Help Us Develop The Site

Now that we have a team of crack (pot) writers working with common purpose, I thought it was time to do a bit of work on the site itself. So I’m throwing it out to you, the faithful reader (Al, AD and Gregor feel free to chime in too). Or even the unfaithful reader – if this is your first or hundredth time here we are still interested in your opinions. What would you like to see? More silly stuff? More serious stuff? Interviews? Travel pieces? More rampant nationalism? More articles about the Super 14?

How do we make Scottish Rugby Blog the #1 destination for Scottish rugby news (and ranting)?

Here are some of the things planned for the site:

  • Integrating our new twitter feed, along with some big links to follow us on twitter and facebook (yup we’re on there so you can get SRBlog posts in your news feed)
  • The ability to liveblog commentaries for the odd (or otherwise) game you might not be able to catch like they do for tennis etc over on the infinitely richer BBC
  • I might also look at the design a little, just because I like to tinker so any ideas for colours, styles etc

If you have any other suggestions on these or other matters please add them in the comments section. For example on the home page would you prefer short intros with “Read More” links so that you can see at a a glance the new articles you might want to read, or do you prefer to do all your reading on the home page in one big scroll (we’ve been experimenting with it this week so you can see it in action)?

In the season down-time if you have any ideas for articles or interviews we could do to keep the site busy please mention them too.

Thanks for reading, and contributing!

Scotland Team for Italy

Scotland team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Stadio Flaminio, Rome, on Saturday 27 February, kick-off 1.30pm GMT

15 Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), 14 Simon Danielli (Ulster), 13 Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), 12 Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), 11 Sean Lamont (Scarlets), 10 Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), 9 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN, 1 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), 2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh), 3 Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), 4 Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), 5 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), 6 Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors), 7 John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), 8 Johnnie Beattie (Glasgow Warriors)

Substitutes:

16 Scott Lawson (Gloucester), 17 Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), 18 Nathan Hines (Leinster), 19 Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), 20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh), 21 Phil Godman (Edinburgh), 22 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)

Not considererd through injury: Chris Paterson, Jim Thompson (both Edinburgh), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lamont (Toulon) and Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors).

Pretty much what was expected. Still, the bench looks a little flaky based on recent form apart from the Big Stroker who will be looking to make an impact. What about the likes of Cairns or Grove? The first XV looks pretty strong though, and hopefully Danielli will be looking to make up for a few errors he made in the autumn while maintaining his try scoring form. Congrats also to Chris Cusiter and Hugooooooooo who will be earning their 50th caps. Careful with the kicking though boys, leave it to Dan…

Prem 1 roundup

The frost claimed two matches on Saturday as big dogs Currie and Ayr had their respective games against Hawks and West called off. The latter, however, has caused somewhat of a stir. Ayr are claiming their ground was playable. The ref allegedly OKed their seconds pitch. So did John Beattie, by all accounts. The issue comes, though, when a group of ‘senior players’ from the West side apparently didn’t fancy taking to the turf. Cue some angry words from Ayr and no comment from West.

Here are the results from the games that went ahead:

Watsonians 26-13 Stewart’s Melville
at Myreside

Watsonians: J Forbes; A Rowe, D Brown, C Sorbie, M Learmonth; M Ker, J Blackwood; N Hart, G Walsh, K Coertze, H Grant, T Weizman, G Callander, N Dennis, M Fedo.
Replacements Used: S Trotter, G Scott, J Duthie, G Somerville, N Tunnah.
Stewart’s Melville: R Borthwick; M Doneghan, A Cox, C Marshall, J Gordon; R Grant, S Ker; J Charles, S Blackwood, R Merrilees, B Leathes, A Lean, B Tweedie, L Calder, R Sutherland.
Replacements Used: A Edmonstone, C MacIntosh, C Sutherland, A Fraser, C Williams.

