Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 33–20 Italy

[Edinburgh, UK. March 18, 2017] Jonny Gray wins a lineout for Scotland vs Italy in the RBS Six Nations Championship at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

On a bright but brisk afternoon at BT Murrayfield, Scotland got their 2019 Six Nations campaign off with a confident and varied attacking performance, but will definitely have some work-ons for next week’s battle against Ireland who lost to England in Dublin.

Scotland thought they’d opened their account for the tournament in under 3 minutes, only for Grant Gilchrist to be penalised for a double movement when rumbling over from a maul. That opportunity had been offered up after a Laidlaw chip and chase forced Hayward to knock the ball over the touchline just a couple of metres from the line. Should Laidlaw have passed to Ritchie who was inside him? They did have a 2-on-1.

Blair Kinghorn was next to threaten the Italian line with a long-range arcing run, but was hauled down 5m short when a pass outside to Seymour seemed the more sensible option.

It was the Italians who opened the scoring however, as Ritchie was penalised for tipping Parisse in the tackle and Tommaso Allan knocked it between the sticks from 22m.

The lead did not last long. With the manky weather from earlier in the week having cleared, this looked like a good day to play some champagne (maybe prosecco would be more appropriate given the opponents) rugby. Scotland turned the Italians over in their own 22, and Finn Russell’s delightful cross-kick with the outside of the boot was claimed by Kinghorn who had a clear run to the corner.

The tricky conversion was missed, and disappointingly for Scotland, Sam Skinner had to be replaced by Josh Strauss, adding to Scotland’s lengthy list of injured back-rowers.

The change didn’t disrupt Scotland’s dominance however, and they capitalised on another Italian error in their 22 to score again through Kinghorn. The knock-on gave Scotland a scrum, Russell ran a Sexton-like loop play with debutant Sam Johnson, fed Hogg, and although the fullback’s pass went to ground, Kinghorn scooped it up and dived over in the corner again.

Scotland were playing the game in Italy’s half, Russell utilising his kicking game to stick them into corners that they could only kick clear from, but weren’t being overly clinical. Knock-ons, a misplaced Hollywood-off load from Huw Jones and scrum infringements allowed Italy to stem the tide you felt was coming, but it was going to have to be in the second half.

Plus points from the first 40 were Scotland’s defensive line-speed and an encouraging display from Johnson at inside centre, displaying his ability to burst through holes and excellent range of passing. Negatives: a lack of killer instinct and some poor decision making.

Half-time: Scotland 12 – 3 Italy

The surging grey wave continued to flow towards Italy’s try-line into the start of the 2nd half. When they weren’t in possession, they were kicking into corners and chasing the Italians like ravenous wolves.

In the 47th minute the wave finally crashed onto the shore. Seymour weaved his way through the middle, and with penalty advantage being played, Russell’s grubber was touched down by Hogg. But only just.

There was a scare when scrum-half Palazzani, a late replacement for Tito Tebaldi, snuck round the side of a ruck and raced down the right-hand side, but he knocked on whilst being tackled.

Kinghorn completed his hat-trick soon after. An incredible take by Finn Russell allowed Scotland’s attack to retain impetus, Laidlaw fed the onrushing Jamie Ritchie who burst through and off-loaded back to Laidlaw. He passed to Kinghorn who dummied and scored – and surely cemented a starting spot for next week, as well as the bonus point. He became the first Scottish winger since Tommy Seymour in November 2018 to score a hat-trick. Heady times for the wingers these days.

Try number five arrived just after the hour. Hogg did what Stuart Hogg (that’s Stuart Hogg the rugby player, not Stuart Hogg the person) does, he found a gap and ran into the danger-zone. He passed inside to Toolis who was hauled down short, as was Strauss, but Chris Harris, who had only just come on for Huw Jones, was at hand for an easy finish.

Scotland were to finish the match with 14 men, after repeated infringements near their own line, Simon Berghan being on the receiving end of the referee’s loss of patience. Italy took a quick tap and go, and just two phases later scrum-half Palazzani picked up from the base of the ruck and dived in under the sticks.

Stuart Hogg then thought he’d scored a solo wonder try, but Ali Price was deemed to have obstructed the would be Italian tackler.

The turnover of possession led to another Italy score, Edoardo Padovani going over in the left corner after a terrific off-load from Jimmy Tuivaiti, but there was to be no Italian renaissance with the game already out of sight.

Italy did manage to make it a trio of tries though, with another display of nice off-loading, but Gregor Townsend and defence coach Matt Taylor will be livid at the defensive sloppiness which had set in during theAngelo Esposito was the man to get on the scoresheet after Campagnaro had been allowed the freedom of BT Murrayfield’s left-wing to charge towards Scotland’s line.

The 5-points are on the board, but the concession of those three late tries takes some of the sheen off what would have been an absolute thumping. We won’t get the same dominance of possession against Ireland, so will certainly have to be more clinical than we were in the first-half.

