistency in our performances away from home or we’ll never win a raffle.

    The next 12 months are going to be huge for Scottish rugby as its walk the talk time. Hugely exciting but I think we’ll have a few more horror shows like yesterday to deal with.

    1. Absolutely: time for the team to perform consistently at the top of their game, we’ve seen glimpses of it but need it to be 80 mins of every game.

      1. You’re asking for perfection which is ridiculous. Ireland won the grand slam and they weren’t anywhere near perfection. Perfection is no penalties, no tries conceded. 100% possession never missing a kick etc etc.

        You don’t need perfection you don’t even need to be very good all the time. You need to make decent decisions, not compound errors and have more points at the end of the match. Ireland never broke through France but still found a way to win. Ireland were the best team by far but they were far from perfect.

    2. Well written summary. My two penny worth to add is we have depth in almost all positions with the exception of 10.

      Cockerill in his first year is turning Edinburgh into a side that believe in themselves and that is coming through in Scotland selection.

      The table never lies. We came third with a negative points difference while 4th and 5th have positive.

      Our away preparation has got to be challenged, showing up the day before feels wrong.

      We have a bit of the old Andy Murray about us, one howler and we think we are not good enough and go into meltdown.

      Are we happy with our on field leadership!

      1. By the time the next 6N comes round, hopefully Hastings will be well established at Glasgow as first choice. Having a second option at 10 will make a huge difference.

      2. Cockerill is doing a great job at Edinburgh. Did SRU select him for Edinburgh because of GTs ‘dreamy’ rugby lacking grit? interesting they got Rennie ‘GT’ish super rugby on one side …and Cockerill no-nonense ‘old school’ style on the other.
        GT saying post match its a rollercoaster as scotland coach….really its a rollercoaster watching GT sides.
        He really seems to be set on some players that just aren’t upto it at this level…There seems to be a large pool of upcoming better raw talent coming through right’ll be interesting to see if GT will actually back up his ‘progressive rugby’ outlook and be proactive in their development at test level.

  19. Laidlaw ‘Scotland’s star man’ you’ve got be joking. Laidlaw was absolutely rubbish. He almost butchered the first try and was incredible slow for the rest of the game. He is not the 9 Scotland needs and should not go to the rwc in 2019. Give Price and Horne time, as they have the potential to be thrice the player Laidlaw ever was/is.

    1. Wonder how Laidlaw, when he moved to 10 yesterday, would have played if Laidlaw was still at 9 and not Price ??????

      1. I agree. Poor Russell had to play with Laidlaw on full ‘floaty short pass after being slow to the ruck’ mode whereas Laidlaw benefited from Price’s quicker released, longer and faster service with some of the defence held because of his sniping threat. Given some comments here have said these forums are too reactive, I have been saying for years that Laidlaw’s play has been a limiting factor. Half seconds in international rugby equate to the defensive line being two strides closer to receivers. I don’t mind when he slows down consciously when we are disorganised but scream at the TV when he slows down when we have the defence disorganised. If Watson had not rescued the situation for the first try with his past to Watson Laidlaw would have been fully culpable for ignoring the 4:1 overlap.
        So I agree – time to move on. Price and Horne all the way to RWC and find out who should start. Also Major charm offensive on Redpath to get him on tour in Summer for us as another 10 option.

  20. Having seen the game yesterday I wonder what might have been if we had ‘Tommy’ Allan and Finn pushing each other for the 10 jersey?

    1. Tommy Allan is mediocre at best. Yesterday was his career game. Everything he touched turned to gold. We gave him the confidence to believe he was a world beater.

      1. I agree, Allan had a cracking match – but I dont remember ever seeing him being anything but mediocre in his other tests.

      2. Allan has been well below mediocre many times
        before yesterday. If he were playing for Scotland he’d have been hung drawn and quartered by now.

        Anyone see Trinh Duc’s performance against Wales. He should be a cautionary tale for Russell about what happens to a talented FH who can’t add reliability to his game.

  21. The target for next year had to be 4 wins. On top of the massive challenge of getting all 3 at home that means winning in France too. Not beyond the realms of possibility, but another significant step up required. 4 wins would put us in contention for the championship.

    1. Why not get the Twickers monkey off our back, that’d really make people take notice ahead of the RWC!

  22. More negatives than positives. Negatives;
    Lost yards on almost every collision for the first 60 minutes. Didn’t use any genuine counter attack ball – considering we were trying to run them off their feet I was surprised how often we needlessly kicked. Line out without Richie is weak. Laidlaw was painfully slow and allowed Italy to get set in defence. Jones had his poorest game all round that I can remember. Our cross field and box kick game never once used that the threat of Seymour and Maryland (when you see what Ireland do it becomes more stark) and the scrum wasn’t as good as it has been. The back row…. so often our jewel – but if we are not winning the breakdown they offer little else, it’s a genuine worry and perhaps the biggest reason for our fluctuating performances. The drop off between Russell, Barclay and Laidlaws good performances with their bad ones is to extreme. The best players have a much higher watermark

    Positives: didn’t panic. Fitness. Bench depth. Ability to arrest momentum and change the game. Maul attack. Gray Jnr tackled everything and kept at it. Brown looked good in the loose so offers great competition with McInally who has emerged as a superstar for us.

    1. The Italian try chalked off was down to a missed tackle from Gray jnr.

      He needs to be more than tackle machine though.