Scoring Summary
Watsonians Tries: Callander, Blackwood, Rowe, Forbes. Cons: M Ker 3.
Stewart’s Melville Tries: Borthwick, Cox. Pen: S Ker.
SRB Man of the Match: G Callander

Heriot’s 44-20 Selkirk
at Goldenacre

Heriot’s: C Goudie; J Alston, M Nimmo, P Saunders, A Douglas; G Rutherford, G Wilson; A Dymock, F Gillies, W Blacklock, J Hill, C Osazuwa, M Lee, S Dewar, J Syme.
Replacements Used: S Burnett, J-P Ward, D Wallace, M Goldie, R Tran.
Selkirk: F Harkness; D Clapperton, S Hendrie, D Cassidy, L Jones; G Craig, M McVie; G Patterson, D Grieve, M Murray, R Aglen, S Willet, N Darling, C Johnston, A Renwick.
Replacements Used: R Nixon, S Forrest, D Moussa, R Taylor, J Smyth.

Scoring Summary
Heriot’s Tries: Goudie (2), Dymock (2), Syme, Alston. Cons: Wilson 4. Pens: Wilson 2.
Selkirk Tries: Aglen, Craig. Cons: Cassidy 2. Pens: Cassidy 2.
SRB Man of the Match: C Goudie

Boroughmuir 32-26 Melrose
at Meggetland

Boroughmuir: S Ruddick; T Bury, M Clapperton, J Fish, E Mills; G Cottrell, C Cusiter; F Lait, S McMurchy, B Ross, G Scott, N Patrick, E Matheson, P Cronn, J Doubleday.
Replacements Used: N Fraser, J Va’a, M Stalley, R Cairns, G Blackhall.
Melrose: F Thomson; A Dodds, C Jackson, J King, B Allen; S Wight, S McCormick; K Cooney, L Gibson, N Beavon, G Dodds, G Elder, J Dalziel, G Runciman, R Miller.
Replacements Used: R Ferguson, R Higgins, N McTaggart, J Murray, C Anderson.

Scoring Summary
Boroughmuir Tries: McMurchy, Doubleday (2), Va’a, Fish. Cons: Blackhall (2), Pen: Blackhall.
Melrose Tries: Runciman, Allen, Anderson, Murray. Cons: Wight (3).
SRB Man of the Match: J Fish

Edinburgh Accies 19-40 Dundee HSFP
at Raeburn Place

Edinburgh Accies: S Moffat; D Rattray, G Douglas, R Browne, M Coupar; R Bonner, C Martin; S Patience, D Cherry, C Murray, E Stuart, G Campbell, R Snape, T Drennan, D Teague.
Replacements Used: J Henderson, O Powell, P Jenkinson, D O’Hagen, S Atkins.
Dundee HSFP: J Fleming; M Smith, H Duthie, L Graham, R Lemon; C Ferguson, A Dymock; N Dymock, J Clark, A Brown, C Cumming, R Hawkins, S McKee, G Ryan, D Levison.
Replacements Used: D Russell, D Young, R Cessford, A Horton, S Dryer.

Scoring Summary
Edinburgh Accies Tries: Coupar, Drennan. Pens: Bonner, Douglas (2).
Dundee HSFP Tries Lemon (2), Ferguson, Fleming, Clark, Levison, Cons Fleming (5).
SRB Man of the Match: R Lemon

This coming Saturday every team is in action apart from Ayr and Heriot’s who once again take part in the British and Irish Cup while clubs could lose a few youngsters to the Gael Force. It is getting tight at the bottom of Prem 1 with Watsonians getting closer to the pack at the foot of the table. With Stew Mel definately down Accies, Selkirk and maybe even ‘Muir will have to redouble their efforts to avoid the dreaded drop.

In the B&I Cup Ayr take on Pontypridd at Millbrae on Saturday. Heriot’s, meanwhile, play Bristol away on the Sunday and the Gael Force play Plymouth Albion in Scotland on the Friday. Further details to come later.

