A first win in Wales in 18 years! The resulting finish in fourth place overall on the table capped off a mixed 6 Nations for Scotland. With a few tries left out there over the course of this extended tournament (Hogg vs Ireland, failure to secure a try bonus vs Italy) was this another one that got away?
What is certain is that Scotland ground out the win in Llanelli where in previous years they would have imploded. Is the “Exeter effect” really feeding back into Scotland’s mindset that quickly, or should the new assistant coaches in Steve Tandy, Peter de Villiers and John Dalziell take a hefty slice of credit? Plenty to ponder in the coming weeks.
Rory and Cammy combine like Dinobots to take a look at this one.
Rated on Attack, Defence, Breakdown and Set Piece
1. Rory Sutherland: Another solid showing around the park and is part of a Scottish front row which can go toe to toe with anyone in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment. Needs to work on the position of his elbow in the scrum as he can give the impression he is pulling it down and was the reason for an early penalty to Wales. - (A7/D8/B7/S7) Overall: 7.5/10
2. Fraser Brown: Struggled with his line out throws in very tricky conditions which affected both sides. That made the decision to throw long Scotland's try line particularly baffling when a more sensible approach was needed. Gave away a needless penalty and injured himself in the process winning the Geoff Cross Man Of The Match award. Otherwise acquitted himself well in an excellent Scottish defence but needs to cut out the brain farts. Although he did appear to talk Hogg into a kick for the posts on half time when Scotland's captain seemed keen to kick for the corner. - (A7/D6/B7/S6) Overall: 6.5/10
3. Zander Fagerson: The benefits of starting an international career at 18 are beginning to show. The Zandbags are now backed up by being part of a solid Scottish front row and his technique and positioning is much improved. Does a good job in pulling players into rucks and generally slowing down the oppositions attacking ball. - (A7/D8/B7/S8) Overall: 7.5/10
4. Scott Cummings: Cummings is Scotland's best lock. Jonny Gray may get the plaudits for his tackle rate but Cummings has a way of quietly making is presence known to the opposition disrupting mauls, putting pressure on kickers and shoring up the scrums. Played his part in the line out throw that went wrong and led to the Wales try but it takes a special kind of player to make Alun Wyn Jones anonymous, especially on the day he broke the world record for international appearances. - (A7/D8/B8/S7) Overall: 7.5/10
5. Jonny Gray: Doesn't top the tackle charts these days but that's due to a shift in Scotland's defensive tactics with 6 & 7 now front and centre of the defensive wall. Official stats have him making one dominant tackle but he also offered a bit more when carrying. The move to Exeter is paying dividends. - (A7/D8/B8/S7) Overall: 7.5/10
6. Jamie Ritchie: If Scotland can add some silverware to the cabinet in the next few years then the Ritchie and Watson partnership should rightly be held in the same regard as Calder and Jeffrey. Ritchie carried well and topped the tackle charts. He won a couple of penalties at the breakdown including one under the posts when Wales were building pressure on the Scottish defence. Quite rightly man of the match and whilst backrow is an area of strength for Scotland he's now irreplaceable. - (A8/D9/B9/S7) Overall: 8.5/10
7. Hamish Watson: Second only to Ritchie in the tackle charts which points to a shift in the focus of the Scottish defence with two wing forwards being at the heart of the defensive effort, capitalising on their ability to disrupt opposition ball. Had a couple of his trademark pinballing runs beating 3 defenders despite only running 10 metres with ball in hand. Alongside Ritchie he gave an incredibly disciplined performance at the breakdown responding to referees calls to leave it or "no hands" minimising the number of penalties conceded. - (A8/D9/B8/S7) Overall: 8/10
8. Blade Thomson: Solid performance sneaking into joint 4th alongside Jonny Gray in number of tackles made. Didn't do anything spectacular with the ball in hand, but then perhaps this wasn't the game for that given the conditions. Can certainly do a job for Scotland at 8 but did nothing to show write his name in ink on the teamsheet. - (A7/D7/B7/S7) Overall: 7/10
Rated on Attack, Defence, Breakdown and Influence
9. Ali Price: Had to go the full 80 after injuries to both standoffs left the Scottish bench a little bare. Still delays something awful at times, which led to at least one turnover whistled up for not "using it" quickly enough, but should also take a lot of credit for game management taking the pressure off Hogg when he had to drop in at first receiver. Would still like to see him run more. - (A7/D7/B5/I8) Overall: 7/10
