Townsend hails Sey­mour hat-trick

The Herald on Sunday - - SPORT -

ex­cel­lently. We are de­vel­op­ing a brand of rugby where all the for­wards can play and that showed as well at the end of the game, in terms of shift­ing the ball.

“But hold­ing the ball was cer­tainly one of the de­cid­ing fac­tors in the end and our for­wards did a tremen­dous job in tir­ing them out and hold­ing on to the ball. We talked about that, and go­ing to a driv­ing game when it was needed. So that was re­ally pleas­ing.

“There are no easy games and the way we an­a­lysed Fiji ... they are tremen­dous at of­fload­ing and their abil­ity to play the game of rugby. But our de­fence re­ally fired to­day and, be­cause of the way we played, it gave us the chance to turn over ball and we took a few op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

The re-form­ing of his part­ner­ship at half-back with Finn Rus­sell was some­thing Laid­law was keen to high­light, par­tic­u­larly the con­tri­bu­tion that came from the Rac­ing 92 stand-off.

“Finn is easy to play with now,” said Laid­law after win­ning his 63rd cap. “He un­der­stands what rugby’s about at this level. He knows when to flat­ten up, and when to push the bound­aries.”

Laid­law, how­ever, knows he and his team face an even big­ger test next week­end when South Africa visit Mur­ray­field.

“We’ll need to de­fend very well against the Spring­boks, against one of the best teams in the world.

“We won’t want to give South Africa 17 points if we can help it. It will all start with our de­fence and they are a very big team, with their phys­i­cal­ity, and they al­ways pride them­selves on that.

“Maybe games I’ve been in­volved with in the past we’ve lost that.” HAT-TRICKS at Mur­ray­field don’t come around too of­ten. The one Tommy Sey­mour racked up here yes­ter­day was a long time com­ing. The first trio of tries scored by Scot­land at this venue since Ally Hogg in a Rugby World Cup match against Ro­ma­nia in 2007, it was lit­tle won­der Gre­gor Townsend re­served words of praise for his hat-trick hero yes­ter­day.

While Ge­orge Turner had ac­tu­ally com­pleted a hat-trick in the sum­mer tour to Canada, Sey­mour’s big mo­ment was all the sweeter con­sid­er­ing the on and off-field prob­lems that af­flicted the quick­sil­ver wing at times last sea­son. While he hadn’t scored a try for his na­tion since a match against Italy in last year’s Six Na­tions, his hat-trick yes­ter­day nudged him to fourth on Scot­land’s all-time list be­hind Ian Smith, Tony Stanger and Chris Pater­son with 19.

Not only does it seem a pretty fair bet that he will sur­pass all three of them sooner or later, he should re­ally have had four on the day were it not for a brain-freeze from Peter Horne when he had a sim­ple two-on-one in the cor­ner dur­ing the first half.

“It’s bril­liant to see,” said Townsend. “Tommy had a re­ally tough year last year and to see him back in full form, full con­fi­dence and en­joy­ing his rugby again at Glas­gow and get­ting that trans­fer­ring to Scot­land was great.

“He’s a re­ally im­por­tant player for us. He was vice-cap­tain last week, he’s some­one who talks a lot dur­ing games. We’ve been re­ally pleased with his form for Glas­gow. He prob­a­bly didn’t get the ball that much last week but when he got it to­day he looked dan­ger­ous.”

Townsend’s Scot­land are oc­ca­sion­ally crit­i­cised for only be­ing able to play one way – a high tempo, free-glow­ing style of game – but this match de­fied that no­tion. Three of the tries came from the for­wards via line-out drives, while the backs ran in eight.

“I don’t think any team can play just one way,” he said. “When we lost in Fiji we scored two tries off our maul. When we beat Italy in the Six Na­tions we got two tries in the maul. The for­wards have a big role in what we do, whether through our set-piece work or their han­dling. If there is one way it is the way to find how to find out where the de­fence is weak­est.”

Townsend said the qual­ity of the per­for­mance had caused him an ad­di­tional se­lec­tion headache ahead of Satur­day’s meet­ing with the Spring­boks. Fringe men putting their hand up most vo­cif­er­ously in­cluded debu­tant sec­ond row Sam Skin­ner and back rows Jamie Ritchie and Josh Strauss.“This will make it harder for us to put a team to­gether for next week,” he said. “Josh, Sam and Jamie haven’t played much for us, but they were all out­stand­ing.”

Ex­eter Chiefs sec­ond row Skin­ner, who rep­re­sented Eng­land Un­der-20s, ended up with the manof-the-match cham­pagne, hav­ing pleased his Ayr­shire-born fa­ther Peter by con­firm­ing his chance of al­le­giance to Scot­land, re­gard­less of a po­ten­tial knock-on to his club chances.

“This has prob­a­bly been the best day of my life,” said Skin­ner. “And my fam­ily’s life, to be hon­est with you. But my dad is prob­a­bly go­ing to have an early night. The anx­i­ety prob­a­bly crip­pled him. He is worse than me when it comes to nerves. He doesn’t say a word to peo­ple be-

This has prob­a­bly been the best day of my life

fore games but he can re­lax now.” “My Dad is just a clas­sic Scot,” he added. “I re­mem­ber be­ing in the liv­ing room watch­ing him watch Scot­land matches in the Six Na­tions and Au­tumn in­ter­na­tion­als, walk­ing in and out, stress­ing about the game. So I’ve grown up sup­port­ing Scot­land… and Eng­land, which is very rare I sup­pose! But that’s the mod­ern world, isn’t it?”

Skin­ner was en­joy­ing him­self so much he even sur­prised his coaches by putting in a tac­ti­cal kick in be­hind the Fiji de­fence at one point. “I don’t know if it was the right choice. Let’s be bru­tally hon­est here. It was an av­er­age kick and it turned out okay. I don’t I know what I was think­ing. If you had said I was go­ing to kick at in­ter­na­tional level, I would be like ‘are you jok­ing’. But once you are in the game it is just like any other game of rugby. “It prob­a­bly looked aw­ful.”

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