Glasgow Warriors 7 – 30 Cardiff Blues

It was essentially the Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ team out on show at Firhill on Friday, and the lack of strength in depth had to look worrying for Sean Lineen. Cardiff looked far more physically imposing and far better drilled against a Glasgow team hadn’t really played together before and looked like it.

In the first half, hope for the future Ruaridh Jackson had three chances to get some points on board for the Warriors but missed three kicks in a row and it only served to damage his confidence. He regressed into becoming a shell of himself as he repeatedly missed touch from penalties and looked pedestrian with ball in hand. His first penalty came from a Cardiff Blue holding on to the ball but he didn’t have the legs from near the half way line. On the other hand, after 11 minutes, Ben Blair for the Cardiff Blues looked composed in front of goal as he kicked his first in a run of successful kicks.

Glasgow had a few successful breaks in the opening 2o minutes, notably one from DTH Van Der Merwe who offloaded to Richie Gray who didn’t have the legs. James Eddie, wearing number 6, looked effective on the crash balls he received from scrum-half Mark Mcmillan but Glasgow didn’t have the support play to capitalise.

Glasgow’s game-plan didn’t prove to be effective as at some point it seemed to amount to high hit-and-hopes from Mcmillan or Jackson which would result in a loss of possession for the Warriors. Cardiff took advantage of being given the ball and spent a significant period of time in the Glasgow 22, with a try being prevented by the referee calling a penalty, and subsequently giving a yellow card to Hefin O’Hare. Instead of forcing the issue, Blues again relied on the boot of Blair to make it 9-0 before half time

The second half got off to a bad start for the Warriors as Cardiff’s Gareth Cooper put the ball over the line soon after the kick off. This sparked a continuing in the downturn in atmosphere at Firhill, as the fans began to take our their frustrations by shouting at the referee for missing high tackles, booing Ben Blair whenever he stepped up to kick at goal and screaming at hapless Ruaridh Jackson as he repeatedly missed touch.

On the 48th minute fan favourite Colin Gregor came on as a blood replacement for Mark Mcmillan, but he could do nothing to prevent a try from Casey Laulala which was again converted by Blair, bringing the score to 23-0.

When Mcmillan returned to the field he didn’t replace Gregor, but instead Jackson to put him out of his misery as he finished a performance which showed he has a lot of work to do before stepping into the shoes of Dan Parks, who will be playing for the Blues next season.

Tom James, the Cardiff winger scored a great individual try which further piled on the pressure to a Warriors performance that was losing any shape that it had to begin with. After the conversion the score was 30-0.

With the game out of sight, Glasgow began to bring on more club players, with Alex Dunbar and Paul Burke both getting a chance to impress. Glasgow also began to perform more fluently with Colin Gregor at stand off who was far more confident with the boot and was at the centre of a spell of lively and creative play by Glasgow. DTH Van Der Merwe was unlucky not to break through with another good break in the last ten minutes, as was Fergus Thomson who just didn’t have the legs.

On the 77th minute Gregor managed to kick the ball into touch which received mock applause from the Warriors fans who were delighted to see the ball actually go out. After the line out, Glasgow finally showed their worth with a nice run of play which ended in a powerful Max Evans burst past the try line. After scoring he made a “T” sign with his hands as a message to his brother Thom. Gregor managed to convert from between the posts.

Prem 1 matches for this weekend (Snow permitting!)

After two games and countless shredded nerves the 6N takes a break. Good thing, then, that the weather is taking another bad turn!

Front runners Currie are away, while their nearest rivals Ayr are hoping to claw Currie back with a win at home. At the other end of the table the bottom two, Watsonians and Stew Mel, face off. It could perhaps be a cagey Saturday for a lot of teams with Hawks vs Currie, Accies vs Dundee and Watsonians vs Stew Mel looking to be quite tight and physically brutal. Also expect games like Boroughmuir vs. Melrose and Heriot’s vs. Selkirk to have some end to end action. It could be a much different story with West.  While there could be some smart play from the Burnbrae outfit Ayr are able to tot up a fairly big score in their current vein of form.

