Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Autumn Nations Cup: Italy 17 – 28 Scotland


Scotland made it five wins on the bounce but not without a bit of a fright, as the plucky Italians (sorry if that sounds patronising to any Italians reading this, but we get called it all the time) faded after a ferocious first-half effort.

Early exchanges with the boot went ended with a penalty given against Scotland for hands in the ruck, so Italy kicked to near the Scotland 22.

Although they made no progress over the gainline with their maul and subsequent phases, Scott Cummings gave away a penalty for playing the ball from an offside position when referee Luke Pearce had called the ruck formed. Paolo Garbisi knocked it over to give Italy the lead.

An Italian mistake nearly let Scotland in when they tried to spread it wide in their own half and Darcy Graham nearly pinched it ahead of Marco Zanon, but the home side managed to retrieve the bouncing ball from Johnson’s hack ahead.

Italy had impressed in the first half against England last week, and they were playing some clever, percentage rugby in the opening quarter of an hour to give Scotland little to work with. When Scotland did have possession they would invariably knock on. Then, when it came to the scrum, Italy were dominant.

The latest set-piece victory had also seen Rory Sutherland pick up an injury to his right leg, so Oli Kebble was on a lot earlier than expected.

Italy found touch in the Scotland 22 and an infringement by Nick Haining – on as an HIA replacement for Jamie Ritchie, who unfortunately did not return – at the line-out allowed Garbisi to extend the lead.

Another infringement by Haining shortly after the restart allowed Italy to clear to halfway, but sealing off by Danilo Fischetti gave Scotland an opportunity for Hogg to send it deep.

McInally found Cummings but Italy held off before engaging the maul, which had proven so effective in the last two games. The Italians were caught offside as Scotland approached the line but rather than take an easy 3, Hogg went to the line again.

This line-out did start to rumble on, penalty advantage was given for illegally sacking it, but Scotland continued to play and big Duhan van der Merwe bagged his second try for his adopted homeland when he found a hole in the Italian defence over 5m out. Easy pickings for the giant winger.

However, Italy retook the lead with a scintillating try from halfway just seconds later. Marco Zanon bounced off Duncan Weir, he fed Violi who off-loaded out of Graham’s tackle to Bellini. Despite Hogg’s best efforts, the winger dished it out to Matteo Minozzi for a wonderful try in the left=hand corner. Garbisi’s conversion attempt struck the upright to leave the score 11-7.

Early caginess had turned into a bit of chaos, both sides throwing it around, but whenever Scotland looked like making inroads, the Italians – particularly Fischetti – were able to effect the turnover.

Scotland ended the half in Italian territory, but Hogg’s attempted pass to Haining drifted into touch.

Scrappy stuff from Scotland, but credit must go to Italy for some ferocious defence work. The home side were clearly pumped for this one, celebrating every mini-game victory like their football coupon had just come up.

Half-time: Italy 11 – 7 Scotland

Another silly penalty conceded at the line-out with less than 90secs of the 2nd half gone, this time by Blade Thomson, gave Garbisi another shot at goal, which he took with aplomb.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Meatball. Or, so we thought.

Scotland’s attack started to tick, there was off-loads aplenty, and the returning Weir thought he had scored in the right-corner after a lovely interchange between he and Johnson, only for Johnson’s return pass to have gone a little forward.

Zander Fagerson then also wasn’t sure if he’d scored, after Duhan had battered through some tackles. Watson attempted to offload off the floor, Jake Polledri’s hand flicked it forward.

Fagerson and the Italian defenders assumed it had come off a Scottish hand, but with Jonny Gray egging him on, the tight-head dotted down and the try was awarded. 14-14.

Since that early penalty concession Scotland had dominated, particularly the territory, and Darcy Graham nearly scampered into the corner when Thomson had stripped the ball away, but the adventurous Italians came flying back.

A lovely off-load by Mori sent them on their way, and another perfectly weighted kick forced Hogg to take the ball back over his own line to give Italy a 5m scrum.

With Kebble now on the park the scrum had stabililsed, but Johnson was caught offside as Scotland defended their line. Garbisi put the Italians back in the front.

A quarter of an hour remained when Hamish Watson got himself over the ball halfway between the Italian 10 and 22m lines, but rather than level the scores, Hogg went for the corner.

Not very accurately, if truth be told, but replacement hooker George Turner used his fresh legs to blast through Polledri and get to within 5m. Warriors clubmate Scott Cummings showed why he’s become one of Townsend’s go to men by finishing the score, and possibly sparing Hogg a post-match grilling.

Another brave call to go to the line by Hogg with under 5mins remaining, when a penalty would’ve stretched Scotland’s lead to 7, proved to be the right option when Turner crossed for hooker-try number 23 in only 37 matches. It also secured the bonus point, which must’ve come into Hogg’s decision making process.