      1. He doesn’t have any go forward of note. Its like he plays in a shell of defense and doesn’t express himself with forward intent. Defending is easier than expressing himself so he just tackles and tackles…which he does very well…but its limited and thats why he was nowhere near the Lions squad.

      2. I know what you mean, but I’ve seen signs of improvement on Gray jnr’s carrying this year. Its clear to me that he is working on this aspect of his game. It’ll come, I reckon…

      1. Have you ever considered the prospect that Cotter, Rennie, and Townsend have all had Wilson as a nailed on First XV player – with a significant leadership role?

  23. I’d like to see Toonie pick a back row for the ref: PG hates us at ruck time, so pick big fellas rather than jackals; NO loves a bit of turnover ball, so pick jackals rather than line breakers. And, as others have said, Laidlaw should be there to close out games.

  24. Toonie dodged a real bullet yesterday.

    From the moment he ridiculously put Vernon in the squad, then picked a team to favour Edinburgh, started our fifth best lock, chose a combination of undercooked and knackered players the mental attitude was set. And how it showed.

    Thank goodness for Laidlaw. Unbelievable he’s getting criticism. As has been said elsewhere, balls of steel.

    And Fagerson needs to decide if he’s going to be the world class prop he can be, or our answer to Joe Marler, getting a reputation for starting push and shove all the time.

    1. The Toonie Tombola needs to be retired. You generally d9mt get away with it in International rugby.

    2. The criticism of Laidlaw does not refer to his kicking which is obviously beyond criticism. What he does deserve criticism for is his performance as a scrum half. Not only is he slow to the rucks, often slow to clear the ball, have a too short and too slow pass but he offers almost no threat around the fringes and does not have the pace to track attacks. When Hugh Jones made his first half break I am sure Ali Price or George Horne would have been up there with him. I don’t think Russell did too much wrong – he made the final thrust for the first try – given Laidlaw’s service meant he was looking down both barrels of the young, enthusiastic Italian flankers and their team’s well set rush defence most of the game. I didn’t see this mighty drop off in his performance yesterday. If he had stayed on and played with Price maybe we would not have needed the penalty at the end as the gaps in the tiring Italian ranks would have been more exploited. Also Russell missed the chance to get the plaudits for kicking to the posts to close a game out v France and Italy (like he did with Ulster semi conversion in 2015).
      Laidlaw is a fantastic character but does not bring the best out of the rest of our team and if experience is his USP let’s build up the experience of the other scrum halves with the better scrum half skill sets.

      1. Now I hope you will forgive me for not getting it and upsetting the fantasy. There was no interceptions with Laidlaw all tournament. Next we will be blaming our flankers for not protecting Price in the Wales game, or the ref for not penalising them being offside.

        Laidlaw is just an old never been that is in the way of progress. What does he have to offer !

        Lets replace him with someone else, anyone else who is faster and less experienced , someone from the Pro 14, it makes perfect sense to overlook him.

        In fact Laidlaw is so ponderous, lacking in experience, wisdom and speed that he is only playing in the Top 14 in France in a side that have qualified for the last 8 in the Champions Cup where thankfully he can play his own game without having to be the responsble adult in the half back pairing.

        I am not in the the Laidlaw mugging team for good reason , he has his cons but look at his pros in the context of what is on either side of him.

      2. Not usually agree with you Ginger but I’m with you on this one. Whenever we’ve thought we can do without him and he’s been on the bench he’s had to come to rescue the game. Japan 16 comes to mind for one.

  25. France used to be known as ‘Les inconsistents’ you could never tell if they would show up. I fear we could easily gain the dub ‘The mibbies Aye, Mibbie Naw’s’.

    Now that the season is over, it is time to ask the hard questions, no point in asking them mid campaign as the task was get back on the horse. If we dont, we will forget it ever happened and learn nothing. We will be the plucky scots forever.

    We only need to analyse one match IMO and all the shortfalls are there. One game was lost before a whistle was blown, one game we got it well wrong off and on the pitch.

    Wales. It is time to ask the questions over Wales! Time for accountability and personal commitment to improve. What were you thinking when we went to Wales so unprepared and so late.

  26. For me, it was a horrible game to watch. Italy did their homework and played extremely well, but Scotland were poor for a lot of the game and didn’t react to what was happening well at all.

    I don’t understand why we seem to kick all our possession away in games like this – we didn’t have the ball for about 10 minutes, then the first time we do, we immediately kick it back to them. Seems to be a recurring theme in our bad games.

    The Italian rush defence completely stopped all our normally excellent back play – should have been adapted to pretty quickly one way or another. It’s easy to criticise the outside backs, but they were getting horrible ball all game with the defenders right on top of them. While Laidlaw played well in some aspects, he really was far too slow at rucks and allowing Italy too much time to organise. Don’t think he was the right choice for this game as far as scrum half goes – Russell is a good goal kicker and relying too much on Laidlaw might come back to haunt us at some point.

    Positives – we won. In the past we would never have managed to get back into the game. We are now able to win ugly, something people have been praising England for, for a long time. We also have strength in depth so that subs can come on and win the game for us, instead of dreading the moment when we have to take a starting player off.

    Looking forward, we need to use the summer and autumn tests to develop players in the positions we don’t have that depth in and give some of the young guys a chance to show what they can do. A few players also need a good rest over the summer.