Here are the games as they are set to KO:

Ayr – West of Scotland
at Millbrae (ko 3pm)

Heriot’s – Selkirk
at Goldenacre (ko 3pm)

Watsonians – Stew Mel
at Myreside (ko 3pm)

Boroughmuir – Melrose
at Meggetland (ko 3pm)

Edinburgh Accies – Dundee High
at Raeburn Place (ko 3pm)

SRB Game of the Weekend: Glasgow Hawks – Currie
at Old Anniesland (ko 3pm)

    Hawks have a few games in hand and at home could be dark horses against Currie. Both teams look at their best with structure so whichever side looks after the ball better for the entire match should come out on top. Currie have a bit of an advantage when they break, but with both back lines having nifty backs able to exploit a space this will hopefully have some exciting tries from both teams.

Players to watch: Hawks stand-off Duncan Weir and Currie’s Richard Snedden

Scotland Squad News

Head coach Andy Robinson has today announced a 36-strong squad as Scotland and Scotland A begin their preparations for next weekend’s matches against their Italian counterparts.

The squad will gather at Murrayfield on Sunday (21 February) ahead of both Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations Championship match against Italy at the Stadio Flaminio, Rome, on Saturday 27 February; and Scotland A’s match against Italy A in Biella on Friday 26 February.

Additional players will be called in for Scotland A duty next week but the enlarged squad will train together on Monday and Tuesday.

Both lock Nathan Hines (Leinster) and flanker Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester) who missed last weekend’s game in Cardiff through injury, are expected to be fit to take an active part in training.

Squad: Backs – Mike Blair, Ben Cairns (both Edinburgh), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Graeme Morrison, Dan Parks (both Glasgow Warriors), Mark Robertson (Edinburgh), Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), Nikki Walker (Ospreys)

Forwards – John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown (all Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Ross Ford, Roddy Grant (both Edinburgh), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Richie Gray, Dougie Hall (both Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), Nathan Hines (Leinster), Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald (both Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors).

Unavailable to train through injury: Jim Thompson (Edinburgh).

Invited to attend squad training: Simon Webster (Edinburgh).

Scotland’s cap centurion Chris Paterson is returning home from Cardiff today as medics are satisfied that he has recovered sufficiently from the kidney damage he sustained in Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations Championship match against Wales last week.

Meanwhile, Scotland wing Thom Evans has undergone a second operation on his neck at University Hospital in Cardiff and surgeons are pleased with his progress.

Scotland coach Andy Robinson visited both players in Cardiff yesterday. He said: “It was uplifting to speak to both players and hear first-hand that they’re both feeling better. Once again, on behalf of the Scotland team, I want to thank our own medical team, the Welsh Rugby Union medical personnel at the Millennium Stadium and all the staff at the University Hospital in Cardiff for the quite magnificent care they have delivered.”

Scotland team doctor James Robson said today: “Mossy (Chris Paterson) was discharged from hospital in Cardiff on Tuesday night. He has rested for a couple of days further in Cardiff and is now well enough to travel home with his wife Claire, which is excellent news.

“Thom, after discussion with his family and the surgeons who performed his initial operation, elected to undergo a second procedure to enhance his recovery.

“This surgery has now taken place. Thom is in good spirits and the surgeons are delighted with his progress.

“Thom has asked me to pass on his heart-felt thanks to the thousands of people who have expressed their support.

“At this stage I would expect that, if Thom’s recovery continues in the same vein, he will be able to return home next week.”

