Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 54-17 Fiji

Scotland v Fiji
Graphic - © Scottish Rugby Blog

Scotland ran out onto the Murrayfield pitch with fireworks and flames shooting up into the Edinburgh skies giving a taste of what was to come. It was clear early on that both sides had come to play rugby with all manner of offloads, surging runs and big hits coming from both sides. At times it resembled a Barbarians match with both sides taking turns at the sublime and ridiculous.

Scotland gathered the kick off and ran through the phases before Finn Russell kicked a high 50/50 ball from his own 22 which was knocked on by Scottish hands and gathered by Fiji who ran through the phases before Scotland were eventually pinged at the ruck. Finn Russell’s understudy at Racing 92, Ben Volavola duly kicked three points.

From the restart Fiji gathered the ball under pressure from Scottish forwards before breaking down the field with Hogg gathering a Fijian chip just short of the try line. It was then time for some Scotland fireworks, running the ball from their own try line with Ryan Wilson pulling off his own Nakarawa-esque offload before the ball was eventually cleared to touch.

Scotland were again pinged at the ruck, this time Peter Horne off his feet and it looked like it might be a long afternoon for Scotland but Volavola’s kick didn’t have the distance and the score remained 0-3.

It was then Fiji’s turn to be pinged, this time for offside and Hogg kicked for touch in a pattern that would repeat itself for every Scottish penalty over the afternoon.

Scotland won the line out and after some initial Fijian resistance made good ground with the maul before being stopped short. The forwards then took the ball again and again to the Fijian line with Jamie Ritchie carrying well before Fiji intercepted. However referee Andrew Brace was playing advantage to Scotland for Fiji infringing in the maul and play was called back. Again Hogg kicked to touch and again Scotland tried to maul their way to the try line making very little progress. Laidlaw decided enough was enough and spun a quick pass to Maitland who almost crawled his way to the line. After a couple of pick and go carries Allan Dell crashed over under Leone Nakarawa for Scotland’s first try with Laidlaw adding two points.

Scotland seem to have shaken their struggles with the restarts for the moment and looked lively, constantly breaking through the Fijian defence with Skinner and Wilson both linking up well. A good passage of play by Scotland eventually saw Alex Dunbar carry deep into Fiji’s 22 throwing off Fijian defenders like dust off his shoulder, apparently fulfilling the “pinball” role in the absence of Watson. Scotland worked the ball wide to Horne who was unable to break the final tackle, or spot Tommy Seymour open and screaming for the ball just outside him. The Scotland pack then battered the Fijian line before Fraser Brown flopped over. Laidlaw, ever reliable with the boot at BT Murrayfield, kicked the extra two points.

From the restart Scotland gathered and kicked to touch, Scotland almost disrupting the line out, before their rush defence forced Fiji to kick for touch within Scotland’s 22. The resulting throw from Brown was long and ended up in the hands of Maafu at the tail of the line. Maafu passed to backrow Yato who burst through the Scottish defence like a runaway truck before putting Big Bill Mata in under the posts with a sublime offload. Dunbar and Hogg tried valiantly to bring down Mata but the angle of the run and sheer power meant their efforts were in vain. This time Volavola couldn’t miss.

Leone Nakarawa then started doing what Leone Nakarawa does best: offloading from the skies like a god. Jamie Ritchie was caught trying to disrupt but could only knock the ball into the hands of scrum half Frank Lomani who charged into the Scotland 22 before being stopped by a scrambling Peter Horne. Fiji recycled the ball quickly, the big lock Cuvabati breaking through the Scottish defence on the angle and passing the ball to outside centre Semi Radradra who dotted down for the try. Volavola added the extras.

At this point, Scotland of old might have panicked at going behind but they disrupted the restart, turning over ball with Wilson making good ground with ball in hand. The ball eventually found Seymour who was isolated and surrounded by white shirts, but Fiji were penalised for being off their feet and Hogg kicked to the corner. A line out, a maul. Scotland marching forward with more white shirts on the Scottish side of the maul than blue: another penalty. Reset. Repeat. Another maul stopped short illegally and this time a card. Second row Tevita Cavubati sent to the bin for collapsing the maul.

At the resulting line out the maul was stopped again but this time legally. Scotland put the ball through the phases and a series of short carries from the base before taking advantage of the extra man, Fraser Brown spinning over for the try. Referee Andrew Brace blew for the score but TMO Ben Skeen had other ideas believing Richie to have caused an obstruction and the try was disallowed. World Rugby had said TMO’s role would be minimised during the Autumn Tests as part of a trial with on-field officials being responsible for decisions. Skeen clearly hadn’t got the memo.

