Ruairidh Campbell reports on Scotland 7s’ latest adventures in Tokyo as they look to build on success from Hong Kong.
It has been confirmed that Scotland Sevens will be representing the land of wild haggis, Nessie and the Buckfast triangle at this years Commonwealth Games. Whether they will send the usual mix of academy players and the legend that is Colin Gregor, or whether they will turn out a team of pro-team ringers as they do at Murrayfield every year remains to be seen.
Thom Evans has returned to Scotland. Apparently he was even up and moving about last week. What a trooper.
Moray Low is out for the rest of the 6N as he requires knee surgery. Get well soon Moray!
Here’s the Scotland A team for the weekend too:
Scotland A: Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), Mark Robertson (Edinburgh), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), John Houston (Edinburgh), Simon Webster (Edinburgh), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh, capt), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Kelly (Edinburgh), Kyle Traynor (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Scott MacLeod (Edinburgh), James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: Fergus Thomson (Glasgow Warriors), Ed Kalman (Glasgow Warriors), Craig Hamilton (Edinburgh), Roddy Grant (Edinburgh), Mark McMillan (Glasgow Warriors), David Blair (Edinburgh), Peter Murchie (Glasgow Warriors).
Good to see Colin Gregor at full back. Not sure about the rumours of Jim Thompson moving west, I’d like to see him stay and compete with Mossy for the Edinburgh 15 shirt – he’s sure to get a chance as soon as the league resumes anyway and it would be a shame to nail down a place then move. I’d also like to see Gregor given more of a shot at 15, yes he is wee but so is Ben Foden and Peter Horne has looked good at 15 on the few occasions I have seen him too.
Also good luck to the boys playing in the British and Irish Cup this weekend. I’ve got some stuff on this weekend so I’m not even sure if I’ll see the Italy game (gulp), but one of the other guys will chip in with their thoughts I am sure. Thanks for all your feedback on the blog (2 articles down from here), keep it coming!
During whiteout conditions at Murrayfield on Saturday where the weather played a larger role than either of the teams for a chunk of the first half, Edinburgh managed to grab a victory against Bath. It was a pity the snow came in when it did, as both teams were showing a willingness to throw the ball about, but when the ball became invisible in a sea of white it became time for a game of Very Cold Hot Potato (mixed in with a little Dead Ants).
Mossy’s boot saved them as it has so often, and while I have often been reluctant to wade in on the whole Mossy at 10 thing, Godman’s form seems to be on the wane while Mossy seems to have gained a yard of pace, gets turned over in the tackle far less and his tactical kicking is miles better than it was and miles ahead of Godman. He’s surely done enough to be the front runner for the Scotland 15 shirt with Hugo a close second (who honestly believed he would be a regular at Stade?), but is he worth a look at 10 for Edinburgh as so many have suggested? (This is assuming Rory Lamont remains in the injury information black-hole he is currently in). While Robbo has been telling anyone who will listen about Scotland’s deficiencies in the 10 position, is Mossy finally worth a shout, having made his tactical game a bit, well, more Dan Parks-esque?
Speaking of Parks, he controlled the game against Gloucester extremely well in the first half while Barclay led the forwards in a masterclass in frustrating the opposition. For a game with so many Scot on Scot match-ups there was plenty of niggle, and no doubt a sign of what is to come next weekend (worryingly for Edinburgh, the Weej seem to excel in this area). Yet in the second half Gloucester came out and pretty much reversed the situation, bullying Glasgow off their 0-6 lead and the ball and sharpening up their attack enough to take the victory. A raft of late-term substitutions probably didn’t help Glasgow – much in the same way as it buggered up Edinburgh last week – with Cusiter going off and replacement McMillan then having to hide at the back with an injury while Gregor filled in at scrum half. This only served to rob Glasgow of Gregor’s running lines and pace from at the back, which they were already short of with Thom Evans out. The Gloucester Scottish showed up well too with Scott and Rory Lawson and Al Strokosch showing good skills in attack, although Kellock and Gray were all over Lawson (hooker) at the lineout. And one more thing: does Graeme Morrison ever pass? You’d be as well playing Richie Vernon in the centre, who unveiled the pace that has Glasgow abuzz while the rest of us were initially wondering why Beattie was left on the bench in favour of a guy with two first names…
Stade Francais 31-7 Edinburgh
Glasgow 18-22 Biarritz
Ugh. Edinburgh flatter to deceive (get hammered) and Glasgow come close but fail to squeeze out the result they definitely deserved. So far, so Scottish teams in the Heineken Cup. I thought there were a few positives to be taken from the weekends defeats though.