    Next six nations, the target has to be 4 wins with a settled squad, looking forward to the world cup.

    Overall this year, there have been more positives than negatives, but there is certainly a lot to work on.

    As a final note, I agree with the other posters about some of the comments that have been posted after games. It has actually put me off visiting a few times.

    1. Well said re final point. The hysteria that follows a loss can be a bit ridiculous. I posted yesterday that we should enjoy wins, any wins, in 6N and autumn internationals and hopeful the 2019 WC. I have been a Scotland rugby follower for 30 years and for more than half of that we have been miles behind the curve, certainly from the day the game went professional. I don’t blame the players but the SRU and the clubs for making a mess of it. The good news now is that the work over the past 10 years is starting to pay off and we have competitive pro sides and a good international squad. For me I don’t think players should be singled out and ‘never play for Scotland again’ after one poor game. Let’s get behind the team and support the game in Scotland. If someone is regularly under-performing then let’s discuss alternatives (eg I think Tommy S is under pressure from Kinghorn – that’s good but Seymour hasn’t all of a sudden become totally useless).

      Looking forward to the league run in – 2 Scottish side in the play-offs, hopefully, grea stuff!

      1. Well said. I’ve been watching Scotland for about as long as you, and whilst this 6N has been a rollercoaster, its had more ups than probably seen in a whole decade.

        Also agree about singling people out. I feel very sorry for some of the lads like CdP and Chris Harris, who have so little experience at this level. Who knows, they may yet become key parts of our RWC 19 squad…

  27. We often say that for Scotland to beat a top team (NZ, Eng etc) Scotland have to be at 100% and the opposition have to have an off day (say below 75%), well the same can be said when we play teams outside the Top 10 and yesterday we were well of our best and Italy stepped up from previous 6N this year. They had a directness and accuracy that posed Scotland problems in defence and I’m sure would have stretched the other nations as well had they done the same in earlier games. Whether this is down to an inability of Scottish pack to slow down possession or that Italy had targeted this game and well up for it (more than Scotland were) I’m not sure but Townsend needs to find out and address it quickly because it can’t be repeated in RWC pool games.

    1. I think Scotland needs to stop talking & thinking about this inferiority garbage…about other teams having to play below their optimum and Scotland at their optimum to have a chance to win. Start believing in their own ability and work hard… that’ll get the chance of success against anyone and at anytime.

  28. So Townsend bookends the campaign with two brainless team selections. One that backfired badly and one that almost did. Add in his ongoing inability to prepare teams properly for away games. He was exactly the same for Glasgow in terms of erratic selection and putting teams on the road that aren’t prepared. He may yet become a decent coach but he’s not in the same league as Schmidt or Gatland at present. Look at what Cockers has done for Edinburgh. Now THAT is good coaching.

    1. Edinburgh has lost against Leinster, Scarlets, Glasgow, Cheetahs and Stade…away…under Cockers. We’ve become very good at home and not yet the same standard away.

      1. No team is as good away from home though. Leinster, Scarlets and Glasgow are all undefeated at home this season in the pro14.

      2. As were Wales and Ireland in this years 6Nations. Just because Scotland have lost away doesn’t make Townsend a poor coach, any more than it does Cockerill.

      3. I think GT’s a pretty good coach and i’d stick with him for now. But i think his faults are more obvious and costly whereas cockers are harder to pinpoint which is why i find it hard to fault him.

        With Edinburgh we have a team that won just 6/22 games last season and have now won 12/17.
        All this defied expectations whereas this Scotland team should really have run wales close and should have put away Italy…Like we did in 2016. Instead we were schooled by the former and snuck a win with the later.

        The only game we exceeded expectations was against England and they’ve lost 3 in a row now.

      4. On the contrary, Edinburgh have done even better than that…17 wins out of 23 under Cockerill and 19 out of the last 25 overall.

  29. First time since 1975 that the three Celtic nations have finished in the top 3. Yes, I looked it up. Yes, I’m questioning what I’m doing with my life.

    That really is amazing though. England have more pro teams than Ireland, Wales and Scotland put together. France, as Johnnie Beattie said on the Thistle, have as many pro leagues as Scotland has pro teams.

  30. @ Bulldog, I wonder if the Nov 3 match against wales in Cardiff was chosen after the defeat or before? Did Toonie know that we were not going to turn up mentally and book it knowing that? to fix before the RWC?

    Slight tangent, does anyone know how/where we can watch the RWC19 qualifier matches online?

      1. Which means we have Romania in our group and the winner of the Spain / Samoa play off I think.

      2. Wow massive blow to Spain. Wonder if they have any chance against Samoa – who seem to be much worse between world cups and going through a serious transition as well as political problems.

    1. Huge controversy brewing over Spain’s match vs Belgium…Romanian officials all round, for a game Spain needed to win. Romania now qualify as of right.

      1. You would hope the refs remained impartial and that it’s just the Spanish complaining about them (haven’t seen any reports from neutrals who watched the game to suggest otherwise as of yet). However, very naive of the organisers not to change the officials considering the implications.

    2. I doubt he planned to lose in Cardiff, the 6N is a much more achievable and immediate concern than the RWC. 18 months is a long time in rugby and who his worth would go through the roof if he could win this 6N. Extraordinary theory , am I understanding it properly ?