Italy were denied a losing bonus point when Scotland repelled two maul drives, and as he did in the Champions Cup final, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne – another making his return to the national side after a lengthy absence – won a turnover at the breakdown with time up. Hogg booted to touch to set Scotland off to a perfect start in this new tournament.

The first half was a little flat, there was nowhere near as much of the whooping and hollering as was heard at Parc Y Scarlets, but a tactical readjustment for the second half which saw more direct running from the centres and the forwards chucking off-loads around, did the business.

SRBlog Player of the Match: he’s just a monster, it’s Duhan van der Merwe. As well as scoring, every carry saw him eat the ground up, at least metaphorically speaking, it was the scrums which did most of the damage to the Artemio Franchi turf.  

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)

105 Responses

  1. Well, that was a match! Italy were better than the scoreline suggests, and scored a wonderful try, but you can’t give away four tries and expect to win. Aside from not looking at the fishhook, I thought Pearce had a pretty good game. Losing two more of our most important players is a real blow, though.

    1. Wasn’t able to watch but got the radio…seems like we are becoming experts at ignoble victories.

      A good change from noble defeats

      1. Pyrrhic meaning : (of a victory) won at too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor. Really, what is not worthwhile about starting the tournament with a win ? I do not agree with you.

        I have no problem with your penchant for sesquipedalian loquaciousness if accurate and used appropriately.

  2. Re Post
    After match musing (3 Thai beers sunk)

    we are much better at adapting now, 1st half we were poor (Italy played well), 2nd we improved considerably.

    Weir gets in the way, 1st half he was really poor, 2nd better but he adds nothing but his excellent place kicking.

    Harris does straighten the line & is strong but REALLY need a 13 with a attacking edge.
    Can’t have Weir, Johnson, Harris.

    Blade Thompson a 6, never an 8.

    If Ritchie out v France Crosbie starts.

    Turner better than McInally presently

  3. That’s two matches in a row now where we haven’t played particularly well but got the result. Credit to Italy, they always seem to try harder against us and for around an hour the game was being played on their terms. Ref clearly had an issue with us at the breakdown but was happy with Italy’s borderline (in my book) jackling. The first half we seemed to have that strange mentality we get sometimes of being surprised and confused that we aren’t winning and are unable to do anything about it, we were able to do something about it though, something Scotland teams of old couldn’t. VDM was outstanding, a shining light in a back division that didn’t create much. Harris had his usual game, he did carry hard and direct though. Kebble was outstanding too. I wonder if Sutherland was carrying an injury, the scrum was worryingly smashed until he went off. Wasn’t impressed with Weir in the first half be greatly improved in the second half, Price had one of his better games. Seems a bit unfair to Italy coming away with nothing, they have been pretty woeful for the last couple of years but that was a great performance. Feel for them, it’s something we are all to familiar with.

    On another note, disappointed to see that the Amazon coverage is basically just BBC behind a pay wall, might as well go all in and get Inverdale too. I thought I had tuned into the England game when I put it on. Commercial breaks too, what the hells that all about?

  4. Was hoping for no stress and no injuries and didnt get either. Really strange flat start from us. Almost like we were starting to believe our own press and were then surprised that the Italians turned up. Sutherland clearly wasnt right but Kebble was an excellent replacement. Hope Ritchies head knock doesnt keep him out too long.

    Not sure why people are having a go at Weir already. Yes he missed the initial tackle for their try but everyone had a bad first half and he hardly had any decent ball to work with. Like everyone else he was much better in the second and I was shouting him on when I thought he had a try.

  5. We won and Italy are a decent side.Barclay before the game told Gabby Logan he thought it was all about the backrows.So disapointed to hear a man of such standing being totally unable to read the game.My immediate response was it is all about the front row and it is always is and it was . Unlike Teamcam I thought Pearce called the early scrum collapses wrong.It was the Italian tightness collapsing IMO.Kebble is every bit as good.

      1. Well, it wasn’t hostile or unnecessary, and the original inaccurate accusation remains, so the thread hasn’t been deleted. Given how one or more elements on here needlessly target me, I don’t think my tame response was even worthy of rebuke.

      2. I’ve been on the other end of one of these in the past too, TC, where the original comment has been kept up. (The excuse the mod gave at the time was “I don’t care who started it”.) I’ve got a Poite-like grievance about it still, really.

  6. Lessons for GT from a comparison between Scot vs Ity and Eng vs Georgia.
    1. Eng very well drilled – Scot at times indecisive.
    2. Eng had measure of Geo gameplan – Scot surprised by Ity aggression.
    Conclusion – Better analysis of opposition and a wider range of tactical options required.

    1. Csc, mmmmmmmm

      Scotland beat Georgia by more than England.