Glasgow team v. Cardiff Blues

Magners League fixture kick off 7.30 P.M. at Firhill

15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 Hefin O’Hare, 13 Max Evans, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Mark McMillan CAPTAIN, 1 Jon Welsh, 2 Dougie Hall, 3 Moray Low, 4 Tim Barker, 5 Richie Gray, 6 James Eddie, 7 Chris Fusaro (Heriot’s)*, 8 Richie Vernon

Substitutes: 16 Fergus Thomson, 17 Kevin Tkachuk, 18 Dan Turner, 19 Paul Burke (Ayr), 20 Colin Gregor, 21 Alex Dunbar (Selkirk)*, 22 Peter Murchie

Players to watch:

Rhuaridh Jackson: Sign of the future, next year he should be pencilled into this position at a more regular basis when Dan Parks will be playing for the Cardiff Blues. This is his chance to show that Parks won’t be missed too much. With versatility in hisability to play full back (as shown during his spell at Ayr) this also could count as an audition for him to show his value as a potential squad member for the Scotland Squad. He must start to show his potential fast, or Frazier Climo could be hot in his heels for both club and country.

James Eddie: A flanker in the Kelly Brown mould, he must be one of the players ear marked to contest to be a new member of the “Killer B” back row due to the departure of the aforementioned Kelly Brown. A very methodical, consistent player who gives outstanding effort, he has put in some impressive performances for West of Scotland. An alumni of the same school of former Glasgow Warriors back row rival, Stevie Swindall, who is now playing for Rotherham, Eddie could be the one who ends up eclipsing his former school mate in becoming an automatic starter for the Warriors.

Max Evans: What does it mean that he is playing this game?  We are none the wiser for his selection today. A player who has hardly been an ever present this season, he could be in the side to get his match fitness ready for the next 6 nations fixture, although some will debate the risk of playing him considering the spate of injuries Scotland have suffered in the last week. His selection at outside centre probably means he won’t be slotting in for Scotland as a winger in a direct replacement for his injured brother, allowing Sean Lamont to stay at outside centre, as was rumoured earlier this week. However, this match could also be a test for Evans, as his underwhelming performance against France probably still leaves a bitter taste in Robinson’s mouth.

And two you might not be able to:

Colin Gregor: Glasgow’s forgotten man, performs well whenever and where ever he is called upon. This is exactly the type of fixture that Gregor normally gets to show his talents, when his other, more recognised team mates are away on international duty. He was Man of the Match against Scarlets this season and he is able to step in at scrum half, stand off, full back and centre, but he is a victim of his own versatility.

Paul Burke : A very interesting call up who has been on fire for Ayr this season, especially in the British and Irish cup tie against Rotherham. He also made a difference when he came on in the recent club international against France. His career has been scuppered somewhat by injuries so far but he is now beginning to fulfill his potential and he could make a push to be a major player in professional rugby in this country.

And one Glasgow Warriors want you to watch:

Richie Vernon : As rumours continued in the Herald yesterday about Beattie’s future at the club, with hints that he could follow Kelly Brown out the door, the Warriors wouldn’t want to consider losing a player of Beattie’s standard if they didn’t have a replacement lined up. Warriors and the SRU clearly think they have something in Vernon and if he continues in the form he showed in the post Christmas fixture against Edinburgh, they will be proven right.

A Quick Chat With The Future: Part 1 – Rory Hutton

When one looks at Rory Hutton, he’ll be the first to admit, he doesn’t look like a rugby player. Tall and slender, slight with a lazy gate you could be forgiven for thinking he was an electrician, or something! Then you put a ball in the kid’s hands.

When Rory played against Cardiff on the 9th of January rugby viewers in the Celtic regions sat up and took notice. While easing into the game in a way natural to his insouciant spirit, it was his feint and dart that made spectators catch their breath. Twice he unlocked the Cardiff defence and made seasoned pros and British Lions follow imaginary passes. If he gets on this Friday he could do it to Munster.

He’s been doing this for years. Just ask anyone from Hawick. He’s got 5 7’s caps to prove he is a talented ball player. Even in his fleeting forays into this season’s Scottish Hydro Premier 1 matches for Heriot’s he has shown glimpses of something special. Is he ready for a professional contract? Most likely. Is he going to be the answer to Scotland’s problems at 10? We will have to wait and see. One thing is for sure; Wherever Rory plays, he will be doing so with a smile on his face.

A.D. briefly caught up (‘Countdown’ style) with Rory this week;

AD: Alright, Rory! How do you feel your season has gone so far?