Fiji cleared their lines but it wasn’t long before Scotland were putting the Fiji defence under pressure again. A high tackle on Russell, which probably warranted a red card given World Rugby’s tweets earlier in the day about what they would be clamping down on, gifted Scotland a penalty and Hogg kicked to touch. Again Scotland’s maul went on the march before breaking up, WP Nel eventually dotting down but losing control of the ball in the process of scoring. Andrew Brace went back for an earlier Fijian infringement and had a long chat with captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu. Another line out. Another maul. Another penalty. This time Uncle Big Naks was the offending party and was sent to the sidelines for a long hard think.

This time Scotland opted for the scrum against Fiji’s depleted pack, inevitably the scrum collapsed and a penalty was awarded, Scotland again opting for the Scum. The second scrum was reset with both front rows popping up. At the third time of asking the ball emerged from the base of the scrum with Laidlaw whipping the ball to Russell who floated a long pass to Seymour sending him in for his first try of the afternoon. Grieg Laidlaw did as Grieg Laidlaw does.

Half-time: Scotland 21-17 Fiji

Scotland came out firing in the second half disrupting the Fijian defence and forcing a knock on. From the resulting scrum Laidlaw found Dunbar who found Strauss both of them punching big holes in the defence. Scotland went from touchline to touchline, the forwards making good ground with ball in hand before Laidlaw found Maitland who spun over the try line. Greig Laidlaw lined up the kick… you can guess the rest.

From the restart Scotland gathered and Horne kicked downfield. Fiji made hard work of getting out of their own 22 but soon found themselves rampaging up the BT Murrayfield pitch earning a penalty for offside. Ben Volavola’s kick was wide.

With Fiji restored to 15 players after 6 minutes of the second half, Alex Dunbar still managed to make a surging run up the pitch before finding Skinner who went on his own rampage before being taken down, seemingly by an arm to the face from Semi Talebula. Scotland ran through the phases before Fiji knocked on whilst attempting a strong counter ruck. Scotland won a penalty at the resulting scrum, and once more Hogg went to the corner. No maul this time but a series of carries saw Scotland make ground in Fiji’s 22 before Fiji won their own penalty when Scotland were caught holding on in the maul. Maybe Townsend was handing out fines for kicking for goal, Baa-Baas style, but it seemed an odd decision at that stage in the game, not to have taken the three points and extend the lead.

Scotland were soon back in the Fijian 22 and Russell struck a cross-field kick which almost found Hogg. The ball was carried back over the try line by Fiji resulting in a five-metre scrum to Scotland. From the scrum Russell found Horne who burst through the Fijian defence in a way a man of his stature has no business doing, especially against such meaty opposition. The ball was quickly recycled to Seymour who crashed over for his second. All of a sudden the three points Scotland had passed up earlier didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Despite the scoreline Fiji continued to threaten the Scottish defence before Ritchie won a penalty on the halfway line and Hogg, once again went to the corner. Scotland won the ball from the line out but Chris Harris lost the ball forward after a thumping hit from Eroni Vasiteri. Fiji won a penalty from the resulting kick but Volavola’s kick was short and gathered by Hogg. Scotland put the ball through hands with Chris Harris making a surging run before putting Seymour in for his third try. With Laidlaw off the pitch Hogg took over kicking duties but was not equal to his captain.

Josh Strauss – who had been on from midway through the first half after Matt Fagerson was injured – was carrying like a man given a second chance at life and asking serious questions of the Fijian defence. Once more Scotland found themselves in Fiji’s 22 with Sean Maitland almost putting Peter Horne in for a try with a ridiculous offload. Fiji were able to clear but a storm was coming.

Some say we were mad to dream that it might ever happen. Some said we were so busy working out if we could, we forgot to ask if we should. Hastings came on to replace Peter Horne and Russell shifted to 12. S***. JUST. GOT. REAL.

Any fears held by non-believers were soon cast aside. With Horne junior already on for Laidlaw, the combined madness did not cause the seas of the Scottish defence to part and a cheeky Russell chip through put Fiji under pressure, resulting in a Scotland scrum inside the Fiji 22. Maitland and Hastings both twisted and turned through Fijian tacklers before a series of short drives ended with Jamie Ritchie earning a well-deserved try at the base of the posts. Russell kicked an easy two points.

With 76 minutes gone the temptation for Scotland must have been to keep things tight and see out the game. But this was no ordinary Scotland. This was Scotland XS. The cats had been let loose in the rave and Scotland fans were tripping rugby balls. Russell found a gap in the Fijian defence inside Scotland’s own half following a Scottish scrum and sent Hastings in for a try in the corner. Russell kicked the two points at the death.