      Are you blindly making random points which make little sense.

      Italy played well & Scotland adapted in 2nd half.

  7. Some people are never happy. Obviously disappointed we didn’t win by the 15+ I predicted, but that is a win against an Italian side with nothing to lose. With a try bonus point. Away. With both our front-line flyhalves out. For the first time in ages I wasn’t worried that we were behind with 25 minutes to go. Confident that our newfound ability to not panic would get us over the line. Great win.
    Was the scrum creamed because Sutherland got injured, or did he get injured because we got creamed? We’ll never know.
    Will Harris manage to catch an awkward pass to allow hime to score? Hopefully we’ll find out against France next week.
    Will we ever find a suitable No8? Thomson was anonymous for the first hour and Haining is a bit of a liability. Maybe have to watch the game again to see if they were doing the hard bits which don’t show up.
    Gray and Cummings were superb, both in their own way. I think they both went the full 80, too.
    Weir was excellent, whatever anyone says about the missed tackle. Not many would have put down that monster. Certainly not many 10s. Apart from Owen Farrell who would have fore-arm smashed him to the ground.
    Duhan McMerwe was rightly MoM. Cannot see Kinghorn getting many starts for Scotland now.
    Overall a big test, passed. Lots to work on and hopefully Ritchie is not out for long.
    One last note – IMO Amazon coverage was excellent. Not sure I’ll continue after my 30 day free trial but the moaning about PPV is OTT.

  8. I’m happy with that performance, Italy were excellent in the first half, but only 4 points up. We went into the changing room and came out a very affective team in the second half. Weir got a significant number of tackles in and I’m starting to see the point of Harris. This was a professional dispatch of a decent Italy. That’s 5 on the bounce let’s just take that.

  9. I thought Blade Thomson was one of our better forwards personally. Did a lot of work to make the lineout mauls function. If Bradbury is out of favour for some reason , then he’s our best option at present.
    Harris once again a defensive rock.
    Weir took some time to get settled, understandably, but looked more assured as the game proceeded.
    Thought Hogg tried it on a bit too much at times, which seems to happen when we go behind since he has been captain.
    Watson held his own as ever, but the mobility in the pack took a real nosedive when Ritchie came off. Would have brought Skinner on at that point but there you go.
    Will need to improve-France will have fun with that number of turnovers and pens, but point taken re: referee. He also seemed to have an aversion to forwards with scrum caps scoring tries, and seemed to be just a bit too diligent in looking for reasons not to give those tries….maybe it’s just me.

  10. Auld Headmaster
    Pyrrhic meaning : (of a victory) won at too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor. Really, what is not worthwhile about starting the tournament with a win ? I do not agree with you.

    I have no problem with your penchant for sesquipedalian loquaciousness if accurate and used appropriately.


  11. Our scrum was poor from the first minute and not just at the point when Sutherland went off injured. Makes me wonder if he had tweaked an ankle ligament or something before the game. Luckily Kebble finished the game unscathed because we need him next week. Hopefully Ritchie is ok but I suspect that HIA protocols will rule him out of the France game. Skinner to start v France at 6.

    The Amazon coverage was ok but it felt like our game was almost a second rate sideshow and getting in the way of them having a mammoth preview of England v Georgia.

  12. Not sure why everyone keeps saying Italy are a good side. They really aren’t – they haven’t beaten a tier 1 side for donkeys years.

    They do seem to have some good young talent though and looked better drilled than during the 6N. But I think they might be at that point Scotland used to be, with a clutch of quality players surrounded by mediocre players who aren’t really up to test level. They’re going to struggle for years yet, but Scotland need to raise our game at junior level to stay ahead.

    Can anyone really see where Italy’s next 6N win is coming from? I guess they play Wales in Rome next season so they will be targeting that.

    1. Nah that’s nonsense a load of people really care about Rugby and just accept they have to pay for it rather than greeting about getting it for free.

      1. Ting
        What are you talking about who said anything about free, When fans get back in I will be at murrayfield as always.
        I am talking about exposure for the team.Hogg talks about inspiring a nation how can you inspire when no-one see’s you.
        Check the newspapers tomorrow and see how much coverage we get.unless the game is available to as many people as possible then it will not grow.
        I get that in these times rugby needs money but there has to be a balance.

    2. I think this point is dull to be honest, an absolute raft of people in this county have Amazon it’s a pretty widely used and cheap platform…

      As I said loads of people watched it, you’re talking gibberish. It will be widely covered in the sports pages, a dying industry to be fair, in this day and age growth is more likely to come from online coverage, all over the BBC sports pages for instance, Facebook feeds etc. The world has changed folks who buy a paper these days know what Rugby is far more likely to find growth from an Amazon customer.