      1. Bulldog,

        No coach in his right mind sets out to lose. That theory can be dismissed out of hand.

        I really do not understand why we agreed to this fixture, apart from the fact it will in part go to Doddies foundation. I see no merit in it whatsoever otherwise.

      2. Yes, it’s an odd fixture, why choose/agree to play wales at home, besides Twickenham, it has to be one of the hardest away games…

      3. The away game in Cardiff may be a way to help get ready for the RWC next year – learn to play away from home

  31. One thing to think about when we are comparing how “good” or “bad” players are….yesterday’s starting No. 12s for the four home teams….

    Ben T’eo for England
    Bundee Aki for Ireland
    Nick Grigg for Scotland
    Hadleigh Parkes for Wales

    All brought up and schooled in the best rugby environment possible and not one of them in any serious consideration for the ABs.

    It just shows that there is one nation that really knows rugby and that everyone is struggling to stay with them.

    1. Possibly….but players that perform for Schmidt keep the jersey. Henshaw will have a fight on his hands to get either the 12 or 13 shirt back.

  32. Back from Rome late last night and haven’t watched a recording yet. The post-match comments on this Blog reflect our live impressions at the ground. It was so frustrating to sit there waiting, waiting, waiting for the ‘real’ Scotland to turn up.

    Had our bench not been emptied, and had Italy not flagged in the last 20, we would surely have lost that match and would have deserved to. So great credit to Italy who played very well. At times in the first half it felt like we were watching a schoolboy team defending against grown men. I agree in particular with the comments about serious work that needs to go into improving our defence.

    On a slightly more positive note, it was the biggest turn out of Scotland fans I’ve ever seen at a 6N away game, and I hope we did our bit to help get the side over the line. They needed all the help they could get.

  33. Any talk of Townshend being a bad coach is crazy after a 6N with three wins.

    He’s shown some flaws, he’s still relatively inexperienced, but also huge invention and ability to adapt. I’m confident we’ll keep making progress and should be in good shape to challenge next year.

  34. Although I was furious with the performance and the defence in particular, A lot has been made of us apparently being lucky that Italy ran out of steam after an hour. There was no luck involved. It was Italy’s choice to run their 80 minute mileage in an hour and play with unsustainable intensity in that first half.

    1. Quite so.

      And don’t forget, we’d already scored two tries in the first 30 minutes (and should have scored another in the 34th minute) so this idea that we were under the pump for the first hour is nonsense.

      1. The disappointment wasn’t really to do with being under a pump. It was more to do with watching an all-round Scotland performance that failed to live up to the higher standards of play that have been set by Scotland in the last 18/24 months.
        We nearly did a Fiji on Saturday and if we had, it would have removed much of the gloss of the two excellent wins against France and England.

  35. I can’t help but feel that Italy really only turn up for this fixture every couple of years – if they could match that intensity and accuracy in their other 6 nations matches then I suspect we wouldn’t be the only team that ends up with squeaky-bum-it is every time we go there.

    The self doubt and hesitancy that’s the trademark of their other outings this year, were replaced with assurance, self belief and an aggression that was at times difficult to manage. We’ve made this bed for ourselves unfortunately, but would be good to see Italy begin to target other matches in future, not just us.

    1. Andy, the same could be said for Scotland’s ability to raise their game at home against the English. It’s clear psychology is a huge park of the game and gaining the extra percentage for playing at home or against your key opponent can make all the difference. NZ are at such a different level. Mentally tough and are the best at playing top level, home and away. Ireland catching up. Rugby is in NZ’s blood. In Scotland it’s not. To achieve the consistency NZ have had goes way beyond just the 15 guys on the pitch.

  36. As some have commented, we actually have a lot to cheer about this year. Third in the table on a year with only two home games, and won both against good teams. Fifth in the world. Won the Calcutta Cup. Excellent squad with increasing strength in depth. Some exciting youngsters coming along. Very high fitness levels. So let’s not be too pessimistic!

    Also I do strongly feel that whatever people say about Greig Laidlaw, he is essential to the squad. His game management and kicking are brilliant, and personally I don’t think his play at either scrum half or stand-off is half as bad as some people are saying. Watched him playing for Clermont Auvergne the other day, and he virtually won the game for them.

    So roll on summer, autumn internationals, 6N ( including defence of the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham) and World Cup!

    OK we must improve our defence drastically, and

    1. Yay, 5th back!

      The +0.03 ranking points for winning in Italy certainly made a difference!

    2. Greig cannot be allowed to tour this summer. Even tho he’s been injured he will need a proper break and we don’t need to test him. Top 14 is a meat grinder and this is the last meaningful break before the RWC

      1. If he intends to take 3 scrum halves then surely the 3rd choice would be Fowles. He has selected him in squads all the way through his tenure as coach.

        Personally I would take Price, Horne and Kennedy.

      2. Toony’s Advisor Price and Horne definitely. Kennedy no chance. Even Fowles and Pygros are more deserving of a call-up over Kennedy. What has Kennedy done this season which makes you rate him so much he has had just one sub appearance for Edinburgh this season. Don’t know why you rate him so highly

      3. He has been injured this season but prior to that was Edinburgh’s 1st choice. Give him a run and he would be class. Best passer of the ball out of Edinburgh’s 3 scrum halves.

  37. That last bit was unfinished, and was supposed to come at the end of the first para. I had meant to continue. …. and sort out our away form, but we can do that.