Fiji asked some real questions of Scotland’s defence in the first half, but as Grieg Laidlaw said in the post match press conference, Scotland did not panic and stuck to their game plan, confident it would see them through. Scotland’s superb form at Murrayfield will face a sterner test next week but for now Scotland fans can enjoy the fact the dream ticket of Horne, Hastings and Russell had come true. Too beautiful to die, too mad to live and perhaps never to be repeated. But like the Kennedy assassination, every Scotland fan will be able to say where they were when it happened.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)

SRBlog Man of the Match: There were a number of players who put their hands up for man of the match including Jamie Ritchie who caused Fiji all manner of problems at the breakdown but the SRB man of the match was Sam Skinner who marked a surprising call-up with a superb debut causing Fiji problems in attack and defence.

71 Responses

  1. Scrummo’s ratings:

    Dell 7.5
    Brown 7.5
    Nel 7
    Skinner 8
    Gilchrist 6.5
    Wilson 7
    Ritchie 8.5
    Fagerson 6.5
    Laidlaw 7
    Russell 7.5
    Maitland 7
    Horne 7.5
    Dunbar 7
    Seymour 8
    Hogg 7

    Allan 6
    McInally 7
    Berghan 6.5
    Gray 6.5
    Strauss 7.5
    Horne 7
    Hastings 7
    Harris 7

    Overrall a strong team performance with a couple standouts. Fiji were very poor in the second half and we capitalised well.

    Wonder whether we will see Skinner at 6 soon? Would certainly add bulk and Townsend moving him there for the run in and Skinner’s own comments after the game make me wonder. Mind you a Ritchie, Watson, Strauss backrow fould be handy and we may even have Thomson available…

  2. Neils Official Player Ratings – Scotland

    1. Dell – 8
    2. Brown – 7
    3. Nel – 6
    4. Skinner – 8.5
    5. Gilchrist – 8
    6. Wilson – 6
    7. Ritchie – 9
    8. Fagerson – N\A
    9. Laidlaw – 8
    10. Russell – 9
    11. Seymour – 9
    12. Horne – 4
    13. Dunbar – 6
    14. Maitland – 7
    15. Hogg – 8

    16. Mcinally – 8
    17. Allan – 5
    18. Berghan – 6
    19. Gray – 5
    20. Strauss – 9
    21. Horne – 7
    22. Hastings – 7
    23. Harris – 8

    1. What did Horne do to deserve a 4? Ludicrous.

      It’s no coincidence that Scotland consistently play (and defend) better when Horne plays 12. Considering the level of Fiji’s carriers we defended very well today. Fiji will cut anyone open once or twice but we generally kept them at bay.

      Russell also very effective with another playmaker at 12. Hastings coming on at 12 could be a regular sight I think.

      1. I thought it was Funny non who when Hastings came on, Hastings was certainly taking the ball as 1st receiver

      2. Totally agree. Horne was quietly effective, one of the strongest performances in the team. Bench AT LEAST for saffers.

        Should have passed though.!!

  3. Horne Butchered 2 definite tries and got lucky twice that we retained the ball to score in the phases after.The players around him made him look good on the front foot.

    he gets 4 points for effort.

    1. Pete Horne made the most metres of a Scottish player (52), beat 3 defenders, made 3 clean breaks, 5 tackles… That’s not a 4/10 performance. 7/10 is the correct answer.

      1. Horne seemed to forget how to pass for most of the game! Multiple times he could have offloaded and didn’t.
        Was very visible and lots of carries but I don’t think he achieved that much. 6/10.

      2. When you say Horne hit it up and didn’t pass how do you know that a move didn’t require him to crash up and set a ruck for the next phase of the sequence?

      3. He butchers at least one definite try in every game he plays. Complete liability no idea how he still makes the team. Really winds me up.

  4. Actually pretty good stuff from Scotland against tricky opposition!

    A few brain farts in the first half:
    Penalties for handling in the ruck.
    Over throwing lineout ball on your own 22.
    Peter Horne butchering an easy overlap for a certain try.
    Not spotting the backs have loads of space on numerous occasions! Hoggy must have lost his voice from screaming so much!

    Outstanding second half! All the newbies played well, subs played well! Would love to see Horne Hastings and Russell given some more time together.

  5. Open the cat Flap, warm up the mixing decks and put on the strobe lights. The Rave is on !!!!! LOL !!

  6. Very good day which I had a bad feeling about. Some thoughts:
    Seems to be against the grain but I thought Ritchie had a very average first half but an excellent second. Overall a good game (7.5)
    P. Horne isn’t international calibre but does give us something different.