Johnnie Beattie finally took it to the next level with a great performance level that if maintained could and should see him challenge Hoggy and Simon Taylor for the Scotland No 8 shirt. Won’t matter to Jonathan Davies who can’t tell the difference.
Thom Evans is rediscovering form with every game and was a palpable threat whenever he had the ball. He just lacks the opportunities in the right spaces without his brother inside him, but Dave McCall is also getting up to speed with each game and building on his solid defence. In the Glasgow backline, Colin Gregor continues to be a hive of activity with a wee bit of flair and Rob Dewey looked a little more at home at centre than his recent home on the wing. Still, they weren’t quite able to put it together in the midfield when needed in order to win the game.
Dan Parks is at least doing what he does very well – kick the ball around Firhill on a bit of invisble string. But he still made two silly choices when the run – and scoring opportunity – was clearly on. With the Glasgow backs’ handling skills and pace, such negligence borders on the criminal. Parks can run the backline very well but it seems his instinct is still to kick. What price Ruaridh Jackson or even Colin Gregor marshalling the onslaught on Biarritz’s try line that often went unrewarded?
Glasgow’s front row is developing into a powerful scrummaging unit, and the props are both under 24 so well off propping “peak”. Still (as with Edinburgh) the lineout was fairly abysmal and led to the slightly iffy try that in the end decided the match. With Ford and Hall both having dreadful days at the lineout, who does Robbo turn to for the Scotland No 2 shirt? (Although some of the “not straight” decisions were a mile straighter than the ones allowed regularly in the scrum. However, the Feeding At The Scrum and Lineout Equality Group (aka FATSLEG) is yet to be convened and start its world-conquering grass-roots petition, so that will have to wait – watch this space!). Glasgow are definitely gettting there, and so to Edinburgh…
Mossy looks in good form, his work on sprinting has paid off and he seems to have developed a yard of pace to go with his eye for a wee gap – he should be back at 15 on merit. Cairns looks good but rarely saw the ball. If Houston is injured, I still reckon Cairns should be playing 12 and De Luca 13. Regardless, there was some slack midfield tackling that gave Stade an unassailable lead far too early on, and Scottish teams always struggle trying to force the game.
Umm, that’s about it for Edinburgh. Okay so they won the second half 7-3 with a well taken try but by then Stade’s foot was so far off the gas that they resembled someone dropping a bucket of paint over a traffic jam (slowly) rather than the confident riot of colour and pace from the first half. Roddy Grant looks fully at home in the 15s game, and is it just me or were Edinburgh much better when Hogg was captain? Perhaps it was just poorer opposition early on in the season. Far too many handling errors, no lineout control and lack of quick ball for/from Blair basically put the dampeners on Edinburgh’s match. At least it is a game out of the way that they would not perhaps realistically have targeted as a “Win” in their battle to escape the pool, but one wonders if it will prove a damaging blow to the confidence of a team that we felt had moved forward so much under Andy Robinson.
UPDATE: Rob Dewey seems to have broken his ankle, keeping him out well past the Autumn Internationals. DTH Van Der Merwe has also broken a bone in his hand.
Well done to Edinburgh for a good result away from home facing down an admittedly poor Cardiff team and coping with the usual performance from G. Clancy esq. Did I say Edinburgh? Oh, I meant Glasgow. Telling the difference between the Scottish pro teams must be getting hard for poor old BBC Wales, who made several references to John Beattie, Firhill, and playing Biarritz next week during the coverage of Edinburgh’s pisspoor display against the Ospreys. Granted, Beattie (junior, I can only imagine) and Ally Hogg may share a hairdresser and Edinburgh have “Aberdeen” on their shirts to confuse matters further, but it’s pretty commentary standards (never mind the bias). This gave me something to get excited about and shout at the telly for (not really the TV’s fault I suppose), given I was long past the point of shouting at Edinburgh’s general ineptitude.