      At the moment survival is the priority over growth

      1. Who is bullying anyone? That’s mad shade to throw around mate don’t downtrend what bullying is like that eh . You made a point on a forum. I’ve explained why it’s a bit daft..that’s not bullying it’s discussion on a discussion platform I suggest avoiding pubs or Rugby clubs if you think it is bullying

      2. Well said Top Cat, I know a majority of people missed the game. A minority sport just became an even more minority sport.

  13. Italy put themselves in a better head space for a game with no fans, good intensity from then early. Once that levelled out it was a very routine win.

    Italy games are becoming a nonevent to the other 6 Nations sides, they are all very predictable and much the same.

  14. [deleted bc we’re talking about Italy game]

    Graham proved today that he is not quite good enough yet at International level, his frame is just not there to compete against the best.

    1. Graham had a relatively quiet game today by his standards (although still looked dangerous and almost scored a solo try). 7 tries in 13 caps. He’s quite rightly a nailed on starter. Any chat about him not being good enough at test level is verging on ridiculous now.

    2. Bhatti against Demba Bamba gives me the fear. Do we not have any better options? Pity Allan Dell shacked up in Reading.

    3. Yeah Shane Williams, Jason Robinson and Cheslin Kolbe…not sure why any of them even bothered with rugby tbh…too small to compete!

    1. See? How is this ok yet my request not to have others speak for me – punctuated with a wee joke – is deleted? How are these sustained attacks not in violation of rule 1?

      1. TeamCam you’ve over-responded. You are always welcome to request that Grumpy doesn’t put words in your mouth re: your assessment of Luke Pearce’s performance but not in the way you did so.

  15. Yes a win but a not a game to buy the dvd for… few pluses… one positive was ruthlessness – not sure if it was 4 visits to opponent’s 22 for 4 tries but it felt like it … never quite got mentally in the game, always felt like Italy wanted it more. I was a bit disappointed in Meatball …the attack was never launched, a training move never called … it seemed as if we were holding something back (I hope!) for France. I thought Blade played a good 6 and not quite the 8 we need … maybe next week Watson, Du Preez and Skinner with Blade on bench could be way to go… would be good to see Maitland,VdM and Hogg as back 3 too

    1. Graham over Maitland, easily. Duhan and Maitland are too similar, and Graham’s our best winger.

  16. I think our qualification for next year’s European Football Championships this week weirdly affected my attitude to this Test. Sort of, ‘We should win this but if we don’t then it’s not the end of the world and anyway we’ve got a tough Test to look forward to v France next week.’

    Back to the real world. Italy were pretty good for 50 minutes today and are showing real signs of improvement under their new coaching set-up. Their fitness levels do need to rise further to be fully competitive in the 6N and they’re short of quality off the bench at the moment. I hope they continue to improve because it must be dispiriting for them to look back on so many consecutive defeats.

    I’m glad Toony picked a strong 23 for this match. We could have done without yet another USA/Fiji-type banana skin to follow excellent wins.

    Duncan Weir did well today. Not without faults but overall pretty solid. I thought after Dublin 2016 that that was the last we’d see of him starting in a Scotland shirt. However, the Crystal Tipps hairstyle (one for our older viewers) has clearly helped him. Well done, Dunc.

  17. Ali Price was MotM. He really matured there. Very impressed with his control of the flow. Harris was meh. Knocked on good pass, got stripped of the ball and missed two? tackles. Jones should be there along with Johnson…

    1. Completely agree with your unfashionable comment about Ali Price. Is really controlling a game now and a good pass to boot. Disagree on Harris though, the Italian line was flying up and by the time he got the ball oftern there was little he could do.

  18. I’m gonna get hate for this but I thought Harris was looking decent in attack today. Made a decent number of metres and was one Italian tap tackle away from scoring from halfway. Two dropped balls is all that will be remembered though. Very Pete Horne-esque in that way. Does 90% right but drops at least one a game.
    I don’t remember any Italian breaks through the middle either. Even in the 1st half. I think Johnson and Harris are a solid combo and with every Scotland win with Harris starting he maintains his status as Scotland player over 20 caps with the best win ratio.

    1. His dropped ball is because he is charging up rapid on a shoulder and ends up with a pass just about battering him in the face that’s mentally good hands to catch it running into it with the heat he does.

      It’s high % Rugby because if he bursts through it splits teams in bits like it did against France

  19. I was still on a high because we got to the Euros and wasn’t nervous. A strange experience for me.
    Thought Italy’s try was world class. Their defence seems to let them down.
    As for us, we stepped it up when we had to and the disallowed try would’ve been a corker. Thought Harris showed that he can be an attacking force as well as defensive, he is really growing into this level. Very reminiscent of Duncan Taylor at his best.
    France will be tough, but if we get stuck in we can do it.

