25-13. Scotland beat England for the first time in ten years. Murrayfield was rocking. Scottish management devised the perfect game plan while the players executed this game plan to the letter of the law. It shows how far Scotland have come in the last year. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on Scotland.
This tournament has seen Scotland in different poses. The opening round of the competition saw Scotland strike a forlorn figure, a team who failed to fire against an energetic, expansive Welsh side. A heavy road trip loss ensued and questions were directed at all concerned with the national side whether the progression of last year was a flash in the pan?
Gregor Townsend’s men have responded emphatically to the questions leveled. Yes, they had their moments of weakness against France and Teddy Thomas (Ireland also) but the pack built the platform with patience and perseverance which yielded several penalties which were dispatched by Laidlaw. A key win which set the platform for the round three performance.
Hail Hail Finn Russell!
What worked so well for Scotland? The ability to execute a high tempo, expansive game plan was the key. A game plan managed to perfection by Finn Russell. The Glasgow Warriors fly-half was sensational last weekend. His ability to keep England off balance with astute passing and kicking game was the key, a stark contrast to the heavy artillery smashing through the gain line by England.
Scotland pack delivers
The Scotland back row were immense in their ball carrying and breakdown work. It was a test match which should be a tribute to John Barclay in truth. His ability to stifle England ball at the breakdown was a key component to this victory. England could not establish consistent quick ruck ball and it was down in no small part to the likes of Barclay ably assisted by Watson and McInally.
The Scottish front five came to the party last weekend. The set piece was solid throughout and then in the defining closing quarter started to turn the screw in the scrum. WP Nel’s introduction was inspirational; his experience was key to giving Scotland the advantage in this facet of play down the stretch. The defensive maul was on point too, at times an Achilles heel for the side.
Back Line Flair
Back line creativity was in abundance. Huw Jones will take the plaudits for his performance, two superbly taken tries in the opening period but all players within the unit excelled. Stuart Hogg was his menacing best with ball in hand. His ability to create line breaks and cause defensive chaos with his ball carries were seen to full effect last weekend.
Sean Maitland was solid under the aerial bombardment, constantly looking for work and his try was superbly well taken. The same goes for Tommy Seymour whose injury is a concern ahead of the Irish fixture in two weeks. Peter Horne provided balance to the unit. His kicking game is so underestimated. A quality player in the ranks.
The bench made the a huge impact. I have already mentioned the WP Nel contribution, great to see the prop back in the international test match arena. Ali Price was on point with his game management and his ability to continue the quick tempo game plan was duly noted.
Swinson and Denton provided ferocious work rate and platform solidity. Bhatti was prominent in his efficient line out as well as his open play. Kinghorn and Grigg did not miss a beat in their back line duties. A superb performance from all concerned.
Credit to Scottish management. The game plan was superbly devised, focused on the team’s strengths and exposed England defensively with a high class passing game plan. The high tempo, offloading game was too much for England in that opening period and defensively were on point in the second half when England launched attack after attack. This team will arrive in Dublin in fine form and confidence.