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)

Attendance:  67, 144

SRBlog MOTM: Russell and Johnson were excellent play-makers, Finn’s kicking from hand was exquisite, Richard  and Gilchrist put a hell of a shift in, but if I don’t give it to Mr Hat-Trick, Blair Kinghorn, I’ll probably get accused of anti-Edinburgh bias. Took tries 2 and 3 very well indeed.

108 Responses

  1. Stop the needless concern over the 3 tries. We are top of the table tonight . Italy beaten , it is usually costly however apart from Skinner , I think we are ok. Nel does not look fully fit , hasnt for some time.

    It is great to see so many people bringing youngsters to the game.I was disapointed to hear bad language in the vicinity of children.

    1. I wouldn’t say needless concern, especially if, and it’s a very big IF, it ends up costing us on points difference. It was sheer sloppiness, albeit some nice off-loading from the Italians, who before then had offered practically nothing in attack.
      We’re only top of the table because of Ireland’s last minute try. They’ll come at us next week like a cornered honey badger, and we can’t switch off for even a second.

      1. You have a point Iain and I never considered points difference settling the table. I was just taking a game at a time.

        I dont accept excuses, but yesterday was a crisp day first half was cold ,but the second half was baltic, the game was won, they switched off , I did , I was ready for home from 65 minutes.

        I was only looking at positives .We moan about never getting an easy start and we got it , we took it , we never top the table, enjoy it.

        Ireland is a different test, but that is next week and we can learn from how England went about it. Another benefit of getting that opening win. On yesterdays performance , I can not see it, but there is the possibiity Italy improve and keep the margins down, particularly at home.

        I do think we should give ourselves a break but, ever the showman, I aim to please all the crowd so, finger on the trigger, here is a few targets :

        Ali Price – Surely here on past merits
        Bhatti : Not quite test level just yet.
        Berghan : Rate him in the scrum, did he take one for the team ?or is he good at collecting cards.
        Strauss : Adequate no more
        Graham : No idea , not on long enough to come to a conclusion.
        Harris: Same as above but tackled well , cuts the odd decent line , good pace , best of a bad bunch.

      2. Price is there on the merits on his performances for Glasgow in the Champions Cup this season.

        Berghan got the card on his first penalty and it may actually have been Bhatti who pulled the maul down. Berghan played very well in his short time on the park.

    2. Why should there be concern about bad language near children? Why not just control yourself and have no bad language full stop. No need for it.

      1. I felt the whole crowd went flat at 60 or so minutes, getting too used to winning at BT murrayfield ( by the way if anybody from BT is listening feel free to jack up the available bandwidth at your eponymous stadium )
        That’s good and bad , i’ll Take a 12 -8 and edge of seat all day thanks

    3. Anyone who versus Italy in the first round is top of the table….3 tries shows us 2 things. We can’t put in an 80 minute shift and our bench isn’t as good as we thought. Still happy with overall performance but 3 tries in 10 minutes has to be a concern for any team.

      1. The cupboard was always likely to be bare after 20 injuries to front line players. I heard some pundit or other bemoaning the attritional nature of the modern game, citing the fact that there were 40 frontline players missing from the six squads going in to the championship. 20 of those are ours, and frankly I think even the best nations would struggle with depth on that basis. The fact that we have 20 first and second choice players missing, and still got a bonus point win against a country we have consistently struggled to beat over the last 20 years shows, in my opinion how far we’ve come in a short space of time!

  2. The only team to have really impressed in the first round I am sad to say is England. The rest have flattered to deceive. Yet we are indeed top of the pile. Can we just cancel the rest of the tournament please???

    1. Captain should usually be someone in the back 3 of the team that is playing Italy!
      Unfortunately I chose Seymour instead of Kinghorn…..
      Still, I also am on 210 and the person in first is only on 250 so not too big a gap.

      1. Captain Kinghorn ??????

        But as the person at the top of the SRB league can I suggest everyone ignore that advice and goes for a front five player as captain; they’re much more authoritative when talking to the ref etc. ?

        And perhaps go for a hooker as kicker…

  3. So there’s an Australian SJ that everyone now likes, is there? :-)

    He could well be the long term answer at 12…he complements Finn Russell very well indeed.

    1. Indeed. Did anyone notice his defence today? Only caught the eye when he had ball in the stadium?

      Can P Horne play 13? Hue Jones was quite quiet although again how his defence I’ve no idea.

      We really need to relearn defending maul which has been much better but went wayward today. Irish will take the bonus point from mail’s tries along if we don’t improve.

      1. From what I remember, his defence was solid. His distribution was great and very confident given it was his first cap.

        Jones was quiet, I really hope he can find his form again soon as he is still the most talented 13 we have in my opinion.

        The big thing I noticed watching Scotland compared to Ireland was our passes were hitting our backs moving at speed while the Irish were getting it at a standstill. If the same happens next week, we should be able to capitalise on it.

      2. Just briefly watched parts of England game and they seemed to have an amazing line speed. Obviously could be illegal but if you get away with it then….. However I think we’d struggle against that and we have to work out how to combat it. Maybe Finn reborn can now manage to work round it???