Roddy Grant looked sharper at the breakdown than pretty much the whole team put together, and Ospreys turned Edinburgh over almost at will. A few chances went begging but inability to (or lack of desire to) keep ball proved pretty foolish against an international class (and in many places Lions/world class) backline who promptly cut them to shreds. Good to see Nikki Walker looking sharp though. Godman kicked perfectly from tee so Mossy was not missed in that regard, but as one of the chaps pointed out on the BBC boards, his marshalling of the defensive line was sorely absent. Stand in full back and new signing Steve Jones didn’t cover himself in glory, shall we say, but he should not be the scapegoat.
Meanwhile new Glasgow full back Peter Horne got one kick of the ball on Saturday and sclaffed it into touch, but as it was to end the match I can’t really complain. Still, it’s a good sign for a youngster that he looked thoroughly disappointed in himself even for something that had no bearing on the game. The match had long since been won by the combined work of Colin Gregor and Thom Evans behind a sturdy pack effort and this time Glasgow did not surrender their half time lead. Huzzahs all round for pseudo-Highlander Moray Low’s boot up field that eventually led to Johnnie Beattie’s try (see Jonathan, he was playing for Glasgow). With Cusiter undoubtedly the best 9 Glasgow have, perhaps they should find somewhere else to bring Gregor’s skills into play on a more regular basis – 10 or 15 perhaps?
Big Nathan looks like he would have had fun during the Leinster 30-0 demolition of Munster that brought several tries, a bit of controversy and no doubt plenty of niggle. A much better range of highlights from STV this week too – they are learning a game of rugby is not just the penalty offences that lead to points and I reckon it’s getting better.
Next weekend – Heineken Cup!
According to this article in the Scotsman, Hugo Southwell might be heading to pastures new. While a move to Harlequins so they could have shouted Ugo AND Hugo might have been better for the amusement of people like me, it sounds like he could be heading to France. Presumably the reason for this is Paterson’s kicking will cement his place in the Edinburgh team, but it leaves them a bit short when Mossy gets injured or is away on international duty. Cairns and De Luca have both filled in at full-back for Edinburgh in the past, and Jim Thompson could follow the example of Colin Gregor for Glasgow last month as a sevens man slotting in at 15 and playing a blinder. From there they get plenty of space to look up and see what’s on, rather than, say, just hoofing it skywards. I thought Gregor did a pretty decent job, and Thompson is physically more what you’d expect a full back to be. Sorry Colin, but you’re wee. Speaking of which, he’s playing 15 again this weekend as Glasgow take on Matt Williams’ Ulster. Ruaridh Jackson once again gets a shot at the 10 shirt and Andrew Henderson returns from injury to take a slot on the bench. Meanwhile Edinburgh take on a Leinster side still featuring plenty of internationals, just not the front line ones. Gordon D’Arcy may take a last tilt at the Lions tour here, and it’s a final chance for the Scottish guys to put a hand up. To be fair, the squad is announced on Tuesday so they’d have to do something pretty spectacular to get in at this late stage!
Anyway, should Hugo indeed be away to pastures new, we at Scottish Rugby Blog would of course wish him all the best.
Edinburgh 15 – 13 Leinster
Leinster turned up in Edinburgh needing “only” 4 tries and the victory to clinch the title. Despite Edinburgh’s best efforts to throw it away in the dying minutes, the home lads clung on against heavy pressure from the Leinster forwards to grab the points and move up to fourth in the Magners League (for now) – with a little help from the goal post that denied Contepomi in the final minute. Despite pack dominance, Leinster never seemed like scoring as often as they needed to, with the back division a little bit clueless at times, even with Contepomi and O’ Driscoll a world class centre pairing. De Luca and Callam both had good games, and Godman sounded a wee bit hit and miss. Hugo missed a drop-goal. Telling that Leinster didn’t cross until the 75th minute – the championship will have to wait.
Glasgow 25 – 23 Llanelli
A decent sized crowd at Murrayfield from the sound of it too, although not as enthusiastic as the support at Glasgow, who also came out the end of their rollercoaster match against Llanelli two points ahead. Once again Parks made it difficult for his critics with a try scoring and kicking display. Colin Gregor seemed to pop up at scrum-half and full-back, scoring a try in the process. Afterwards, coach Lineen criticised his teams decision making, that “butchered” a number of potential tries, but it seems they couldn’t be faulted for effort at the end to hold on to the win. They may regret allowing Llanelli the bonus point though.