RH: It’s been ok. A bit stop start with injuries but I’ve had a game with Edinburgh and on the whole it’s going pretty well.

Being, ostensibly, an Academy player stepping into your first pro. game, how did you feel before the Cardiff game?

I did feel a little bit nervous. Training had gone well, though, and I was more excited at the chance, rather than anything else.

Having made an impact on that game how have you coped with the increase in recognition and notoriety? A lot are calling for you to get a contract next season/play for Scotland, after all!

Ha-ha it’s been fine! I’ve not noticed it too much to be honest. I try and just get on with my rugby.

Has it changed your outlook on games?

No I always take every game the same. It’s important to perform at whatever level I’m involved in.

What is your normal match preparation? (Day before: food, sleep, cinema, swimming etc)?

I try and eat well and regularly. Other than that I just chill out, usually with the girlfriend.

How lovely…Away from rugby, what is your Nickname?

For some reason I have now become known as ‘The Eel’ at Heriot’s.

What is your drink of choice?

I am prone to an Irn Bru.

What’s a perfect Saturday night for you?

I like to go out have a good laugh with the boys. Always being sensible, though…

What is your ‘Dream Job’?

I wouldn’t mind being a musician.

If you could be a kingpin in any other sport, who would it be?

Easy. Usain bolt. Superstar.

Which 3 people, dead or alive, would you love to go for a pint with?

Frankie Boyle, Peter Griffin from family guy…and your lovely self!

And finally…Scarlett Johansson or Beyonce Knowles?

Beyonce

Look out for Rory in Edinburgh’s colours this Friday as he lines up on the bench against champions Munster. He could also feature for Heriot’s in their upcoming British and Irish Cup games. It could be an exciting 6N period for the youngster.

I will hopefully be back soon with a quick word with another up-and-coming Scottish prospect…

Edinburgh Team For Munster / Evans Update

Back down to earth with a bang for big Jim Hamilton who is dragooned straight into action, but the rest of the Scotland XV remain absent. With potential vacancies in the Scottish back division forced by injury, there could be a chance for some of these players to raise their hands, certainly for the 13 shirt assuming Sean Lamont is to be shuffled back out to the wing. Here’s the team:

Edinburgh: Ben Cairns; Mark Robertson, Nick De Luca, John Houston, Tim Visser, David Blair, Greig Laidlaw (captain); Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Jim Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Roddy Grant, David Callam. Replacements: Ryan Grant, Allan Jacobsen, Craig Hamilton, Fraser McKenzie, Mike Blair, Rory Hutton, Simon Webster.

Speaking of Mr Hutton (who has a place on the bench), I have a sneaking suspicion that A.D might have an exclusive piece for you later in the week…

This weekend Glasgow take on Cardiff at Firhill, Gregor will have some news for you on that I should think. Also in case you’d like an update on Thom Evans, here you are:

The injured Scotland players Thom Evans and Chris Paterson are continuing today to recover from the injuries they sustained in the RBS 6 Nations Championship match against Wales last weekend.

The pair remain in University Hospital Cardiff and both are described as being in “good spirits” by medical staff.

Scotland team doctor James Robson said: “Thom has been heartened by the many messages of support he has received from around the world.

“The surgeons are delighted with his progress. Thom and his mum met with the surgeons last night and Thom has opted to undergo a further procedure later this week, which will enhance the surgery that has already taken place and provide further stabilisation to his neck.

“This procedure is optional and Thom could have decided to have it done at a later point, or not at all. He’s decided to go ahead now and that should help with the whole recovery process.

“The same surgeons who performed the initial operation will undertake this procedure. Once he has settled from this procedure the expectation would be that he will be allowed to return home.”

Less Invictus, more Convictus

Despite the result Saturday had everything a 6N weekend needs. Plus a little more criminal activity.

Any great story or sporting event has certain key components that make it memorable. If you were making a feature film about a game (Take notes, Mr. Eastwood!) then Scotland vs. Wales certainly met all the right criteria. Somehow I think most of us would have rather seen the director’s cut, though!