10. Finn Russell: Did a lot of passing in his half hour cameo in the 2020 6 Nations; what might have been. Looked sharp and there was only one obvious howler before being steamrollered by Welsh pick-and-gos that saw him leaving the field with a groin injury. - (A7/D6/B6/I6) Overall: 6.5/10
11. Blair Kinghorn: Good in the air, but again missed a chance to pass with the try line begging. Forced Liam Williams into an early penalty to his credit. If Duhan gets more chances in the coming weeks he might find it difficult to get back in. - (A7/D7/B7/I6) Overall: 7/10
12. James Lang: Another quiet outing. Trickily the tackle stats show he and Harris missed the most (5 between them) but it never felt like the Welsh breached our midfield defence in any great fashion. May be looking at a shift to 10 in the upcoming weeks which might silence the doubters. Is he the new Chris Harris in terms of Toony favourites? - (A6/D6/B6/I6) Overall: 6/10
13. Chris Harris: Continues his excellent 65% win ratio (thanks Kevin Millar) and managed to keep feted Lion JD2 well out of the game. Will rue not regathering Hogg's pass that would have given him an excellent chance of a try. - (A6/D8/B8/I7) Overall: 7.5/10
14. Darcy Graham: Rarely got a chance to show his lightning acceleration bar one break where it looked like he might just get free. Frighteningly tenacious at the physical stuff marshalling Wales's bigger and starrier names, has surely cemented his place in the side now. - (A8/D7/B8/I7) Overall: 7.5/10
15. Stuart Hogg: The skipper kicked the final penalty to win the game as a temporary standoff, a fitting end to a tournament where he was influential on the scoreboard (both good and bad) for Scotland. As with Darcy, there were just flashes of brilliance to show what he could do going forward but spent a lot of time chasing kicks. - (A8/D7/B7/I8) Overall: 7.5/10
Rated on Attack, Defence, Breakdown and Impact
16. Stuart McInally: Gave away a needless penalty and seemed to own up to it during the act of committing the foul. The line out was noticeably better when he came on and the scrum remained solid. There's still not much to call between McInally and Brown. They match each other for good and ill. - (A7/D8/B6/I7) Overall: 7/10
17. Oli Kebble: There are some players who take time to adapt to the step up to international rugby and there are those who grab the opportunity with both hands. Plays with the passion of a man born and bred in Dumbarton rather than Durban and was visibly pumped. Wales got the shove on one scrum but otherwise there was no noticeable step backwards when the front row was replaced. - (A7/D8/B8/I7) Overall: 7.5/10
18. Simon Berghan: No noticeable step back in the scrum when he came on and was part of a solid Scottish defence that saw out a tight match in a game they'd usually throw away. Discipline hasn't always been Berghan's strong point so it was good to see him finish the game without incident and a sign the Scottish defence is no longer a liability. - (A7/D8/B8/I7) Overall: 7.5/10
19. Ben Toolis: Unlucky not to get on the pitch due due to unexpected injuries elsewhere. Kept bench warm in case he was needed to cover on the wing presumably. - (A5/D5/B5/I5) Overall: 5/10
20. Cornell du Preez: A second impactful appearance from the bench and has fully stuck his hand up for a starting place for the next game. Perhaps unlucky to miss out this time round given Thomson's familiarity with the opposition but he seems to be in the form of his life and enjoying being back in a Scotland shirt despite a shaky start to his international career. - (A7/D8/B7/I7) Overall: 7.5/10
21. Scott Steele: Made his debut on the wing, so didn't get a chance to show much of what he would traditionally offer but had to do a bit of defending during his brief first cap. - (A6/D7/B7/I6) Overall: 6.5/10
22. Adam Hastings: On early for Russell, Hastings ran it nearly 50% of the time and was the sole flair element in an otherwise gritty performance by Scotland. Beat the most defenders on the day with a couple of classy breaks. Played through one shoulder injury but had to stop when it re-occurred and is now a doubt for the rest of the autumn. - (A8/D7/B7/I8) Overall: 7.5/10
23. Duhan van der Merwe: Only a brief cameo and would undoubtedly been on earlier had the injuries elsewhere not meant Kinghorn was required on the pitch to cover fullback. Still managed to beat three defenders in his two carries. - (A7/D7/B6/I6) Overall: 6.5/10
Ratings by Rory Baldwin and Cammy Black. Stats used from ESPN.