  4. In the end a slightly unconvincing 5 try win, which leaves it a little bitter sweet. Hard to separate the effects of the sin bin and the bench. Were any of the subs particularly poor? The recently derided (here) Wilson and Harris both played well and i hope their future performances will be judged without bias.
    Thought Finn was vg and the backline generally fired well.
    On a seperate note, I thought Tom Walker’s – ‘I Believe in Lions’ was in poor taste; us all believing in lions whilst they are rarely seen in these parts of late (particularly with WG being touted as the coach for 2021!). It was later clarified that the lyrics are in fact I Will Leave a Light On…

    1. Your last paragraph brought a smile to my face. Impressed with the SRU bringing the pre-match entertainment into the 21st century with a show worthy of the occasion and the ticket price.

    2. I think Tom Walker was the lesser crime in the prematch, after they’d inflicted Hallujah on bagpipes on the poor crowd. Can the SRU please stop booking the Chilli Pipers?

      Also, like any gag, the brass band playing 500 miles gets less fun each time.

  5. Agree with the above point that England were the only side to impress this weekend and they did look very good. Once the leaders had been subbed off I had a bad feeling about how the game was going to go as we could have hit 50. Rambo should have been taken off given the hooker crisis but otherwise no need for massive changes. The 3 tries shows that we are mentally an immature side when absent of a few leaders. Price for me is behind Pyrgos. I can see the Ireland game being a bit of a hammering without some key influencers back. Ironically locks did well, missing one of our leaders. Wilson did as well as he ever does. Backs (subs aside) all good so don’t see any changes unless Maitland or Horne is fit. Are we looking likely to have any absentees return this week? Pre subs I was impressed by the patience, the grown ups new that Italy would crack but the kids weren’t professional enough to really put them to the sword. If Hastings is going to come on as a tactical substitution (which I agree is the best way of bloodingnhim, like NZ did with Barret during the Carter years) then he needs to have stability either side not be sandwiched between a debutant and Price. Given now that a win is more important than anything for Ireland I think they are going to go raw power and try to strangle us, a game plan we rarely do well against.

  6. Surely the time to give away a yellow card in order to stop a scrum is when the scoreline is closer than 30pts – take the score in the corner against and keep 15 men on the park and the last 10mins could have been different. Some of the attacking and defensive decision making needs to improve for next week – seemed to be a lack of cohesion despite many club units and familiarity across the team and weeks in camp.
    WP Nel looked to be under pressure in the scrum and I think I’d pick Hardie next week even though Ritchie had a very good game.
    Still unconvinced by Harris as a sub impact player – no defensive strength and one paced to cover back 3.
    Hogg should be rightly miffed that his second try was ruled out.

  7. Fair comment JP07. Ireland have strangled us through forward domination before and will doubtless try again this Saturday. Unless we can match their intensity in the forwards and play smart rugby, we could be in for a rough ride. Ireland will try to do to us next week, what England did to them this weekend.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a few bouts of fisticuffs.

  8. Fair point with Hastings but Price and Johnson play regularly alongside him at club level so not as bad as it looks. 2nd SH i think is horne but would be happy for pyrgos to come in ahead of price given how this seaosn has panned out.

    1. Is anyone watching Pyrgos, he’s glacial with a worse box kick than Laidlaw. What exactly did Price do wrong yesterday?

  9. I’ve tried to post a longer post that is just within the limit. Any reason why it’s not posting or last night said it had posted and counted on the numbers of posts but didn’t show? Will try splitting it up.

    I was really concerned today at the end with the brainless last 15 minutes. Had the match continued for even another five minutes I felt we were nailed on to have lost two more converted tries taking Italy over the line. They were just doing the basics and ran us ragged and would have easily got what they needed, they just ran out of time.

    However annoying Hogg’s try being disallowed was it helped to show things we wouldn’t have found out until next week (potentially embarrassingly as well) had it been allowed:

    1. We cannot manage to adapt being a man down. England managed that time today well and many other teams change to make sure losing points is less likely. South Africa in the autumn went through the phases running the clock down, we just gave them the ball so we had little time with ball in hand during the ten minutes. We must find the ability to do this better. If Glasgow can do it why not Scotland? We are clearly a soft touch with a yellow and that is not acceptable especially with today. Today a try was much less of an issue than losing a man and potentially the game. Give them the five points in the corner and move on. We beat Ireland in 2017 this way probably by accident than design but when the yellow was coming we conceded rather than conceded and lost a man.

  10. 2. Our bench is thread bear and that needs to be addressed. Bring back Dunbar and a few more with experience. We fell apart today. The only sub ironically that was a positive was Harris. He did some good stuff. Still flies out of the line at times though. Strauss did well to be fair too I think.

    3.Hope fully there are some reinforcements coming next week. We need a few more to back to be competitive next week should we need to use the bench due to injury, fatigue etc.