    Skinner and Gilchrist would be my starting pair next weekend. I could see Skinner at 6(but he is a better lock having watched a lot of Exeter) but don’t think Tony will drop Wilson (I would)

    Strauss needs to start, in Denton’s absence he and Watson are the only really effective carrier in contact against big men.

    Brown starts over Rambo

    Laidlaw was Laidlaw, he looked a bit like his slow bad days at times but his strengths outweigh all weaknesses

    Horne or Price on the bench next week? I don’t know

    Harris: was only a cameo but a very effective one, closest we’ve seen to his domestic form

    Dunbar at 13: no

    Centres next week I’d expect Jones and Dunbar with Harris on the bench, not sure whether it’ll be Horne or Hastings on bench though. What a great choice to have to make considering our other injuries there.

    Seymour: welcome back

    Best Maits: love his languid style

    Hoggy: what injury

    Finn: did what Finn does.

  7. Overall very good. The difference from last week was pace and intent from the backline.

    Have to say Laidlaw and Russell made a big impact and can probably be credited for a lot of it.

    Forwards – Skinner, Ritchie and Strauss really impressed, although everyone did pretty well.

    Backs – I wasn’t particularly convinced by any of the centres. Still think Dunbar and Jones is our best option (excluding injured players). Back 3 were good – Hogg maybe protecting himself a bit more than usual.

    Hastings and Russell on together could be tasty (Russell seemed to switch to 12 today), and at least it gives us a bit more cover off the bench.

    Still want to see G.Horne start a game to see how he controls it from the beginning, ideally with Russell at 10.

    Need to be a bit careful comparing performances to last week, as Wales provided a much different test than Fiji – it’s easy to look good on the front foot with plenty of time and space.

  8. Good performance against a strong and capable opposition in the Fijian team who nearly got a chance to get away with scoring more than a couple of tries in the first half but … the Fijian discipline let them down.

    I think it’s notable that the high tackles were *not* penalised – even though, immediately before the Fijian #5 was sin-binned, the Fijian captain was warned about it by the referee. Thus, the obvious candidate for my hands-in-the-ruck this week was the Fijian replacement full back #23 not getting red carded for the high tackle on Finn Russell in the first half: perhaps this is the reason for the lack of ‘virtual finn sanity’ that we saw in the rest of the game?

    Other than this; good to see a full Murrayfield for the first of the autumn internationals.

  9. Overall much better performance than the Wales match. Ok…Wales are a tougher nut to crack…but much better intensity today. Felt more like a proper test match rather than the semi tribute match last week.

    Some very real positives on show today imo.

    Jamie Ritchie looked terrific today. Looked ordinary at this level prior to today. It was like someone flicked a switch in his head 1/3 of the way into the game. Looked not only test level…but a leader. Could be a terrific player at this rate. If we could only find a guy for 8….maybe Bradbury….but he is in a line of players who may be most suited to 6

    Sam Skinner…..absolute natural at this level. For me, an automatic stick on for next match. A lock that has grunt, pace, composure and can break the line. Sold!….Johny who? At the very least play him at 6….should be starting tho whatever position.

    Maitland and Seymour showed exactly why they are 1st choice on the wings. Ditto Laidlaw at 9, and Russell at 10. G Horne showed he is next in line….and gaining test level maturity along the way.

    Dunbar looks like he is beginning to find his test form again. Hope he is not injured again…

    We are building excellent front row depth….tho not sure who would be 1st choice.

    Fitness is good.

    Concerns would be the initial gaps in defense…repeated.. would be like handing SA the win before match started. SA will be a real challenge ….they way they played NZ this rugby championship was impressive. Wont win if they bring it down to an arm wrestle….need to be smarter than that.

  10. Today we ,ultimately, did exactly what was required, initially gave them the chance to play and they did.

    Dunbar was caught cold early on but played well.
    Scotland are a different beast with Hogg, Russell, Laidlaw on the field.
    Skinner, Ritchie, Brown stood out
    I thought P.Horne did well, whatever anyone’s thoughts, he has the heart of a lion.
    Interesting the interchange between Russell and Hastings at the end….
    If fit, Blade T starts @ 8 next week.

  11. Thought we were much more positive today and Russell made a big difference seemed much more composed and hogg taking kicking duties takes pressure of him. On a different thread is anyone else watching the Wales game AMD thinking they could be the worst rugby team in the world to watch?