  20. Nope – Harris is a defensive centre and little else. He tackles very well and runs straight when needed. Tackling at this level should be a given though.
    Guile and ability to create or break the line non existent. Too easy to defend against. Totally predictable. Fails when composure in attacking situations needed.
    Get our centres sorted and we could actually be going somewhere with everything else which is developing.

      1. Harris has an average match – poor hands, stripped in a tackle but defended well. He’s here to stay though, he could smack Toonies mum and he’d still pick him.

        The problem with him is against a rush defence he’s got little more than bosh – not the end of the world if you have creative players inside, but with Weir and Johnson still finding his feet we have zero creativity in the midfield at the moment.

    1. I think Harris is underrated, i see him as a bolter for the lions sqaud, particularly with Gatland in charge.

      1. No chance is Harris in the conversation for Lions. At 13, he’ll be in contention against Slade, Tuilangi, Ringrose, Henshaw, Davies, Tompkins, Daly (as a utility back).

        Given the squad is going to be smaller – only 35/6 – there could also be a premium on players who can fill in as utility backs. Harris is a centre and a v poor wing.

  21. A win is a win but that was really nothing to be overly happy about and we will get destroyed by France if we are at that level.
    The first half was just bad – you can give Italy a lot of credit but bottom line is we were nowhere near where we should have been.
    Much better last 20 minutes or so when Italy tired and brought on much poorer subs but not really representative.
    Negatives – Weir was disappointing, the only time the backline sparked was when Hogg came in to 1st receiver a few times, there was very little effective structured attack. Forwards didn’t dominate, on the back foot first half, improved in second. Got very much on the wrong side of the ref early on.
    Positives – VDM running great lines, decent improvement in second half, Turner played well. 4 tries to 1 makes it sound a lot better.

    Overall bit deflated with the game – it shows how much we suffer without 3 or 4 key players.

    Italian “blood substitution” at the end was incredibly dodgy and the IRB should give them a warning or sanction.

    1. What was dodgy about the blood sub? Tommy Allen clattered into the advertising hoarding / concrete wall when Kinghorn and him went for a ball at the touch line, he looked to have a pretty nasty gash on his knee, if it’s bleeding then he’s allowed to be substituted.

  22. That was the one the most patient and confident first half performances that I’ve ever seen from Scotland or any rugby team .
    The Scottish boys turned frustration into a calm determination.

  23. Going to say it – Stuart Hogg needs to be dropped. His kicking game was good today but in attack all he does now is get isolated or throw a poor pass, and in defence he misses far too many tackles. Even though Gatland rates him, I seriously doubt he will even tour next summer, let alone be our first Test starter since Tom Smith :(
    Promote Jamie Ritchie from VC to Captain, he deserves it.

  24. The key to next weekends game is the need to increase the physicality and winning the collision battle no matter what. Here’s to 6 in row – 6 in a row!!!

    1. Toolis needs to be in the 23 to deal with the inevitable lineout issues. Maybe Skinner at 8?

  25. We’re trying to be a team full of bastards. Our two biggest bastards are now injured, though, which is worrying.

    I think we need Crosbie to go straight in. Weir/Johnson/Harris will be fine again as long as they manage to actually pass it between them without error. I don’t know what more Graham has to do to convince some of you lot, but without him we would be entirely reliant on Hoggy and Irn-Du in terms of our attack. The French pack aren’t going to be so forgiving.

    It’s great to see that our backs are reading Weir’s balls. On another note, I do think Kinghorn might start against France. He has this habit of turning up in the team when we don’t expect him to. But Darcy and Duhan look nailed-on now, so maybe not.

    I’m still not quite sure that Cummings and Gray are the way forward, but Gray’s a fixture and Cummings has earned his place.

    I think Bradbury needs to be called up again. Maybe it’s simply that Edinburgh need Bradbury and Crosbie now that Kunavula’s with Fiji – although Carmichael/Haining/Boyle, with Sykes and Darge on the bench, can’t be the worst back-row in the league, right?

  26. In fact, the fact that Bradbury and Crosbie weren’t in camp in the first place when they became fit is almost downright bizarre. They’ve got to be in there. Otherwise, it looks likely that Weir and SHC will be joined by another unlikely comeback – Blair Cowan – against France.

    1. I think Crosbie’s chance will come. Bradbury at his best should be there but he’s just been a bit pish lately. Pretty anonymous even in Edinburgh games without the internationals. Just looks for contact which would be fine if he consistently made metres doing it but he doesn’t.
      I do hope he finds some form but he’ll have to do it for Edinburgh first.