    4. The big names stood out today and did what we’d expect. Russell, Hogg, Laidlaw were excellent. Johnston was amazing and was clearly not even a hint of a risk. Was doing so much that looked simple but needed great timing and skill to achieve. Again I think Wilson shows what he does that is hidden. How we missed him when he went off

    1. The pedant in me wishes for a bear , on our bare bench, but let’s go with what we have and be glad of it.
      Half full glasses all round please

  11. A lot of glass half empty chat here. I thought it a pretty positive performance for the 70 that mattered.

    I thought Strauss had his best game in blue and did the hard carrying we needed. Id start him next week. Richie was excellent and unlucky to have a ref that had a very “premiership” attitude to competing in the floor. Through gritted teeth I will even say Wilson was pretty good too.

    And the backline looked excellent. Some brilliant running lines and Finn being subtly brilliant.

    My concern actually is that we don’t seem to be able to convert the chances from 5 metres out. And occasionally we looked like being turned over because we did not clear out properly at rucks.

    If we get a couple of stronger players back and so can strengthen the bench I’m quite positive. Its not like Wales or Ireland looked fantastic.

    England looked ominous though.

  12. Probably too pessimistic yes and ur post is much more balanced however I think my negative points do have merit. They’re not there to criticise unduly just that they are an issue and many can be fixed before its too late to do so.

  13. Given the performance yesterday and what Ireland will try and do to us my team for next week would be:
    1) Dell
    2) Mcinally
    3) Nel
    4) Toolis
    5) J.Gray
    6) Hardie
    7) Ritchie
    8) Strauss
    9) Laidlaw
    10) Russell
    11) Kinghorn
    12) Johnson
    13) Jones
    14) Seymour
    15) Hogg

    The bench depends on who we get back but the sooner that Brown and Z.Fagerson are back the happier I will be.

    1. I would probably agree with that to be honest. Wilson on the bench for his ability to cover and he played pretty well yesterday. I would probably have Gilchrist over Toolis and the other on the bench. Not too sure what Price was supposed to have done wrong yesterday, I didn’t see anything that bad. I think the failings of the last 15mins were a whole team thing rather than any individual, along with Italy getting their POOPY together (it’s usually them that fall apart in the last 15).

  14. I think minds definitely drifted to the next game in the last few minutes. I do think Berghan is a card liability though (Still not forgiven him for stamping on Browns Head in the 1872 last season. Bet that went down well in the Scotland camp!) and would get Fagerson back in as soon as he is fit. Having said that any one of 3 could have been carded for collapsing that maul.

    Having watched the Ireland game I think we were trying some tactics to day with that in mind. It was commented several times in that game about Ireland playing with their wings high. England generally beat them by playing over the wingers and also going wide quickly. That was what Scotland did well with Russell and Hogg kicking very well in to space. We’re not going to beat Ireland by trying to go through the middle so more of the same please.

    Not sure what we were practicing in the last 10 minutes though!

    1. Yes, I thought there was a bit of practising kicking plays against Ireland’s rush defence by executing them for real against Italy’s.
      I’m hoping next week’s ref watches the Ireland defensive line-up like a hawk. Twice in the first five minutes in Dublin yesterday I was convinced several of Ireland’s backs were way offside before they began their rushes.

      1. The welsh line looked offside quite a lot on Friday as well. Something the assistant refs and tmo possibly need to police better. (Not saying tmo should be calling for penalties for it and slowing the game down but making the ref/assts aware of it’s happening consistently)

    2. Not sure what we were practicing in the last 10 minutes though!

      What Ireland will do to Scotland if we are not at 100% next week

    3. In fairness to Berghan, I don’t think he was responsible for pulling down that maul. It looked like Bhatti to me and Berghan was in the wrong place at the wrong time!

  15. I think I’d bring in Maitland next week (Seymour to bench)
    Hardie for Graham.

    Anyone else noticed how we became sloppy and passive at the ruck once Wilson went off. The man is criminally underrated and one of our best athletes. Billy V would not have been able to make the try saving tackle on the 9 that Wilson did yesterday.

    1. Anybody could have made that tackle – the Italian 9 had a more telegraphed sidestep than my old mum.

      That being said Wilson had a good game – he’s still not our 8, but he played well.

    2. Agree fully re Wilson. He has stepped up since being dropped by Rennie. I thought he was good yesterday. Is that because he went to 6? I have always thought he was a better 6 than 8.

      My team for next week:

      Del (no-one else sadly)
      Seymour (aerial bombardment likely so he keeps his place. Can’t really drop Kinghorn for Maitland although Toonie might!)

      Subs: Bhatti, Brown if fit/a.n other if not, Fagerson if fit/Berghan otherwise, Skinner if fit/Swinson if not due to versatility, Hardie, Hornes x2, Maitland

      1. I just don’t think Swinson is tall enough to be an international second row. With Gray back id probably just drop Toolis to the bench. Really hope Skinner recovers though. Like the cut of his jib.

      2. With Skinner injured I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rob Harley promoted to the bench. The Irish don’t like him as they know what a nuisance he is at the breakdown and he does give you another serious lineout option. He is also in good form.

  16. The kicking through was clearly a plan. I get annoyed a couple of times but it worked by and large. We have some serious pace in the backs so why not turn them and I agree it looks a way to beat Ireland.

    We do need a lock on the bench as well. The moment Simmons came off we knew Toolis and Gilchrist were in there for the game. I think they both faded. What Gray brings is a full game engine.