    1. Good God, yes. 9-6 is an embarrassing scoreline, and it was a dreadful game. Wales have reverted to the dreadful anti-rugby they used to play. I don’t get the love for Anscombe. He’s played pretty well for Blues, but not really at test level. Reminded me of the Wales vs France game a couple of years ago. Refs really need to stop letting them get away with slowing the ball down so much.

  12. Love how Chris Harris had the chance to prove the idiotic fake plastic section of our fan base wrong who for the past year have claimed he is rubbish based on a poor debut against Wales away.

    Anyone who knows anything about rugby knows it takes at least 10 games to get used to international rugby and the way some of our “fans” have treated a very talented player is pitiful.

    1. That was his fifth game in a Scotland shirt and the first in which he played half-decently. I don’t think he proved anyone wrong. And he didn’t debut against Wales, and even if he had, that was this year. Compare him to Ritchie or G Horne or Kinghorn or, hell, Skinner, all of whom have taken to test match rugby quicker.

      1. And a younger, Harris was good today but it was against poor opposition by the time he was on. He has not proved anything.

        Blake i have seen loads of comments from you bashing Harris…

    2. I felt so sorry for him when he knocked the ball on in one move in Fiji’s 22 and delighted for him when he played such a pivotal role in Seymour’s try.

      1. Neil please provide evidence of this. Have I said that I don’t think he is 1st choice at this moment. Yes. Have I made my case of why he shouldn’t be playing in certain matches. Yes. But what i’m talking about is fans who completely write off a player after a bad game or two especially is completely ridiculous.

        You look at Price. Was seen as some sort of saviour in 2017 but after a few bad games “fans” are writing him off as awful. I’d probably agree at the moment Laidlaw and George Horne are our two best scrum half’s just now but that doesn’t mean Ali can’t regain his class form of 2017.

      2. Harris showed mettle to come back from the knock on given his previous sub optimal performances. That is the first time I have seen anything that impressed me.

      3. Blake, most fans pay to see the best on the pitch representing their club or country.Choices bring opinions and Scottish rugby no longer needs to play anyone who is underperforming. They will get selected when their form returns and an opportunity arises. Ali Price is capable of a lot more than his current offerings, What is the problem with that ?

    3. GT himself said it took him around ten caps to feel like he belonged at international level. I didn’t think Duncan Taylor did much in his first few games either, and look what we all think of him now. Should probably not get too excited (e.g. Skinner) or too down (e.g. Harris) about players until they have had a decent crack at it.

  13. I’ve been telling the unbelievers that Harris is an excellent player who shouldn’t have been thrown in against Wales.
    I think we saw some of that when he came on today.

    1. Happy to be proved wrong about Harris hope it gives him the confidence you need for international rugby to be fair Fijis heads were down a bit when he came on.Thought pack took the wrong option a few times going for line when backs had overlaps but it tired them and made them give penalties and yellow cards.Team played well second half and we niled them which must have impressed Matt Taylor.

      1. Another point did anyone else think Fijis try by Mata there was a forward pass in the build up thought TMO should have had a look as they did with scotland a few times it’s the inconsistity that hacks me.

      2. It looked like it, but no more so than Hasting’s pass to Finn for the final try, which wasn’t checked. I though Brace was actually pretty good and consistent today, although he missed a couple of things, e.g. a potential knock on/playing the ball on the ground before Brown’s try.

  14. Pete Horne plays = a guaranteed win.
    His haters need to give their heads a wobble. He’s a master of the dark arts.

    It’s a bit silly that nobody had heard of Sam Skinner 2 weeks ago and he looks a nailed on started at this point. A good win but to keep things in context Russell had the freedom of Murrayfield to do his thing today. Let’s see if he can produce at high pressure moments as Parks did with the late winning penalty in Dublin a few years ago.

    1. His haters need to give their heads a wobble. He’s a master of the dark arts … like not being able to pass! He butchered a couple of tries (albeit we recovered and scored shortly afterwards) and he cannot take a pass and offload quickly. He is not of International class

    2. Well said Busy Little Bee. Whether its genuine or not I agree with what u say regarding Horne. He does almost guarantee a Scotland a win in the last few years if he starts. Yes his errors were obvious and not ideal but not offloading is not an error. He recycled and the move went on. He broke through and made significant contributions to multiple tries today.

      So glad Townsend name checked him in the interview. He sees what so many don’t. all the unseen hard work, organisation etc. Doubt we’ll win with Jones and Dunbar next week. Horne is crucial.

      And yes Dan Parks kick was nerveless.

