‘Calm assertive’ word in the ear from Cotter was secret to upturn in fortunes
FOR all the complexity of a Test match, sometimes you can sum it all up in a few words. Scotland stuttered in the first half against the United States, and were fluent in the second. That explained the difference between a half-time deficit of 13-6 and a full-time score of 39-16.
“Even though the first half was messy we pulled it around in the second half,” was how Tim Visser put it after scoring the first of five tries after the break which meant Scotland got a bonus point for the second game in succession. “At the end of the day it’s points that count and we’re going away with two bonus points.
“The two [early] tries in the second half turned the game round for us. They put us back where we were. In the end we knew that America would get tired just like Japan had done, and it showed in the second half. There were mistakes all over the place in the first half. We were breaking them and making opportunities, but we were not clinical enough to finish any of them off. It kind of showed how nervous we were, the silly mistakes we were making, but in the second half we knew we had to finish stuff off and we did.”
Perhaps the players would have sorted matters out for themselves during the break, but the odd word of encouragement from the coach did not go amiss. Vern Cotter insisted he had been calm, not furious, when addressing the troops, but Visser suggested that the coach’s words were to the point. “Calm assertive,” he said of Cotter’s mood. “He was obviously slightly annoyed by what we’d done, but he said: Don’t put your heads down, we’re making the breaks, we’ve just got to finish them off. And don’t be hard on yourself. We’ve just got to compose ourselves a little bit and capitalise on all the breaks we were making.”
Although he did not make excuses for the sub-standard performance before the interval, Visser pointed out that the Americans had had double the length of break between their first and second games – and that in any case, there was no way Scotland had expected to have an easy game against them. “It was obviously a tricky game on paper. It was a game we had to win after a four-day turnaround. We’ve just played Japan, which was suddenly a really tough game – which on paper it shouldn’t have been – and then America came out of the blocks.
“In the first half they were putting phases together, we were having to defend for long times, and when we had possession we kept turning it over, which kept the pressure on us. That’s something we didn’t want to do.”
Stuart Hogg had a more forthright assessment of Cotter’s half-time address. “We got a good kick up the backside at half-time and you saw how well we played in the second half,” the full-back said.
VISSER: ‘The two [early] tries in the second half turned the game round for us’