    Put Hardie and Gray in the 23 and I am much happier. Ireland have a whole tribe of cast iron back rows and we need to at least try to stand up to that.

    1. One of the big reasons England beat Ireland was the amount of ‘Dominant tackles’

      This is not something J.Gray is capable of and should not be starting because of it. Toolis and Gilchrist done enough to keep there spots.

      1. You think that Toolis makes more dominant tackles than Jonny Gray?

        If JG is on the field yesterday that defensive collapse doesn’t happen.

      2. Agree with Neil 100%. Gray JUST tackles and his style of play is far more suited to the brave defeat Scotland sides of yesteryear. Toolis and Gilchrist have a top class partnership and complement each other perfectly. I’d be tempted to have Swinno on the bench as he will come on and knock people back in the last 20.

      3. If Richie Gray and Skinner fit, I’d have them in the team before any of the others

    2. I’m with SB on this. Neither Toolis nor Gilchrist do dominant tackles. If you think that JG doesn’t do dominant, you either don’t watch enough Glasgow games, or have your Edinburgh specs on. I’d accept that Toolis and Gilchrist might be better line-out operators due to being a bit lighter than JG.

  17. Glad to see more folk are on board with what I have been vilified for over the past seasons. Gray is mr consistent but his stats impress far more than his actual play. He is a passive tackler and I’d stick to yesterdays locks unless Skinners not in the back row then I’d start him in front of Toolis if fit

    1. I think in the cold light of day and looking at the stats Gray if fit will be back in the team. On the day Gilchrist made 10 carriers for a total of 5m (o.5m per carry) and Toolis made 8 carries for 12m (1.5m per carry). By comparison Wilson made 17 carries for 58m. (3.4m per carry)

      On defense Toolis made 6 attempts at tackles and missed 3. Gilchrist made 17 and missed 1.

      I think Toolis will get dropped as his work rate isn’t high enough for Ireland when we will have to tackle our hearts out.

      I’m not sure what qualifies as a dominant tackle these days. There’s more to tackling than knocking the stuffing out of the carrier. Gray is pretty good at stopping the carrier and getting him down in such a way that we have a chance of competing for the ball in the ruck. We did a lot of it against England last year letting the carrier to take an extra step and chopping them to make it easier for Barclay and Watson to get over them.

      1. To put the carries stat in context so far this year in all games Bill Mata is on 3.8m and Billy Vunipola is on 1.5m. On that basis Wilson is doing fine.

  18. A bonus point win & we’re not happy, an indication in the comparative success of Scotland in last couple of years.
    Brown, Fagerson cannot possibly be fit for next Saturday (I think), J.Gray & Maitland will likely come back into the 23

    Personally I’d have Hardie starting, Strauss & Wilson in the back row, with GG & Gray at lock. same front row.

    Again depending on Dunbar’s fitness I’d have him back in the MD squad.

    10 is an issue, Hastings is struggling, P.Horne is injured, Russell is brilliant but…..

    CJ Stander will be missing for Ireland, SOB not a bad replacement :-)

    We’re in with a shout

  19. We will need to be much improved at the breakdown next week to have any chance against Ireland. As Barclay discussed THE plan (there doesn’t seem to be a B or C) is going to be based on speed and changing the point of attack. I felt like Italy were successful in slowing down our ball for large parts. We were shifting the point of attack, but carriers were getting isolated, so the next phase was not quick. I don’t know whether we need more support players getting in to defend rucks, or whether they just need to get there more quickly. Either way there is going to need to be a big step up there in speed, numbers and strength to cope with Ireland (and England, and probably Wales too).

    1. Good points, Matto.

      I think Ireland don’t have the time, or indeed the inclination, to change their basic game plan in only one week following England finding them out in Dublin yesterday.

      Almost berserk (and frequently offside) rush defence, bombs hoisted by Sexton and Murray, bashing over the gain line time and time again, holding opponents down and back at the breakdown, whingeing at the ref when they can’t recycle as quickly as they’re accustomed to, dying swan impressions when taken out fairly or even a fraction late. That kind of thing.

      Hoping our coaching team and 23 will be well prepared for countering all of these tactics, as well as executing our own plans of course.

      I think this is going to be a real battle on Saturday. I also think that unlike the Ireland team’s, pundits’ and supporters’ complacent and hubristic pre-Test approach to coming to Murrayfield two years ago, they will not take us lightly. And that makes them more dangerous for us than they were in 17.
      Mone, Scotland!

      1. A very good description of Ireland’s game plan! I think our chances against Ireland, Wales or England improve dramatically if we get a referee (and touch judges) who will penalise the rush defence when it is too early (frequently in my view). I would also have said that sealing off at the breakdown is important to us (in terms of refs penalising it). However, without Barclay, Watson and Brown do we have the guys to compete at breakdown time anyway?

        Ireland looked clueless as to how to exit the 22 with England dominating in the air. That’s why I think Seymour probably starts as he is our best bet under the high ball.

        I am certainly no expert but if we could have some of the success of England in pinning the Irish in their own half with kicks then we have a chance. Running it back at them has to be an option but not the default setting.

