Sec­ond wind blew USA – and some wob­bles – away


The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY WORLD CUP -

SCOT­LAND let the Amer­i­cans come to them dur­ing the first half of yesterday’s World Cup match. The US asked one or two ques­tions of our mid­field de­fence, which looked a bit frag­ile at times.

There were too many un­forced er­rors on our own ball in the first half, too. Stu­art Hogg looked sharp as usual, but he had a cou­ple of loose passes, one of which should have put Tim Visser in for a try. Scot­land were also un­der pres­sure in the scrum, and the Amer­i­cans were turn­ing over a lot of break­down ball. I think at one stage the statis­tic was 7-1 to them in turnovers, which is ob­vi­ously not very re­as­sur­ing.

We prob­a­bly missed John Hardie at the break­down. Ryan Wil­son and then Fraser Brown filled in well, but you’re al­ways at a disad­van­tage with­out a nat­u­ral No.7. Hardie’s ab­sence through in­jury calls into ques­tion the wis­dom of only hav­ing one real open­side in the squad.

We fell off a few tack­les in that first half, too, which was un­usual given how well the de­fence have per­formed in re­cent games. Hav­ing said all that, the sec­ond half was much bet­ter. Vern Cotter must have had some harsh words with the play­ers at half-time, or at least words that helped them re­gain their fo­cus, be­cause from the kick-off they were sharper af­ter the break.

The sec­ond half looked like a to­tally dif­fer­ent game. Scot­land took the game to the Amer­i­cans, were far more di­rect in their run­ning, and scored some nice tries. Alas­dair Dickinson and WP Nel made a dif­fer­ence when they came on at half-time. The scrum was a lot more sta­ble with them there, and that helped gal­vanise the whole team.

Our mid­field trio looked re­ally sharp in at­tack and I was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed by Matt Scott when he came on to work along­side Finn Rus­sell and Mark Ben­nett. Finn will be a big loss if he misses out against South Africa, as will Grant Gilchrist if he is also side­lines.

All in all, though, this was a pretty pos­i­tive dis­play. There were flaws, but the play­ers were com­posed enough to iron them out, even if it took un­til the break for them to have the time to do so. Things look very en­cour­ag­ing. If you had asked any mem­ber of the squad – or in­deed any sup­porter – what they ex­pected af­ter the first two games, they could not have asked for more than two wins and two bonus points

Now we move on to the South Africa game. It will be an even tougher chal­lenge, not only in terms of their phys­i­cal ap­proach but also be­cause they are more tal­ented play­ers who have far greater ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing at a higher level.

The Spring­boks are sure to at­tack Scot­land down the No.10 chan­nel. Rus­sell is a brave player who never shirks his de­fen­sive du­ties, but the War­riors man, if fit, and the in­side cen­tre will def­i­nitely be tar­geted by the South Africans’ big run­ners.

I’m sure Matt Scott will play at in­side cen­tre. Peter Horne is like Rus­sell in that he has ma­tured a lot over the past year or so and is al­ways will­ing to do his share of the chores in de­fence. But Scott is big­ger and stronger, and ex­actly the kind of ball­car­rier we need to take the game to the South Africans. That will be the key to vic­tory. We will have to get in their faces and not let them pick up mo­men­tum.

ER­ROR COUNT: But Hogg still looked sharp

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