      1. Just to show that Referendum is correct, because I’m statto AF:

        Since last year’s AIs Scotland with Horne starting:

        P7 W5 L2
        Average points scored: 35
        Average ponts conceded: 21.9

        Without Horne starting:

        P6 W3 L3
        Average points scored: 25.8
        Average ponts conceded: 25.3

        It’s a tricky one because I do think that Jones and Dunbar are both better players than Horne, but I’m getting convinced that Horne needs to start ahead of one of them. Imagine Huw Jones in the Harris role from yesterday – coming off the bench second half and running at tired defences.

        Granted, that butchered overlap was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. But he did beat three players to create the overlap in the first place, and even when he ballsed it up he didn’t panic, he recycled and we got the try anyway.

      2. He ran through a gap, which I suppose technically beating 3 but not quite the same.

        My main issue with Horne is he does something like that in every game – there is always one massive cock up. His greed at spurning the pass to Seymour was disgraceful – everyone knows a good defender never takes the dummy.

        He’s a tidy player but nowhere near as important to the side as some are making out.

  15. Hard to pick a first 15 now especially in the back row when everyone is fit. Think berghan should be a starter now offers more than Nell for me something I thought I’d never say

  16. Good performance. Sterner tests ahead, and it will be interesting to see who Frank’s their form next week. Thought the forwards did well against a bigger pack. They nearly always got over the gain line, which made me wonder why we’ve been calling for a big ball-carrying No 8. But like I said, can they do it next week? Pleased for Strauss on his return. Don’t see many Edinburgh games, so was good to see why Ritchie is so well thought of. Backline fired nicely too, and pleased to see Seymour back in the tries.

    Final thought. Wales stopping the Aussies scoring today probably puts a different spin on last week’s performance. Not the greatest match for free flowing rugby, but those Welsh boys really are a solid defensive unit.

    1. They’ve got a bit of an Ireland thing going on at the breakdown which results in refs allowing them to be continually offside and to slow down ball.

  17. Great game, few of my thoughts. I was pleased for the newbies or relative newbies. Thought Skinner and Richie both played well, Skinner more so in the first half and Richie in the 2nd half. Thought Fagerson was carrying ok, what happened to him by the way never really noticed, Strauss was a step up though when he came on though. I was ready to berate Harris when he came on and proceeded to give away the worlds biggest knock on, fortunately he played pretty well after that I thought, good for him. G Horne and Hastings both did well but by then I think Fiji had all but given up. Had a lot of time for the Russell / Hastings combo at the end, never really noticed who was where, was Russell at 12?

    Back to the regulars, very happy for Seymour, two of them were run ins but he got around the park pretty well, his coats back on a normal peg if he keeps that up, he definitely seems to play better with Hogg and Russell.

    I’m astounded at the continuing volume of anti P Horne comments on here. I thought he played very well, a bit selfish on a couple of occasions where he should have just made the pass but he ran his usual good lines, linked well, few good crash balls and put in a couple of decent kicks.

    Russell had a great game, his passing was a step up from Hastings last week, flat and crisp and a good mix of trademark madness and composure. Laidlaw also played well, got around pretty quickly and minimal rubbish box kicks. Hoggy played well, was well shackled though, kicking game was on point.

    On the general play I would echo Barclays comments at half time that the forwards need to give the backs the ball and that seemed to happen. I liked the switching up of first receiver, Russell, Horne and Hogg all came in at various times, we can only do that kind of mixing up with those 3 players.

    Bring on the Saffers!

  18. Watching the game again Russell looked like he had all the time in the world on the ball either a consequence of front foot ball or just becoming the world class player we all hope he is. P Horne does so much good work but decision making can be suspect. Does anyone know when blade is back from his hia protocols?

  19. Anyone see Sam Underhills performance for England today? Class and brutal. I don’t see that intensity or power in our squad. English intensity first quarter was something to behold. They butchered the match second half though being nil’d . By the All Blacks.

    Despite scoreline , we still boorach’d too many chances. still too many players out of position. Too many of our larger players are happy to fall in to contact rather than stay upright and power through and offload. Josh Strauss showed what can be done. Peter Horne did too, he’s a good runner and decoy, just a yard short.

    Other observations:
    WP, not quite requisite standard. Needs more pace and better handling but not a starter.

    JG, warrior and immense but what’s the point. Goes to ground when
    he should be on the hoof to batter into who’s ever there and run over them

    GG, see above

    Sam Skinner. That’s what we’re talking about.

    Chris Harris. Badly let down last year by coaching staff. Showed some promise I thought. Had the balls to be selected and play. Did some good stuff.

    Jamie Ritchie. On the road to greatness.

    Greg Laidlaw and Finn Russell. Glad they’re back.