      1. Having said that, maybe Bradbury would do better if he was brought in as a 6. He might do better without the pressure of trying to live up to being the next big hope for the 8 shirt. Just tell him his only job is smash rucks and big first up tackles around the ruck

  27. Without Sutherland, Brown, Ritchie and Russell I can’t see us beating France.

    We showed good composure to win in the end but that was very much a 6/10 performance. Italy I think are looking in pretty decent shape moving forward though. Given the age profile of their squad I can see them beating us and Wales in the next 2-3yrs.

    I also think McInally and Johnson both look like shadows of the players they were prior to the WC which is a worry. The fact we are relying on either Lang and an out of form Johnson at 12 just makes the demise of Dunbar and Taylor more frustrating.

    Harris is doing reasonably well but he is 30 and has reached his ceiling imo. I sincerely hope Bennett and/or Jones come good in the next 12-18 months.

    1. ‘An out of form Johnson’ is off the mark IMO. He has just returned from injury. You can’t expect him to be pulling up trees in his first game back at test level. I’m sure he will improve as the tournament progresses.

  28. Good away win on a narrow pitch V a well coached, passionate, strong spoilers

    Missed Russell & Hastings terribly, I haven’t changed my opinion of Weir, I think he gets in the way, too slow (hands & feet).

    Johnson is an excellent and effective player but has been injured for ages, sometimes he does look slow, but class is permanent, form is temporary.

    In the event of Ritchie being out GT should be requesting Luke Crosbie gets a good hour in tomorrow in Dublin then getting him involved.

    Haining was looking excellent last season but hasn’t looked the same player this season.

    Harris did ok yesterday but running hard and straight is surely a prerequisite for a any center

  29. Is Jaco now eligible for Scotland? I seem to recall him being eligible after the Italy game. I would imagine Toonie will stick with Duncy for France. I thought Duhan was excellent and would like to see him continue coming inside and running those lines that a 13 should be running. Harris can carry on his defensive work and shore up the midfield.

    Skinner has to start at 6 against France if Ritchie is out IMO. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw Blade getting an 8/10 in the official ratings. He doesn’t carry well and didn’t add anything to the lineout. 8 really is a problem position. Wish Haining or Bradbury were in form right now.

  30. With regard to Ritchie, why is that it is only Scottish players that ever fail off-field HIAs?

    1. Presumably our docs are not bent (see Italy yesterday and France from 3 or 4 Years ago) or reckless.

      Also plenty of failed HIAs…

  31. The scrum seemed to stabilise when Kebble came on . Was Sutherland having an off day ? Did the ref allow Kebble more latitude when he came on. What is going on there. One minute Sutherland is a Lion elect and yesterday he was dismantled. Something not right here !

    1. I reckon Sutherland was hurt early doors & then done his ankle in the last scrum, only explanation. Re VDW I reckon it all depends on his isolation (after returning from SA on 2/11/20), if its 2 weeks & he’s ok I think he’ll come into consideration

  32. To me Haining needs to re-focus. He’s lacking confidence currently. He’s not hitting contact with the power he had at the start of the year especially when you look back to the Ireland game. He has huge potential and should be first choice. There was a scrum yesterday in the second half where he attempted to be vocal to encorage his team mates but you could almost sense him going ‘inner’ rather than projecting his voice and energy. That to me is concerning. Someone needs to encourage him and for him to realise his potential. As a unit the boys have improved massively.we need that aggression back and to be the ‘nightmare’ that Gregor told his team he wanted them to be back in February.

  33. Having reviewed the game I think this was a step forward from Wales. Italy brought far more to the contest than Wales did. They played with variety, accuracy and intensity. They had parity (at least) in the set piece, (i don’t know how this happened). They had effective carriers and were ferocious at the breakdown. Are they a good team? well if they can continue to perform like this consistently then yes.

    Nevertheless, we won 4 try’s to 1, away from home taking max points and denying them any. We were able to adapt and win.

    I thought Keeble, Fagerson, Watson, Price, Weir and DVDM were all excellent.
    Obviously Weir had the missed tackle but otherwise he was really good and his work rate was exceptional, several poor kicks ended up being decent by virtue of his kick chase alone.
    I thought Thomson, Haining, Harris, Graham, Gray and Cummings were decent.
    I though Mcinally, Johnson and Hogg were pretty average.

    1. While it was a decent outing for him, I thought Hogg looked a little lost going forward. Probably as he was seen as the only real creative attacker in the backline. He is an excellent distributor so would like to see him focus on getting Graham and VDM into space a bit more next week rather than taking everything on himself.

      Agreed with the rest of this, although still not sold on Thomson at 8. He has decent hands but does seem to struggle to physically impose himself. Would prefer Haining, Fagerson, Bradbury or even Skinner for the next game.

