On­wards and up­wards from this plat­form

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 SPORT - Craig Chalmers

JOB done. Some peo­ple might have thought all Scot­land needed to do was turn up to beat Italy yes­ter­day, but there was a lot more to it than that. They had lost badly last week, and were bat­tered and bruised against Eng­land, and re­sults like that can take a lot of get­ting over.

They took time to find their feet, but in the sec­ond quar­ter they steadily got on top and be­gan to dom­i­nate Italy. I thought Ali Price and Finn Rus­sell con­trolled the game pretty well, and oth­ers, such as Alex Dun­bar and Hamish Wat­son, had cru­cial roles to play in giv­ing us mo­men­tum.

At half-time the game looked in the bag with Scot­land 15-0 ahead, but the third quar­ter was strange. Italy had most of the ball, even though they were un­able to do very much with it, and some of our play­ers who have had im­por­tant roles to play in other games were hardly in this one. Tommy Sey­mour, for ex­am­ple, did not get into the match for long stretches, al­though on the other wing, Tim Visser, was a bit more in­volved.

It was at this stage of the game that our de­fence came into their own. Stu­art Hogg has been crit­i­cised at times for his de­fence, but he was mag­nif­i­cent here, deny­ing the Ital­ians a cou­ple of scores. His wife gave birth to a daugh­ter last week so he was ob­vi­ously fired up for this one, and it was re­ally pleas­ing to see him do so well at one of the not-so-glam­orous ar­eas of the game. In the last quar­ter, Scot­land took con­trol again and Italy faded. Let’s be hon­est, they were dread­ful – prob­a­bly the worst Ital­ian team I’ve seen for a long time. They have a mas­sive re­build­ing job to do.

Hav­ing said that, Scot­land de­serve a lot of credit for the pro­fes­sional way they han­dled the match, no mat­ter how poor their op­po­nents were. The task was to win the game with a bonus point to give them the best pos­si­ble chance of fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the RBS 6 Na­tions Cham­pi­onship, and they ac­com­plished that task re­ally well, even though their ef­forts were in vain. They might have scored one or two more tries, but on bal­ance you have to say it was an ex­cel­lent way to end the tour­na­ment and Vern Cot­ter’s three years as head coach.

It was re­ally emo­tional at the end, see­ing how much the sup­port­ers have come to ap­pre­ci­ate Vern, and you could see how much it meant to him too. He was welling up when he was be­ing in­ter­viewed on TV and had to walk away. It showed how much he has en­joyed his time here.

This game was a fit­ting way for him to go, and now he hands over to Gre­gor Townsend. The team have ob­vi­ously come a long way in their three years un­der Vern, and the job now will be to keep im­prov­ing and de­vel­op­ing. I think they’ll do that.

There is so much po­ten­tial there, and I hope that in next year’s Cham­pi­onship this team can go one or even two games bet­ter than they did with their three wins this year.

I’m sure one of the rea­sons Gre­gor wanted to take over as Scot­land coach at this time was the po­ten­tial he can see in the squad, and the fact they are steadily get­ting bet­ter as they gain more ex­pe­ri­ence. They’re a young team and I don’t think we’ll see the best of them un­til the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It will be up to

The team have ob­vi­ously come a long way un­der Vern and the job for Gre­gor will be to en­sure they keep im­prov­ing and de­vel­op­ing

Gre­gor to en­sure they are at their peak by then. Of course, there will be one or two changes be­tween now and then – some play­ers will come back into the reck­on­ing and oth­ers may drop out, but if and when ev­ery­one is fit – and we should not for­get the in­juries that ruled other play­ers out dur­ing the course of the tour­na­ment – this team could be a match for any­one.

They have climbed up to fifth in the world rank­ings and let’s hope they stay up there. Hav­ing men­tioned the youth of the team, I’d have to say that they also showed great ma­tu­rity in the way they bounced back from last week.

I saw three or four of them af­ter the match at Twick­en­ham and it was clear they were hurt­ing badly.

That match apart, there have been lots of pos­i­tives to look at in this cam­paign. Rugby is on a high in Scot­land at the mo­ment, and ev­ery­one in­volved with the squad is en­ti­tled to give him­self a pat on the back.

Stu­art Hogg and Finn Rus­sell are big play­ers for Scot­land and will only con­tinue to get bet­ter

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.