  38. One final thought on our Six Nations season……

    Given the “hammering” some say we received in Dublin, our “luck” in scraping a win in Rome……and the undoubted opening day debacle in Cardiff…and given that some would gladly now throw Finn Russell under a bus rather than have him wear the 10 shirt for Scotland…….

    …I take it most people now agree that Warren Gatland got his 2017 Lions selection….to play away in NZ, remember…….correct….?

    I’ll just leave that one there for the expected vitriol….

    1. I’ve not seen anyone pining for Moriarty or Haskell over Watson, or Hill over Gray, or Halfpenny or Williams or Watson over Hogg, or Biggar over Russell…

      1. As you know, Halfpenny, Williams and Hogg were all selected anyway….Hill was a “Geography Six” player…and has played really well this 6N, including against us……as for Finn…plenty Scots fans calling for him to be dropped from the Scottish team (wrongly), far less be a Lion…..

        And given both Ireland and Wales finished ahead of us again this year ….actually, I’d say he got his election broadly right…at least justifiably so……with Watson being the one player who was most unlucky.

      2. I don’t think he did. He took journeymen rather than talent, and our position is influenced by coaching, luck and team balance. Gatland picked a squad based on his biases and i’m disappointed he even got a draw. Worth noting that England came 5th, so was he wrong to take 16 of their players?

      3. You’re disappointed the Lions even got a draw. That says it all.

        And no, he wasn’t wrong to pick so many English players…just like he wasn’t wrong to pick so many Welsh players last year.

    2. I don’t agree.

      Firstly, saying we scraped a win in Rome doesn’t give much credit to Italy who played exceptionally well in that game. We also won a game where we played badly which is still a positive.

      In Ireland we had white line fever and threw the game away against the team that beat everyone else comfortably. In Cardiff we didn’t turn up at all. In both, and possibly the Italy game as well, we seemed to be underprepared for the game which would seem to be the fault of management and the coaches as much as the players. If Gatland sees himself as a top coach then he shouldn’t worry about the poor preparation of other coaches as he’d surely do it better?

      As for those calling for Russell to be dropped, that’s just over reaction from fans who want their players to be infallible gods on the pitch.

      And I guess the final point would be that he was picking the squad based on last season, not this one, so performances this year are irrelevant.

      1. Point being, lots of Scots fans were

        a) Giving Gatland pelters because our players were apparently demonstrably better than those from Wales and Ireland (based on our two home wins)
        b) Using the 2017 6Nations table to demonstrate how superior our players were to the Welsh in particular
        c) Irritated beyond belief because of the suggestion that our players weren’t good at performing away from home.
        d) Up in arms at the suggestion that Toony could learn anything from a Lions tour under Gatland/Howley.

        In retrospect, maybe some of those views should have been moderated?

      2. I think people gave Gatland peters because he’s an obnoxious, odious, deceitful, hateful little man who lets his baseless biases guide his selection. He makes EJ seem likeable.

    3. Jonty : Now you dont like the attitude of some fellow scots fans, thats for sure. Not unlike a few other posters who have yet to play join the dots.

      You want to rewrite history based on current form rather than actual form at the time. Then belittle folks who formed valid opinions based on real time facts. The lions boat has sailed IMO.

      I dont think this commnet is valid as it is not a time based comparison and seems ot of place in a comment about Italy Scotland 2018.

      What purpose does this serve. Let’s stick with the posts

      1. Ginger: Many of the comments on this thread take the form of both a review of the 6 Nations and where we are now, not least relative to others.

        The Lions comments are there to provide perspective, especially relative to our Irish/Welsh counterparts. The only facts therein are two home wins in 2017, two losses away in 2018. Everything else is opinion. And it’s certainly not “rewriting history” about the suitability of anyone for a Lions tour.

        As an opinion, I certainly don’t think our players are any worse this year than last, or that we are any further back in our progress than we were last year, after allowing for key injuries.

        I’m suggesting some perspective, that’s all. And maybe, if we want to prove a point about being “wronged” we’d better execute on that, or face looking a bit silly.

      2. Jonty: People have no reason to ‘moderate’ views which were they consider valid at the time. We did the lions tour back then. Thats ‘perspective’ for you.

        I am sure you could use the search facility and find a post about lions selection and perceived shortfalls if you feel strongly that you need to tell some fans them they need ‘moderation’.because they got it so wrong You never know , someone might be grateful for it.

        Scotlands or any other nations perfrmance this 6N has nothing to say about last years 6N.

        They have a choice and I think with that I wil excercise mine. We get the picture all right.

      3. corection : Scotlands or any other nations perfrmance this 6N has nothing to say about last years Lons.

  39. Two things we would probably all agree on as part of the way ahead – fewer stupid mistakes and a ball carrying forward who can stay on his feet.

  40. Just seen that Fraser Brown made 17 tackles in 40 minutes with 0 missed. That’s some shift for his first start in months. Between him and McInally we’ve a dynamic and reliable pair.

    1. There was a turnover in there as well, and he was there or there abouts at every breakdown. I would say that we have two of the best 3 hookers in the 6N competition with Guirardo being the best out of the lot.