        Whilst I find Brian O’Driscoll incredibly smug, I do agree with his comments that it is unlikely the spine of the team will be as bad this week as they were on a Saturday. All of Best, Murray, Sexton didn’t have great games. Henshaw looked at lost at sea positionally too.

        I am cautiously more optimistic than I was before Saturday evening!

  20. Is it just me or do all the other teams seem to have a bit more physicality and intensity to their games? Lots of talk of England winning the dominant hits battle. It’s not a stat I’ve come across before but I’d be surprised if we’ve ever come out on top of that stat.

    Not sure how we fix it but you feel that Ireland are going to come out fast and hard next week. If we can cope with it early on you could it might be the doubt will start to creep into Ireland’s game and which perhaps we can capitalise on.

    1. Didn’t watch the Ire v Eng game but a rush leaves you exposed behind. So your winger and full back need to be on their game defensively….hence clobbering Earls.

      Doubt we’ll see a drift defence, but if we can force them into a less agressive rush that should make some more space for the backs to work in.

      1. Refereeing of the breakdown will play a big part too. The nippy breakdown approach can fail totally against a bruising side with big guys clearing out well beyond the ruck with bodies flopping all over the ball, if allowed.

    2. With England i think it’s more a change, or the rare availability, of personnel. When was the last time they had Tuilagi and Billapola fit? With Makopola and Itoje that is a lot of ball carrying beef to deal with. It suits their traditional strengths (at least in the modern sense given the apparent contribution of Pacific islander genetics), as does Farrell at 10. That is why I think they are a more dangerous, if predictable, beast this year.

    3. I disagree – in some of Scotland’s big wins of recent years, it has been our aggressive defence that has been the key. I can’t remember which games in particular (Australia, England maybe?), but there have been games when we have been really on top in defence, driving the attack backwards and stopping them getting over the gain line.

      I do agree that we don’t do it well enough, consistently, but there have been games where we have and it really lifts the crowd and makes a massive difference.

      1. Against England last year, their carriers consistently got over the gainline. But they were often isolated and we either slowed the ball down or turned It over. It was better out wide, where we often rushed them into a mistake.

  21. Interesting to ponder the potential fitness of Pete Horne and Maitland for next week. I think Porne has featured in most of our best performances in recent years and works very well in the mechanics of the Toony-vision backline. Maitland has proven to be class. However, it’s always healthy for players to have to fight their way back in and i think Johnson certainly, and Seymour probably, earned another start. Porne and Maitland would offer true strength and great backline cover on the bench.

    1. It would be a shame to drop Johnson after this performance – Ireland are a different class to Italy though! I suspect Horne will start if fit.

      Maitland has to play if fit, I don’t think Seymour did enough to merit his place – would be tempted to swap him for Graham if Maitland isn’t fit, but I doubt it will happen.
      Would also have G.Horne on the bench for Price.

      1. Yeah Seymour didn’t stand out either good or bad. What did u think he did to earn his spot next week? Matto? Johnston is hard to drop now which is why I’m asking can Horne or Johnston switch position?

      2. I wouldn’t have any problem at all with Maitland starting. Seymour had a decent game (few, if any mistakes) plus some good moments (nice break, great rush tackle) so wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps his place. Particularly if Maitland needs a half or 20 to make sure he’s back up to speed with the hammy injury.

  22. Tough to grade this one – we only occasionally got into top gear and obviously went to sleep when the bench came on. 6/10

    Up front, I’d like to see Richie Gray in for Toolis (just need his size in there – 20 odd stone -or whatever he is now – will make yards). Front and back row are OK – Strauss to keep his place as he is our best carrier.

    In the backs Johnson looked class (all the good bits of Horne without the occasional brain meltdown) but Jones was really trying to force it.

    Bench is a worry – Harris is mince: “catch and fall” try aside he was defending for both the late Italian tries. He may cover 11-14 but he does not do so well enough for me. I’d rather Horne and Maitland on the bench (if fit) than Hastings and Harris. Up front, J Gray/Toolis to cover 2nd row and then Ashe for the back row? Not sure Graham is up to it.

    1. Amazing that you’ve chosen to pick out Harris for his defence. I don’t recall the second Italian try but for the first you reference he was left in a 3v1 and took his man, nothing else he could have done. A very, very poor contribution from you there. Suggests cluelessness on your part.

      Oh and lets drop one half of the best and most balanced lock partnership we’ve had in recent years for a guy who has just returned from a huge injury lay off because he’s heavy. Cluelessness proven.

      1. Now now Scrummo.

        Harris made a couple of poor decisions for their tries – one was especially bad when both he and Seymour tackled the one player – when we were already a man down.

        Gilchrist and Toolis are too lightweight for the big teams – both are having an excellent season but we need a big lump to partner either – look at their carrying last Sat – practically negative value in metres made.

      2. Agree totally with Scrummo – Harris has been the fall guy for everything since the Welsh debacle last season. Surprised he’s not copping it for Brexit as well. He’s by no means the new Jim Renwick, but he had three on ones for the Italian tries because everyone else had given up, and after Laidlaw went off all the leadership went with him. Given the non stop criticism from the Scots rugby social media it’s little wonder Harris has turned down a contract at Edinburgh.