To make a blockbuster accessible you need clearly defined heroes and villains. Well there were both at the Millennium Stadium. While Parks cut an unlikely figure as the skilful saviour Chris Paterson took on the role of the elder statesman, before taking his final bow for this campaign. On the other side Shane Williams, aka ‘The Milkman’, popped up at the final twist to ensure a disappointing ending for the Scots. Then we come to the bad guys. I actually feel a little sorry for WCP because if I was the last man for Scotland and it looked like a definite try I would probably take the hit and do what he did. Scott Lawson, however, has no excuse. Bang in the middle of the park, slow ball, numbers up in defence. Basically, the kid had a shocker!

We are not even going to talk about the pantomime villain Jonathan Davies…

Another vital aspect of a Hollywood hit is a level of mystery. Thankfully, Clancy (George not Tom – ed.) had that covered. The scrum was a mess and no one knows why. I’m not saying that Murray was scrummaging well, but it should have been an indicator to Clancy that the scrum stopped nose-diving when James went off the park for a stint. In fact, regardless of who the culprit was a yellow card early doors may have discouraged Lawson from being so naïve later on. Precedence has a tendency to influence decisions later. Clancy left himself so much work in the last quarter.

Blockbusters also need tragedy, and unfortunately the game had this, too. 3 players are out for a long time. It is doubtful that Evans will play again this season and it is looking like Paterson and Lamont will have relatively lengthy lay-offs. The good news is that Evans is improving according to doctors and his surgery was successful. There will now be, though, a few spaces up for grabs for the next game and there should be changes. Evans for Evans makes sense, but why, oh why does Robbo not rate Southwell? Maybe bringing Grove back in would be sensible.

Comedy relief is another thing you need but this didn’t come until after the game. Andy Powell has consequently been dropped from the Welsh team. The worse hangover ever? Maybe not, but the drunken use of a Golf Buggy, no matter how funny it is, is not original. If you want a lesson in going off the rails on a golf course look at Italy’s Stand-off Craig Gower’s Wikipedia page. Can you relate?!

Unfortunately for us, the last thing a sports movie needs is an underdog or comeback story. Well Wales made sure of that. It was almost spectacular how well Scotland were playing in the first half but does our nationalistic pessimism have to always manifest itself? We were the agents of our own downfall. We were 10 points up with 7 minutes left and with a bit less harum scarum and perhaps more sensible ‘cheating’ and gamesmanship we could have seen the result out.

Picking on Byrne is a bit silly. If it was a professional foul then we cannot blame him or the ref. We didn’t see it. ‘Diving’ is a big debate in football, and Thierry Henry’s handball begged the same question, as bloodgate before it; is it ever worth cheating? I know a few club players who will occasionally dive when the situation merits it… and I know a lot of coaches would take the rewards gleaned from it, even if they don’t condone it. No one questions Byrne’s hardness or work ethic. If he did cheat, which is up in the air anyway, then he got a win out of it. I digress. The signs are there that we can achieve something and if we play at the pace we were in the first half for 80 against England, we should win. If we play with the width and guile we had in the first half for 80 against Italy, we should win.

Sorry for all the crippling movie metaphors. A bit cringe, but it gets the point across… kind of. We need the sequel, I mean next game, to be better. But not by much. The pack continues to perform and Ford and Murray should play 80 next time round. Hamilton did surprisingly well considering he’s not played much. Beattie continues to carry like a game breaker. Barclay must rack up more events than anyone else in post match analysis and Brown sat more than one taff on his backside. Now if Parks can play like he did in the next test, obviously without flying up and leaving an Alessandro Zanni-sized hole in defence, then the backline could be firing and exciting, regardless of personnel.

The outlook is good… Just as long as Jonathan Davies isn’t behind you.