    Stuart Hogg. So. Not a big deal but I might be missing

    1. Underhill is a really good player, and I hope England stick with him for the sake of NH pride, but is he better than Watson? Nope. As you say: Strauss was battering people for fun today; Dunbar showed that Radradra and Davies aren’t the only centres who can fend like bosses; Brown was powerful and brutal today, and, missed line out aside, good in every other respect. We’ve got power if we need it, and that’s ignoring the likes of Jones, Bradbury, Denton et al..

      I agree about JG and GG to an extent, but how many international locks make more ground in the carry? Retallick, Itoje, AWJ et al. aren’t much – if any – more dominant when they carry, certainly stats-wise. Iain Henderson, RJ Snyman and Naks are, but they’re unusual in that regard.

  20. Team for SA Hogg. Seymour. Huw Jones. Dunbar. Maitland. Russell. Laidlaw. Strauss. Watson. Skinner. Gilchrist. Gray. Nel. Brown. Dell. Subs. Allan McInally. Berghan Ritchie. Wilson Horne P Horne Kinghorn

    1. I’d be OK with that. No lock cover on the bench, though? Granted, there are three starting, just thinking of stamina.

      1. My thinking was Gilchrist maybe last 55 min then put Skinner in second row with Wilson or Richie coming into back row .

    2. I would probably stick with more or less the same team as today. Toonie won’t drop Wilson and Watson will be back so could we see Richie, Watson, Wilson? I think Strauss did enough today to warrant a start though plus Wilson and Richie are still to get their “game off”. I would probably start skinner and gray with Gilchrist on the bench.

      1. My thinking is by putting Skinner at 6 you get a bit more size and bulk in pack then about 55 min sub Gilchrist and put Skinner in second row with Wilson or Ritchie coming into back row

  21. Watched for a second time & think Ritchie can feel hard done by not getting MotM – Skinner was good & made some impressive yards but Ritchie was everywhere & tackled like a man possessed. Brown also brought a lot of grit to the game & help keep things going when there was a bit of a wobble in second quarter. Still some work to do on defending but so good to watch us really keep the foot on the throat & finish a job properly.
    Seymour looked really sharp & looked for work to do most of the game. Still a bit concerned about depth at wing – Maitland & Seymour are getting on a bit & other than Graham, not sure where the new generation is coming from. Laidlaw also adds so much in terms of game management & a cool wise head – Horne-ito looks good for the future but need another top drawer 9, hopefully Price will start to show more game maturity.
    Big challenge next week & some tough selection calls for Toonie, especially in back row & centre too. Horne Snr adds that creativity at 12 & can also power over for hard yards. A shame he missed some opportunities to offload today but we do seem to have some go-forward when he plays. Hopefully, confidence gained from today’s second half performance will help see us past the Boks.

  22. Pete Horne, butchering the easy pass aside, played a blinder. Anyone saying he should have went wide doesn’t really understand the drift defence. He very often got us over the gain line and allowed us to build pressure through multiple phases scoring a fair few tries as a result- last week we went wide all the time without ever earning the right. I’ll bet if you asked GT he would be full of praise for Horne snr. My bet is he Links up with Jones for the Saffas

    1. I think Horne and Jones is our best centre partnership. The whole backline plays better when Horne plays 12.

  23. In the end a result that leaves fans purring. Not perfect but a lot of good things.

    Finn Russell made a big difference today. I think it’s hard to empthasise how important a player he is for Scotland. I was surprised to see him move to 12 when Hastings came on. IMHO Hastings isn’t a 10, he’s a 12. He’s a rich mans Horne. If Townesend is to pursue having them both on at the same time then Russell must play 10. Better passing and kicking game than Hastings who’s real strength is his running game. People have been plaudding Hastings pro 14 stats for defenders beaten. This is not a stat that a 10 should be at the top of the list for. Russell brought the team into the game today and that was the difference.

    I’m happy with the result and was happy to see a more aggressive pack. It’s going to have to be 10x moreso next week for us to have a chance. The Boks are some beast.

    1. Smokin Gun, i wonder what beaudan barretts defenders beaten count is… the best 10 in the world or mabey Handre Pollard the Saffers 10.

      Tbh if they were both to play at the same time i dont think the numbers on the shirts would matter as they could interchange every play with time together.

      I agree he is a rich mans Horne.

