Second wind blew USA – and some wobbles – away
CRAIG CHALMERS HAS HIS SAY . . .
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