      3. Agreed, other TC. Harris was at least trying, whereas Hoggy just gave up. I’m not a massive fan of him based on what I’ve seen when he’s played for Scotland and against Edinburgh, although I’ve nothing against him and would love for him to knock things up a notch, but he made his tackles and was undermined by systemic failures, not personal ones. I don’t like how negative we (and other nations’ rugby fans) are about players, especially as we’ve very little to go on as to what the players have actually been tasked with doing by the coaches, but I doubt a bit of flak on social media would be sufficient to put him off. And if he’s any good I think he’d win over Edinburgh fans quite quickly.

      4. Stu2 we don’t have a big lump of a lock. Toolis and Gilchrist are hardly lightweight both listed at 118kg or so and Gray at 119kg, he’s no better a carrier for that extra kilo either. Richie Gray has more bulk and is a better carrier so may be an option in the future if he proves his fitness.

        A lot of people have Toolis down as the more athletic lock stating he lacks grunt however if you watch Edinburgh (and Scotland when he plays with Gilchrist) Toolis is usually scrummaging behind the tighthead, which is where the stronger scrummaging lock normally goes due to the increased pressure the tighthead prop experiences. He’s a tighthead lock with the lineout skills of your more athletic style lock and very underrated.

        I think to truly understand ‘grunt’ you’d have to ask who the tighthead wants behind him. It used to be Big Jim and then Swinson but I suspect it would be Toolis at the moment given his role in the Edinburgh pack.

      5. Yes Harris faced a 3-1 for a try but the Italian had made a mess of it by running across his support and having to find an offload inside which Harris could have defended better – i.e. the Italian was running into touch and Harris could have played for that and block the offload rather than make the tackle.

        On the other try, he misses his man first up causing Price to come in and leave the winger free.

        I’m glad to see he has resigned with Newcastle (rather than coming to Ed/Glas) as I think he is a borderline OK club player at best.

        On the 2nd row – Gilco is 1st name in the 2nd row at the moment but Toolis is not playing as well as he can and we need size and power against the Eng, Ire, Fra and Wal packs otherwise our backs will get no good ball to work with. The current pack will not get us over the gainline enough against every other team we face. We don’t have a Vunipola, Picamoles, Stander or Moriarty.

        If you think the current pack will be enough to win good enough ball you the not clueless but delusional.

      6. Scrummo, we dont necessarily need a big lump of a lock – we need one who is a dynamic carrier. Look at Ryan for the Irish, not massive but always gets over the gainline.

        Gilchrist is having his best season but his carrying is terrible – he practically hits the deck at the same time as contact.

      7. Gilchrist and Toolis are the best we have though and an effective partnership. I think anyone who thinks J.Gray coming into the second row will make any difference worth losing that partnership is having a laugh.

        Until Richie is fit and unless someone like Carmichael, Cummings or even Hunter-Hill progresses/stays fit we are stuck with what we have.

        I still think whoever suggested awhile ago that Denton be tried at lock was on to something.

      8. Brigandaca: Moriarty does not belong in the conversation. He’s had literally one good game for Wales and been bang average the rest of the time. He rarely breaks the gainline and is more often seen choking scrum-halves than playing well.

    2. Harris is not mince.
      You are!
      Harris is a fine player.
      I keep saying, his background is not rugby.
      He was a prodigy in other sports and came to rugby late.
      So if you want to criticise you could say he’s raw, but Scottish players often do develop a bit later because we don’t have the intense youth competitions other countries have or, until the super 6, the development level.
      So he’s nothing unusual for us, but the talent is there.

      1. Well said. Certainly my critism of Harris isn’t that he may not be a good player or that he may need time. It’s just that I think there are others more deserving at present and more experience who are worthy before him. I thought he did well on Saturday. If anything he was made to look bad when others came on rather than when he was on as first back sub and first unenforced change the team certainly didn’t look poorer for it.

      2. I have to say upfront I am not a fan of Harris – I haven’t seen anything special about him at all that makes me think he will be more than a journeyman (I haven’t seen Newcastle play much though).

        However, I don’t think he did too much wrong in the Italy game. Took his try (‘simple” as it may have been), and was ok otherwise – I think you could argue he didn’t do that well in defence, but also that the players around him put him in a difficult position.

        Personally I am not happy with an average player being in the team if there are players as good or better available that haven’t had a chance, so I think it’s reasonable to say he needs to have a very good game at some point soon and show something a bit more special otherwise maybe it’s time to let someone else have a go.

      3. If you watch Harris defensive alignment against Italy all wrong stepping back into tackle instead of rush defence not only him to blame but defence system wrong last ten minutes quite worrying really

  23. Blow Skinner being out, I see the referee has apologised to Hoggy for disallowing his try, we would’ve been 40-3 up & on a high after such a glorious try having just been scored, who knows what may have happened, therefore I reckon the last 15mins has no impact on the Ireland game. The game boils down 1.SCOTLAND GETTING GETTING QUICK BALL INTO THE HANDS OF HOGG & RUSSELL = we have a game on 2.IRELAND STRANGLING US, PREVENTING ANY QUICK BALL = frustrating afternoon.