  24. Very good win, looked very well structured, albeit with Fiji giving up more time and space.

    and now for something completely different…key points for me next week will be trying to keep the tempo up to nullify their pack size, and discipline in our own half to keep Pollards boot out of it…and I hope we can get Poite to see the breakdown our way…

  25. Based on that fiji performance here is my 23 for the world cup final assuming all are fit and on there best form.

    Against Fiji World Cup

    1. Dell 1. Marfo
    2. Brown 2. Brown
    3. Nel 3. Fagerson
    4. Skinner 4. Skinner
    5. Gilchrist 5. Gilchrist
    6. Wilson 6. Strauss
    7. Ritchie 7. Watson
    8. Fagerson 8. Thompson
    9. Laidlaw 9. Laidlaw
    10. Russell 10. Russell
    11. Seymour 11. Seymour
    12. Horne 12. Hastings
    13. Dunbar 13. Taylor
    14. Maitland 14. Maitland
    15. Hogg 15. Hogg

    16. Mcinally 16. Mcinally
    17. Allan 17. Dell
    18. Berghan 18. Berghan
    19. J.Gray 19. R.Gray
    20. Strauss 20. Bradbury
    21. Horne 21. Horne
    22. Hastings 22. Dunbar
    23. Harris 23. H.Jones or
    Kinghorn. I would
    go Jones

    All in all 9 changes to the 23 and some switching of positions.

    What would your starting world cup teams be ?

    1. McCallum 118kg
      Bryce 120kg
      Fagerson 126kg
      R.Gray 126kg
      J.Gray 119kg
      Strauss 116kg
      Bradbury 114kg
      Denton 119kg

      A 958kg pack is what we need. Sick of being bullied lets just smash all comers. I think Scotland should make a concerted effort to get these eight and others of similar stature training to operate now as aggressively and brutally as possible within the rules and adding even more weight if possible ready for the world cup.

      1. Also does anyone else think Hamish Watson would be a great hooker? Got the right build and could pack a stone on and be a great jackaling and carrying hooker.

      2. Scrummo i think he could he our answer to our loosehead issues, he can throw ppl twice his size of him with his left arm, has low centre of gravity and extremely powerful.

      3. I don’t think weight is everything and we showed that yesterday, our scrum was 60kg lighter and we were by no means bullied, I dare say we had the upper hand actually. Both Grays are big and heavy but hit like powder puffs, same for Ross Ford. Compared to someone like Watson who is lighter and smaller (I don’t actually know how heavy he is) but more than compensates with technique.

      4. Didn’t Frank Hadden have a similar cunning plan for the 2007 World Cup? Players duly bulked up at the expense of mobility.

  26. In all seriousness I would not be surprised by something like:


    Sutherland, Brown, McCallum, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Horne, Hastings, Kinghorn. Wilson and Dunbar close to the bench as well.

  27. A few thoughts..

    1) A thoroughly professional performance against a dangerous Fiji – we’d not have been able to do that a few years back.
    2) With the emergence of Skinner and (hopefully) Thomson suddenly our lack of ball carrying might be solved…barring injury both would be in our RWC squad. Sobering to think that neither was really on the radar screens of their “first choice” countries, but there you have it…they could flourish in our team.
    3) It’s obvious Nel has been tasked with carrying more…combine him with either hooker, Skinner, Watson, Thomson, (possibly) Strauss and Gilchrist and suddenly things don’t look bleak on that front.
    4) A back five of Gray, Gray (or Gilchrist), Skinner, Watson and Thomson would give four genuine lineout options…no longer would sides like Ireland be able to strangle us at the set piece.
    5) Loose head remains the worry…the cupboard is quite bare, given that Schoeman and Kebble are the two best Loose Heads in Scottish rugby. We desperately need a few players to step up to support Dell.
    6) Our RWC squad genuinely looks like it has more depth than ever before…albeit with a few obvious gaps.
    7) It’s great that all the younger players with any talent in Scottish rugby are being given a chance in the pros and at international level – a very welcome change. No longer are they being asked to spend years playing a crap standard in the Premiership before being given their chance.
    8) Jamie Ritchie was superb yesterday…but I still think it’ll be a struggle for him to get one of the 5/6 RFC back row places if everyone is fit. That’s a very good sign.
    9) Our backs can score tries against anybody given front foot ball…I still think our defence system needs adjusting though…

  28. Rugby is all about opinions and Peter Horne may well get the nickname “Marmite”. Personal opinion is that he does some brilliant things and some stupid things but they are all done with 100% effort, commitment and he is someone who will try till the coos come home. There may be better players in the position but any criticism IMHO should be tempered with the above in mind.

  29. Very surprised Macinally’s deft passes out of hand which are often part of try scores in past few games seem not to be noticed by commentators. Brown does not possess this and is not such a good line out thrower.

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