Onwards and upwards from this platform
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