    1. Heard that too. Maybe we’ll be in his good books next time he refs Scotland. We certainly lost the penalty count at the weekend.

      Ireland kick most of the teams in the six nations and I wonder if they will do that this weekend. They’ve seen before what a loose kick to Hoggy can mean. The rest of our back 3 options are pretty good under the high ball and capable of a running return.

      1. My perception at the game was that we were mainly getting pinged for holding on and the ref mic suggested he was not happy with our scrum. Fair assessment? If, so two major work ons for this weekend.

      2. I could understand us holding on, though, as the Italians went off feet at almost every ruck. If you look at the first penalty against us, the Italian defender puts his hands on the ground well past the ruck then goes for the ball. That’s a penalty against them rather than against us. To be fair, though, Pearce was largely consistent with that interpretation, and we adapted after half-time.

  24. When Edinburgh beat Glasgow – Pygros box kicked but high & not too deep so not to allow Hogg, Seymour space to counter attack, I see Ireland doing the same. However after the chasing England just gave them I’m hoping for a few flutters in Irish hearts. It may well be that Henshaw, Larmour & Stockdale will be the Irish back 3 – richly talented but very inexperienced….fascinating………I’d play Hardie/Graham & ask them to aquatint themselves with the ribs of the Irish 1/2 backs early doors.

    1. Ireland might try to do the same against us, but it failed spectacularly as a tactic on Saturday. Time and again, Murray’s box kicks landed cleanly in English arms and only succeeded in giving away possession. I would expect to see them revert to endless phases around the ruck, waiting for a glimmer of a gap or a penalty. You could argue that such a tactic also failed on Saturday, hence the need to kick, but I would be very pleasantly surprised if we were able to replicate England’s ferocity in defence. Having said that, the burnt orange and blue wall that Edinburgh have erected at Murrayfield recently may well be replicated again, meaning that Jonny Gray starts on the bench and doesn’t come into the starting line-up, which seems to be most people’s expectation.

      1. Murray’s box kicks next time ( v Scotland) will be spot on. He won’t make the same mistakes twice …. far too good a player

    2. John, stylish aquatints of Ireland players’ ribs on our jerseys would certainly add something to the overall spectator experience.
      We all know what you meant. Predictive text can produce impressively unexpected results at times lol.

  25. I reckon Messers Sexton & Murray would be overjoyed to allow John Hardie to apply aquatint to both their ribs. Good old predictive text has put a smile on this Scotsmans face

  26. How was Murray in team of the week ? He wasn’t even the best scrum half on the pitch let alone across all the games. Long may that form continue.

    We have to have some perspective here with Scotland. BP win, heaps of tries and top of the table after week 1. Ireland will be nervous next week after getting mauled by a very powerful England display. An early score and we could really turn the screw.

    Yes the late leaking of points to Italy was worrying but its a lesson and there were mitigating circumstances in the yellow, injury depleted bench and poor reffing stopping us stretch the points margin just before. We were a bit naive having no out and out leader on the pitch to calm the beans but really the players out there have to step up in those circumstances……although at least Russell took over as Captain knowingly ! (looking at you Sebastien Vahaamahina)

    1. I dont think Ireland will be that nervous about this match. England beat them with a powerful performance…yes….BUT.. can Scotland produce the power and intimidation required for a full 80 mins against the elite teams when it matters?? Ireland, Wales and England know well that if they physically dominate against Scotland pack the backs become frustrated then have to start looking for the ball and space then opens up for the opposition. When Scotland can do both …front up physically and let their more talented backline in at pace.. is when the game is on. GT’s selection will be interesting….if it doesn’t have that balance right …we’ve lost before the match has started.

  27. One issue that wasn’t an issue this week was restarts however looking at them all I think Italy went deep and so no contest but we didn’t spill it let it bounce nor run it into touch etc all stuff we have done. The only contestable one we did lose at the end of the match being kicked to us. We weren’t really tested in this area but surely a positive in there somewhere. We’ll find out if this is still an issue this week I suppose.

  28. So with the likelihood of an Aki/Henshaw centre partnership I’d have Dunbar back in the 23 (he played 80mins for The Falcons over the weekend) With Stander & Toner out, I’m more confident of parity in the forwards. Berghan is fine & whilst its quite an occasion for McCallum he has let no-one down so far. (Pity Schoeman’s not SQ yet)

  29. Hope Dell learnt a lot vs Furlong in ’17 where he was distroyed in the scrum (albeit Ireland seemed to be constantly going in at angle and not getting penalized for it). Id rather Bhatti went against Furlong..he’s just more streetwise than Dell. Dell looks like he has bulked up a bit though so maybe he’s the better choice. Could we play McCallum at LH??

    1. Dell has certainly bulked up and wouldn’t worry me overly. Bhatti has scrummaged very well against Furlong in the past mind. No need to press a match starved McCallum into action on the wrong side.

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