  41. Things I take away from the tournament.

    1. Our back row balance needs looked at. I dont object to playing two 7s but you then need a big unit at 8. Especially as for all his good work at the breakdown I dont recall Watson being that good ball in hand. Perhaps his bounce them off stuff doesn’t work as well against the monsters you see in the 6N compared to what we see in the Pro14.

    2. Lineout has gone backwards. Partly I think as we have Jonny Grey inked in. He is a great tackler and player in the loose but not top level in the lineout. Therefore the other lock really needs to be a lineout champion. (my boy Toolis anybody).

    3. Russell is a flawed genius but still our future. Any other chat is crazy. But he needs a steady hand and unless Price can bring that aspect to his game we still probably need Laidlaw. Also without Laidlaw’s goal kicking would we have won 3 games?

    4. Hogg made more metres than any other player in the championship. He terrifies defences and if we can get it to him he is the best method we have of getting up the park. He did not score the tries we expect but a lot of good stuff happened because he got us the go forward the pack failed to do at times.

    5. Maitland was our best winger. He never gets much credit but he took his tries well and seemed to show up a lot more in the games than he did under Vern. I really want to see Kinghorn in blue more though.

    6. I still have no idea who our two centres should be and what their jobs are? Do we play a 2nd 5/8th or a crash ball centre? Decide that then pick the player. It felt like all our tactics changes based on who we picked there.

    7. We are a decent team that other countries take seriously. The first time I can say that since Rob Wainright was skipper.

    1. So, whilst a lot of what you have brought up is relevant there are some points I have to contest.
      1. Watson was our best ball carrier in most games, the Irish game being the exception. his bounce of Farrell my personal favourite.
      2. The line-outs haven’t went backwards, what they have done is become less consistent. We still have some really good plays from them and they are quite dynamic but the accuracy was missing at times.
      3. Russell’s kicking has been just as good as Laidlaw’s of recent times.
      4. Our 2 centres don’t need to be nailed in. For me, I’d like to see Taylor at 12 with Jones at 13 but wouldn’t be disappointed with any combination of

      Other points I’d like to make.
      Wales are bloody difficult to beat at home. They were a shocking kick from Davies away from beating England last year and give a superb Ireland team a great game (within 3 points until a wild pass at the death, cue Stockdale)
      Ireland could have beaten the All Blacks this tournament the way they played so losing to them in the manner we did is not disappointing. We were disappointing in our execution but Ireland would have found a way to win had we been as clinical as we’d all have liked.
      My final point goes back to number 1. I think we need to keep faith with Barclay, Watson & Wilson and develop new ball carriers who are also adept at the breakdown. Matt Fagerson & Magnus Bradbury being the 2 in mind. If Jamie Ritchie can continue his form I thin he is a genuine Option to replace Barclay at 6 long term and working with him at Edinburgh will only help.

      1. We need back row lineout options, especially if Jonny Gray is to be one of our locks. At 6ft not-very-much Matt Fagerson doesn’t fit alongside two open sides.

        Reality is, we need a blindside, an openside and a No.8. We don’t need 2/3 opensides in the team, especially with two hookers as good over the ball as McInally and Brown.

  42. Also.

    Overall I really enjoyed the championship, we played OK and beat England which is always good. But a lot of the other games were interesting as they were close.

    Wales came second without me even really noticing but the games they lost were close and they worry me. Perhaps that Gatland fellow knows what we is doing.

    Thank god France did not pick Bastareau for the game with us! And now they have a proper coach they may come back. But blimey are they slow round the park.

    I feel for Italy. They have decent players but are just not used to winning either at pro or international level. And cheers Sergio have a good long rest you deserve it.

    Ireland were just relentless. Better coached, better tactically and with the best half backs in the tournament. Still don’t think they will beat the All Blacks but they do look like the only NH team with a chance at the world cup. If they can keep Murray fit.

    England. :-) Who are those chaps doing bad Maro Itoje and Mako Vinapolo impersonations?

    And finally. Can we have Mossy and POC alongside Cotter for all rugby matches now? Great mix, a thinking back and hugely knowledgeable forward who respect the knowledge of each other and a commentator who lets them talk when they have something to say.

    1. “And finally. Can we have Mossy and POC alongside Cotter for all rugby matches now? Great mix, a thinking back and hugely knowledgeable forward who respect the knowledge of each other and a commentator who lets them talk when they have something to say.” Couldn’t agree with you more great commentary team. At the start of the Autumn tests I wasn’t sure about POC thought he was being negative but actually he is very astute and tells it honestly if he is being picky its because he sees the potential. Keep them and get rid of that pr*ck Inverdale and BBC coverage would be the best.

  43. Have looked in vain for post match analysis of performance stats here. So here goes.Before the match we were worried about being pinged by a ref who’s style we’ve fallen foul of previously. Compared to other matches, fewer pens(?). A successful tactical decision about how to contest rucks/ back row selection?
    Then you would expect us to be slaughtered at the rucks but stats show few turnovers evenly shared (?). Which isn’t what I thought I saw while watching!!
    Still too many missed tackles but how much of that was down to hesitancy around the areas above? The time to think before you act isn’t there at this level. Another argument for consistency of selection, just ” knowing ” what you have to do as opposed to ” remembering”.

    1. I watched a recording of the match yesterday. When you’re in the crowd as a supporter you miss lots of detail and tend to focus in a close match on the things that go wrong for your side.