      1. I think the thing with Thomson is his lineout ability especially if you’re going to go with Gray and Cummings in the row who I don’t think is our best lineout pairing. If Ritchie doesn’t pass his return to play protocols and Skinner comes in at 6 then could be the need for thomson is diminished but I’m still quite a Thomson fan and he looks like he’s bulked up a bit to me. I think I’d go for Ritchie, thomson, Watson or Skinner Fagerson Watson. Otherwise I think it’ll be same again, keeble into the stating lineup and Bhatti onto the bench. I’d also bring Maitland onto the bench for Kinghorn but that’s probably about it.

  34. It’s strange being disappointed in a Scotland game when we have won with a BP and a 5th win in a row, i guess what that says is that the team is not really near there peak in terms of performance.

    So a lot to look forward to if Scotland can perform well for the full 80 and carry on this winning mentality.

    Can we honestly say we will beat France (If they show up) based on any of our last three performances though? I think not.

    Townsend has said he is hopeful on Ritchie but less so on Sutherland.

    We are going to really need to attack this french team with way more go forward and intensity from the pack, in the backs we need to be defensively sound.

    I would have Sean Maitland in to expose Teddy Thomas under the highball as we saw in European cup, there is an aerial weakness there.

    Stuart Hogg – Sean Maitland – Chris Harris – Sam Johnson – Duhan van Der Merwe – Duncan Weir – Ali Price – Cornell Du Preez – Hamish Watson – Jamie Ritchie – Sam Skinner – Scott Cummings – Zander Fagerson – Fraser Brown – Oli Kebble

    Darcy Graham – Jaco Van der Valt – Sam Hidalgo Clyne – Matt Fagerson – Jonny Gray – Willem Nel – Stuart Mcinally – Jamie Bhatti

    Most important thing will be playing in the right areas of the field this game, prevent them from getting into our half as much as possible.

  35. I don’t entirely agree with other posters , I thought Italy looked much improved. They neutralised Hogg, his broken field running was stifled, they took control of the scrum early on, kicked much better than us. We were not the better side for a large part of the match but did not disintegrate, kept our cool , and won.

    Scotland are in this tournament , despite losing a few key players we are on form and improving on our shortfalls week by week. Unlike anything we have seen from Gregor Townsend before, this side are confident and resilient. Their mental attitude is so much better.

    Next week will be a brutal test and I think we are unlucky to have France in our pool. I think we need to talk ourselves up a bit more , that was not an easy test yesterday , but we have learned much more about our capability than we did last week.

  36. Surprised there are not more comments about the Ref. Many marginal calls went against us and his reaction to Turner’s try was bizarre “I have a gut feel he knocked on, so on field decision is no try!!!” Also very quick to penalise Scotland for not releasing but waited an age to rule against Italy when Watson was clamped to ball. I would love to know what went wrong in the early scrums but deffo something not right in there. Impressed by how we turned things around in second half and much more clinical in opposition 22 to gain the BP.

      1. at first viewing i thought he’d done ok but looking back with more detail there were a number of marginal decisions that went Italy’s way and a number of simply wrong decisions that went Italy’s way.
        first scrum he waits an age and never actually calls set then pings scotland for early engagement. Second scrum he just gets it wrong Italy’s 3 clearly has his feet further back and is scrummaging lower than Sutherland. Cummings penalty was again just wrong, the rip happened the tackle was never complete and no ruck so should not have penalised cummings. the blade thomson penalty just after half time when he brushed chests in the lineout, if thats a penalty every lineout is a penalty. the hamish watson one when he leaves hamish totally exposed in the jackal position and allows two italians a clear shot at him before blowing for a penalty. pre lockdown that is standard but it’s totally inconsistent with the way the game has been refereed post lockdown. And then the call for turners try is a serious error in judgement he allowed the italian player to effect his call, totally unacceptable.

      2. Replying to SL. Thanks for detail. I too watched it back and second viewing has reinforced my first opinion. As a ref he has excellent & very clear communication, I just hope he is not another ‘attention seeker’ in the mould of Nigel Owens.

    1. I wonder if they’ll start Carbonnel? He’s a bit younger but many think he’ll usurp N’tamack sooner to later.

      Hopefully they’ll put in Jalibert – wonderful with ball in hand but royally sh** the bed last time he was in Murrayfield

      1. Aye but remember Rob, without N’tamack outside him Dupont didn’t have a great game against us in February.

  37. Weir at 10 really throws into focus how short of threat we are in the midfield. I get it’s part of what makes us better defensively but equally it’s why teams have been able to shut down Hogg and our attack since the start of the WC. I honestly don’t care if we win every game with 4 lineout mail tries but we won’t be able to do that against the better teams.
    So much of Italy’s game on Saturday was innovative and interesting, getting the most from their strengths in their carrying game, territory and moving a back line. I hope that now we have the solidity we begin to reintroduce a little more ambition and cleverness. Has to be space for one of Hutchinson (when fit), Jones or Bennett in the centres. Hutchinson at 12 for me as I’d say Harris at 13 is the more important of our centres defensively. Lang is nowhere near his level though so I’d stick with the two we have for this tournament.

