Wishy-washy Scot­land have a bit of clean­ing up to do for next Test

Cot­ter ad­mits play­ers lacked co­he­sion but ex­pects sec­ond match to be dif­fer­ent

The Herald - Herald Sport - - RUGBY UNION - LEWIS STU­ART

FIRST game of the tour; first as a team for al­most three months; first for many of the play­ers for at least four weeks. This was a team where all the cogs had clogged up. The ques­tion now is whether one run is enough to clear the legacy of in­ac­tion and send Scot­land into the sec­ond Test ready to cut out the mis­takes and win with a bit of style.

No­body is kid­ding them­selves. Scot­land may have won the first en­counter, but there was not a lot of swag­ger about it and bar­ring the pe­riod when the home side were down first one and then two men, it was a clas­sic clash be­tween the European mus­cle power and East­ern speed and in­ven­tion.

The mo­ment of the game be­longed to the home side. A tap penalty sent Amanaki Mafi, the No.8, ca­reer­ing down the touch­line and find­ing sup­port so that Shota Horie, the cap­tain, could stroll over the line a phase later, and there was a lot more am­bi­tion from the play­ers in red than the ones in blue.

How­ever, in the end, power told. With the Ja­panese li­ne­out mis­fir­ing and the vis­it­ing for­wards en­joy­ing a sig­nif­i­cant weight ad­van­tage, Scot­land were able to cash-in on the pe­riod when the Brave Blos­soms were short-handed and col­lect two tries to give them the cush­ion to see out the largely in­con­clu­sive play of the rest of the game.

It was such an itsy-bitsy, wishy-washy game, with nei­ther side able to es­tab­lish much of a pat­tern, that it is hard to work out what it means for next week, when the home side will have the ad­van­tage of Ak­i­hito, the Em­peror of Japan turn­ing up for his first ex­pe­ri­ence of Test rugby. In this staunchly tra­di­tional coun­try, that is bound to add a bit of ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion for the home side.

For Scot­land, it is clear that they have a lot of clean­ing up to do.

“There are a few things to iron out,” ad­mit­ted Ryan Wilson, the No. 8. “Our dis­ci­pline was good in at­tack and we didn’t give much away in de­fence in terms of penal­ties, but we lost the ball a few times and we have to clean that up. Our li­ne­out worked well and our set piece was good.

“It was our first game in that sort of heat. It was very hot out there. There were a few tired bod­ies at half-time, but we pride our­selves on be­ing a fit team and we said that the sec­ond half would be where we’d get them. We saw a few of the Ja­panese play­ers go­ing down in the first half and we felt we could re­ally go at them out there.

“We maybe forced a few things too much. We’re a team that is try­ing to play a bit, but there were a few times when we maybe un­der­es­ti­mated them a bit at the break­down. They are very quick and good over the ball. That’s an­other thing that we’ll have to look at.”

Strangely, though, Vern Cot­ter reck­oned that the break­down had been one of the suc­cess sto­ries of the night, and that the over­all per­for­mance was up a level upon the end of the Six Na­tions.

“The team pre­pared well,” the head coach said.

“There were parts where we didn’t have that co­he­sion that we would have liked, but com­pared to the Ireland game – where I thought we weren’t par­tic­u­larly good at con­tact – we lifted that. It is sat­is­fy­ing to know that we could look at that per­for­mance and correct things.

“We knew they would be very quick over the ball. We watched some ju­nior rugby here and saw young kids, just five years old, on hit pads – con­tact is one of the things they are very strong at. They get num­bers there quickly. It will be an­other ball game next Satur­day in Tokyo.

“There was rea­son­able com­po­sure, but we can ex­e­cute and de­velop our game bet­ter. I thought we could have a lit­tle bit more move­ment be­fore con­tact. There’s a whole range of things we can im­prove, but over­all I’m happy to get the win.”

Scot­land did that mainly through the boot of Greig Laid­law, whose per­sonal haul was 16 points. The tries both came when Japan had a man or men in the sin bin.

T he first came when Hen­drik Tui, the flanker, was off for com­ing in the side of a ruck, and af­ter ham­mer­ing the line through the for­wards Stu­art Hogg was on the point of send­ing Tommy Seymour in when Rikiya Mat­suda, the re­place­ment full-back, slapped the ball away. Scot­land got the penalty try and Mat­suda joined his col­league in the bin.

The Scots made hard work of us­ing their two-man ad­van­tage, but in the end Willem Nel bur­rowed his way over the line and they had a 13-point ad­van­tage that they held to the end. Japan hit back with that Horie try, but re­al­is­ti­cally, those 13 min­utes short-handed had ended their re­sis­tance.

Pic­ture: Getty

STOP RIGHT THERE: John Bar­clay gets to grips with Tim Ben­netts dur­ing Satur­day’s Test at Toy­ota Sta­dium.

A BREAK FOR IT: Hogg at­tempts to scam­per free from a Ja­panese tackle

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