      On playback, I thought Italy played their best match of the tournament. Aggressive, pacy and tactically astute, with some good execution.
      In the face of that, I now think we actually played quite well overall – two crucial missed tackles and early line out mishaps excepted.

      Obviously not anywhere near peak of potential but certainly better than the showing in Cardiff.

      Grigg took some pelters iirc in some of the Blog comments, but on playback I thought he was pretty decent – including a near certain try-saving tackle as the first half was ending.

      Also impressed by Watson, and Hogg nearly always made more yards than expected, even from back-foot or static possession.
      It was also a good half hour back in Test rugby for Richie Gray.

  44. Scotland is often accused of being greater than the sum of their parts (cf. many, many posts about why Scotland players shouldn’t have been selected for the Lions tour last year), but I think the opposite is true: we’re not yet playing to our potential. I think the team who best fits that description is actually Ireland. This isn’t a dig at their players (except Keith Earls) – they have some great talent and more coming through – but rather praise of their systems and attention to detail. Schmidt and his team ensure that every player knows what their doing in a given scenario, which means that:
    A) they can identify and execute the task immediately
    B) they can focus upon executing it superbly, and
    C) their execution is made more effective by their teammates all being as focussed, effective and efficient as one another.

    In Schmidt’s team you don’t actually need an x-factor player like Hogg (though you might not say no to one…) because the collective effect of every player executing the system is greater than the collective effect of those players just playing to the best of their ability. A Mondeo with the engine from a Ferrari is still going to be limited by its chassis, suspension etc., so despite having more power than a BMW M4 (for example), it won’t necessarily perform as well in a race.

    Of could, I could be drunk from my pre-flight drinks in grey, rainy Rome, so who knows…

    1. Interesting points, cocktails aside TeamCam! Do you think that Ireland don’t need a plan B because their Plan A is quite simply good enough to cope with most things, and they all execute it to such a competent standard? Contrast with Scotland who perhaps have a more complex plan and need to execute it to the same high standards to be effective. A higher level of difficulty can bring higher scores but greater chance of failure, to borrow from Olympian sports…

      1. Personally, I think X-Factor players are needed if you want to compete consistently at the highest level, otherwise teams will eventually work out a way to deal with your Plan A.

        The most obvious recent example of this is England. Jones repeatedly shunned exciting X-factor players and picked ones that he deemed most appropriate to carry out his game plan. The result, obviously, was that once the other team had worked out how to stop the front-foot ball that was necessary for their play, they had no one who was capable of creating something from nothing, not even on the bench.

        New Zealand, on the other hand, in RWC 2015 had players to execute a game plan (Carter, Nonu, Smith, Smith) and then had SBW and Barrett on the bench to come on if the game needs changing, like in the semi-final.

        However, being as tactically savvy as he is, I suspect Schmidt is attempting to emulate this and is therefore bringing in flair players like Larmour and Carberry on the bench. Larmour in particular could be their answer to Hogg.

      2. Wish I’d checked this while I still had time to undo the damage caused by autocorrect…

        If I were to guess, I’d imagine that Schmidt is confident in his analytical processes and so doesn’t need a Plan B – he can just adapt Plan A as necessary and that allows them to focus solely on training that out, which contributes to Ireland’s proficiency at executing it. What do you think, Rory? Does this hypothesis stand up to scrutiny?

        I think the biggest difference between Scotland’s approach and that of Ireland is that ours require more fine skills to execute successfully. Consider THAT pass compared to rucking and carrying organisation and technique. Not to say that Ireland don’t have and use those same skills, look at the pass Sexton gave Stockdale for the first try against Wales, just the plan is less dependant upon them. Or, again, the cheap booze in this crappy lounge is making me spout more nonsense than usual…!

      3. Actually, ignore what I wrote: Tryhard’s answer makes a lot more sense! Like launching the alert five fighters in ‘Top Gun’.

      4. Ireland are indeed the perfect example of a team where everyone is so well drilled that they know their roles perfectly. Truly, the All Blacks of the North.

        As for X-Factor players…in an era of such well drilled defences, they only succeed with any consistency when everyone else around them is doing their job, effectively. There’s a very strong argument that the ABs back division doesn’t function without Aaron Smith’s speed and accuracy of pass, for example.

      5. I don’t think Scotland have a more complicated basic set up than Ireland – as pointed out by the folks at 1001, it’s the same attacking pods of three. But, the players have the freedom to play heads up rugby based on what they see in the defence, rather than simply secure ball and phases, or hoof kick. This encourages going wide, where the grubber has become a weapon, and ultimately allows for more flair / error. The freedom in the system is more like NZ than Ireland’s and presents greater risk and reward. So, we need the players to execute to a higher standard than Ireland, but if they do should beat them. That kind of sums up how it was going at the Aviva before the intercept.

  45. No, Jontymo, Ireland are not a perfect example by any means of everyone knowing their roles perfectly. They are an excellent example of a very well drilled side, and they deserve their title and Grand Slam. But in Paris, at home to Wales and for long stretches of the Scotland Test they displayed some areas of vulnerability.
    Yes, they are the best NH side by some distance at the moment but they will have to continue to work hard to maintain that gap, because other NH and SH sides will focus on neutralising their points of advantage as well as developing their own points of advantage.
    Not decrying Ireland; just saying nothing stands still in the modern game, and even Ireland will have to develop their current game plan if they wish to avoid being found wanting in the run to and at RWC 19.