    It was ten minutes into the second half when Jonny Gray missed a tackle on a rampaging Polledri. To paraphrase a recent commentator “more people have walked on the moon than have got past Gray on the rugby pitch”.
    Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said of the missed tackle “It’s just one of those things. Sport is funny like that but we’ll have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down for the next match. The boys were stunned in the dressing room after the game – nobody could look Jonny in the eyes.”
    Maybe he had something bad for breakfast. Maybe it wasn’t his man but went for the tackle anyway. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time for him to hang up his boots and allow someone with better defence to have a go.

    1. Jonny Gray has missed more tackles since return from covid than all his previous seasons combined and he is making less tackles on average per game for Scotland and Exeter.

  39. Its a nice run but if you look at expected results, can’t help but think we are flattering to deceive at the moment.

    Crashed out the World Cup (losing to Ireland and Japan), then lost to Ireland away, England at home, beat Italy away, 14 man France at home, beat Wales away (albeit narrowly and in their worst state in decades – witness the Ireland thrashing) and Italy again.

    You have to think the only game of note is the Wales game and yet with hindsight I’d be surprised if that is as good a result as it felt or that really we were not favourites. Don’t want to be a pessimist but truth be told this France game is the first real litmus test (a game where we should not win on the odds). All others of late in that category – Ireland, England we have lost.

    Can’t lose that suspicion that midfield lacks danger. And I’m not sure third place 10 is going to do much to get us firing. Even wonder if there is a tombola here so GT can point to an experimental line up. Would rather see how the much vaunted “new” defence fares…

    1. You have got it spot on NRS, This is the game Townsend will stick Huw Jones in with an untested combo just to further cement the idea that Chris Harris is the top dog (letting him play against Georgia, Italy, a terrible Wales side etc.

      Was Jones defence bad against the hardest two games we played in the six nations, Ireland and England out of curiosity? Dont think we conceided alot through the midfield then.

      1. We can only base our opinions on what we see…and we don’t see “how well they have been training” (hate that phrase!)
        We all have preferences but hopefully we can post an opinion, reasoned if possible, without being labelled a player-x hater etc.
        What I’ve seen of Harris and Jones I would say Harris’ deficiencies in attack are more pronounced than the weaknesses in Jones defence that are cited for his non-selection.
        Jones attacking skills are so far ahead of Harris it bears no comparison.

        In a team shorn of Russell and Hastings you can argue that Jones would struggle. Perhaps, but what we saw against Italy was even more pressure on the back 3 to “do something”. France, England etc will easily cope with that and just not kick ball to them.
        SA will easily cope with our improving maul so the question remains – defence, all well and good as a starting point but where are the points coming from?
        I fear the philosophy of trying to be hard to beat will end up as usually beaten against the big teams where scoring 18-21 points is not enough.

    2. The results may have been predictable but the difference between this past 6N campaign and previous ones is that we were competitive and very much in the game until near the end against Ireland and England who were the only teams to beat us. I would also argue that the weather conditions ruined the England game and prevented both teams from playing decent running/attacking rugby. In previous campaigns we have usually been outmuscled up front and then blown away against most of the other home nations and France in Paris. Our improved squad depth (largely thanks to the new intake of Springjocks) also means we can now compete for 80 minutes and not fade when our below standard replacements come on. I think the impact of Tandy in particular and de Villiers can’t be denied.

      I would slightly disagree that France this weekend is a litmus test. We are missing Russell, Sutherland and Ritchie (three likely Lions) and the game would be a different affair if these three key players were available. (hopefully Ritchie makes it but I would doubt it).

      1. I don’t know we had beaten England and France at Murrayfield in the more recent campaigns. And then there was the Strauss broken rib / Russell missed kick game in Paris which had opportunities to win. The progress is not getting blown away by Ireland away but then again all change there. Losing to England at home, beating France at home and beating Italy away are not meaningful steps. And performances were not as good as the results. Ready to be proven wrong.

  40. There did seem to be something funny going on in the scrum early doors, the Blade Thomson chest rub foul & the ref’s comments before the Z Fagerson try were all interesting. As stated above because we won it’s been let slide.

  41. Weir was a shining star and the 10 shirt is his to lose now. Edinburgh getting thrashed again tonight shows it was a massive mistake letting him go, this Chamberlain character Isn’t in the same class.

    1. Chamberlain is 20, straight out of the academy and was supposed to be behind Jono Lance, who failed to get a work permit before covid prevented further recruitment. That was his second or third pro-game – it is totally asinine to dismiss his potential. He was excellent at the u20 RWC in a way that v few Scottish flyhalfs are at that level.

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