Here is also a brief Prem. 1 roundup

Watsonians 3 – 7 Edinburgh Accies
at Myreside

West of Scotland 20 – 18 Melrose
at Burnbrae

Dundee High 52 – 5 Stew Mel
at Mayfield

The Benchwarmers

When you’re picked to start on the subs bench of an international rugby fixture you probably dream of coming on and altering the course of the game, being the catalyst for a turn around, drastically changing the outcome of the fixture. Scott Lawson and Phil Godman did just that.

Heartbreak Fridge

Well boys ‘n’ girls wasn’t that a right royal kick to the rugby knackers?

Never have I felt so deflated, upset, despondent yet awfully proud at a game of rugby.  To a man Scotland played out of their socks and in Dan Parks had the outstanding player on the field of play – his performance in defeat is one of the finest in a Scotland shirt in a long time.   I’ve no idea how Robinson will go about lifting the spirits of the team after the crushing blow of Saturday but I hope he reminds the players of the level of performance they turned in and how, in the first half in particular, they played some damn good rugby.  I also hope he shows them the dirge that Italy and England served up – in my opinion Scotland have a damn site more to offer that either of those sides, even with the injured players.

Everything Left On The Pitch

Wales 31-24 Scotland

This weekend the game of rugby itself received a transfusion of energy, as finally the Six Nations lived up to its billing and provided rugby fans with sporting drama of the kind not seen since the second Lions Test last year, and before that not seen at test level for some time. The fact that the drama was created with skill in attack rather than restriction in defence was all the more heartening.

It was just unfortunate that new lifeblood was drawn from the twitching corpse of a Scotland back division battered into a wholly unrecognisable shape. Wingers in the centre, centres on the wing, half-backs on the wing, forwards on the wing. Wales’s onslaught in the last ten minutes was as physical and skilful as their approach in the first half had been inept in the face of a near perfect Scotland performance. By the time they finally came at Scotland – sensing as Scotland fans probably could too the inevitability that they would steal this game – they faced a group of players not used to defending a decent and deserved lead, players out of position: players out on their feet.

Comparisons were drawn in a BBC interview with Scotland and Lions Team Doctor James Robson with the body count in the aforementioned 2nd Lions Test and while that game had five serious injuries (and a gouge), it still seems that great sporting drama exacts a high physical toll. Scotland are now faced with the removal of the entire first choice back three, their front line place kicker and their fastest attacking player.

I should imagine the pack remains the same for the next game, having done little wrong. Once again the back row were outstanding, Brown the best I have ever seen him. At 10 Dan Parks will undoubtedly retain his place, and he will deserve it (and anyway Godman may conceivably be banned, no one seems sure if it was a red or yellow he received – more distinctly dodgy TV direction from the BBC Wales OB unit). As we’d all hoped, Dan’s tactical control allowed Scotland to show what they could do playing the game in the right areas. Cusiter too led from just the right side of the law and was outstanding in rallying the troops and defending. I’d still like to see him break more, but unless you are the size of Mike Phillips it seems increasingly hard for a scrum-half to get away from the hangers-on at the breakdown (hangers-on like Scott Lawson, who will wish to forget that particular moment of rashness).

For the next game against Italy, Robinson will have to make changes. I would like to see Grove in, Morrison will have to stay – and he wasn’t too bad anyway. Sean Lamont would move back to the wing (although he should still come inside hunting for work) and probably Max Evans on the other wing. He may look to bring in a specialist winger, but look what Evans can do with 5 minutes on the pitch and the understanding he has with Parks. Southwell is the best candidate to come in at full back and you have a back division still mostly consisting of players from the core of this team.

Because it is this team you want to preserve, this team that is restoring a little hope to Scotland and so nearly much more, and this team that will want to make sure it never happens to them again.

Things left on the “cutting room floor” of this article: showboating wingers, George Clancy, diving full-backs, Jonathan Davies’ standard of “neutral” commentary, paying attention to the clock, continually being shafted by inept Irish referees, playing running rugby with the roof open, Andy Powell and the game of golf, George Clancy. Feel free to gripe in the comments section!