    1. We didnt need an X factor player to beat Australia. As many of us who have played know, having somone of such talent in the side can come at a cost .You need to have the right guys around them being one example. No point in playing Ronaldo in the Junior Football league as he just wont get the ball in the right spaces and he will be hacked down when he does.

      Many complain about Visser , facts are he has a fantastic scoring ability , though his defence is poor, supposedly (Not my view). So he is costly and we are no longer prepared to play guys around him to cover that shortfall. He costs too much.

      Actually Hogg is not the complete all rounder , he has flaws in defence and Maitland plays well with him as he covers back.We are prepared to pay that price , so playing Hogg and Visser in the same match is like pulling on a string vest when its a solid sheet that is needed. Hogg strikes fear , and for that reason even if he is marked out of the game we will play him as that creates gaps for his worker bees to strike.

      A dependancy has been created , rightly or wrongly. What did not surprise me is how well we played without Hogg against Australia, or how welL Glasgow coped when he was out with injury last season.

      I am a bit too simplistic in my arguments or some. Balance and all round teamwork is more important.

  46. Oh, that was awful, absolutely terrible – our fifth loss of the 2018 6N, whitewashed, utterly demolished, losing every game to a bonus point defeat, and not once even getting inside our opponents 22, never mind scoring a try…..

    Not a single one of these players should ever be allowed to play for Scotland again. In fact they shouldn’t even be allowed to go past Murrayfield on the tram unless they have a bag over their head AND a bell round their necks AND carrying a sign saying “I am ashamed of being one of the worst players ever to have worn the thistle and I am the type of person who would steal a roll on square sausage from a child in the street – please pelt me with rotten fruit, eggs, and rolled up match day programmes until you have vented your displeasure or until we reach Haymarket (whichever comes first)”

    Oh, hang on, 3 wins from 5, 3rd in the table – so for the first time in the 6N we recorded 3 wins back to back, and improved from 4th last season. We even got that rarest of beasts, an away win! Some of it wasn’t great – the Wales game was a car crash, and the visit to Dublin full of “what ifs”, but the demolition of England was a first win over them in 10 years. The wins over France and Italy were scrappy, but crucially, they were wins in the sort of games that Scotland teams of the past would have lost in previous years.

    Yes, there is room for improvement, that is undeniable. But the massive over-reaction of some on here beggars belief.

    Congratulations Ireland on a well deserved Grand Slam are also due.

    1. I have to agree – I am overjoyed at our showing this year, compared to 10, 5 or even just 3 years ago. 3rd in the table. 5th in the world!
      However, we shouldn’t get too carried away. We have the second worst defence, both in terms of tries conceded and points, and the second worst attack, again in tries and points. Of course those numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they do tell one.

      1. The way i see this six nations.

        Hammered by wales and did not even show up.
        Edged a french team under a new coach at home.
        Beat a poor english side who have lost 3 games in a row but we performed very very well.
        Soundly beaten by ireland and our skillset was lacking.
        Scraped past an Italian team that has not won a game in 3 seasons and was soundly beaten by every other team.

        Finished the season with a –
        27 score count and 13 Points and 11 tries

        Last season we achieved 14 points and 14 tries and +4 score

        To me the performances have went back abit this six nations compared to last despite our finished and even the autumn games to an extent.

        Defence is woeful and the lineout has been a joke which needs fixed asap, Bring in Richie Gray with either Gilchrist or little gray.
        Bring in a new defense coach also.

        The fact we have scored less tries considering we are supposed to be playing a more attacking style of rugby is also worrying and im not sure the fix, mabey bring in a proven try scorer on the wings ? Seymour has not scored a test try in a year almost and maitland is not that type of player.

  47. Is it only me that thinks the way Ireland play is a bit boring? “One out” passes then drive it up the middle. Repeat ad nauseam until a gap appears – usually after 20 or 30 phases. It reminds me a bit of England in the 90s. VERY effective, mind, but a touch wearying for the spectator. They keep the ball very well but don’t seem to do a lot with it. If we could keep the ball as well as they do then we’d have a chance at RWC19.
    The exception was Standers try – even watching the replays several times I’m still figuring out who gets the ball when!! If it wasn’t for Maitland’s try against England that would be my try of the tournament. Funny how England seems to get the best out of the other teams. They’ll be back on top soon enough.

      1. Stu : I wondered when you would show, I agree Maitland has scored well this season, ( he has had years of poor try scoring but this year played very well and put in a shift in tackles). Can we take it your silence is agreement to the rest , which ,is hard to argue with as it is factual albeit not the message some want to hear.?

        It is a three away year so you could say the numbers are skewed but apart from that ? Personally I think the negative points difference is sticking out there land you just cannot get away from that one.

        You know what , I think everyone thinks we have had a good year, they just care enough to say what could have made it better. Well done you crabbit ones and please feel free to call me Whinger Ginger.

  48. Sam Johnson qualifies shortly I reckon, can more knowledgeable Scottish rugby watchers comment on his quality & comparative talents V Horne & Dunbar

    1. I am certainly no expert but watch all of Glasgow’s games. I would say he is ok and should be capped when eligible.Quite direct and solid and a really good club player for Glasgow. International class – not sure at this stage as realistic behind Horne and Dunbar at 12, and Jones,Grigg, Dunbar at 13 at Glasgow.

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