Scottish Rugby – Where Are We Now?

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Lights out at Murrayfield, prior to kick-off against Argentina on Saturday

With two of Scotland’s three Autumn Test matches having come and gone, we take a look at where Vern Cotter’s men are and what to expect ahead of next year’s Six Nations.

The fixtures began for Scotland on the 12th, when despite a largely impressive team performance, they suffered a one point defeat to the hands of Australia at BT Murrayfield.

The second match was also held at Murrayfield on Saturday, when an 83rd minute Greig Laidlaw penalty claimed a 19-16 victory for the Scots, although the performance left spectators with a few questions

Scotland 22-23 Australia

The home side got off to an impressive start against a strong Australian team, when Huw Jones scored his first international try, as he collected Finn Russell’s chip in the middle of the pitch, to race in under the posts. This added to Laidlaw’s early penalty and by converting the try, Scotland raced into a 10 point lead with less than eight minutes on the clock.

Reece Hodge got the Wallabies back into the match with a fine solo effort, before Jones’ second try of the half ensured that Scotland went in with a 17-10 lead at the interval.

A second half try from Jonny Gray extended Scotland’s lead but two Bernard Foley penalties ensured that the Scotland fans had a nervous finale in store.

Despite Will Skelton’s sin bin and the Aussies being subsequently down to 14 men, they still had the desire and the quality  to break the hearts of the Scottish faithful as Tevita Kuridrani’s try was converted by Foley, to snatch the win by a single point.

Scotland 19-16 Argentina

In what proved to be a far less captivating encounter at the weekend, Murrayfield’s ‘lights out’ pre-match entertainment ironically led to a rather dull first half of rugby. Cotter’s men led 6-3 at the break, thanks to the boot of Greig Laidlaw, with Nicolas Sanchez scoring a solitary penalty for the Pumas.

The game was crying out for a try and it came early in the second half, when Matias Orlando gathered a crossfield kick to silence Murrayfield, as he put the visitors in front for the first time.

However, the Scots responded well and Sean Maitland crossed the whitewash, after good work from Huw Jones. Finn Russell failed with two late drop goal attempts, but Scotland were awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time and Laidlaw held his nerve, to secure the win which sees his team move above their opponents in the latest IRB rankings.

Scotland are currently training at Oriam this week, ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Georgia at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park. They can expect a tough match with a physical team, who are undoubtedly on the rise as a rugby nation.

The Georgians will come into the fixture on the back of an impressive 20-16 victory over Samoa in Tbilisi at the weekend, and will be looking to take advantage of the artificial playing surface, which the Scots aren’t used to.

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Star Performers

Huw Jones = Arguably Scotland’s stand out performer for Scotland this Autumn. The Edinburgh born centre flew out to South Africa on a gap year in 2014 and later signed for Super Rugby side, The Stormers, for whom he is a regular try scorer. Throughout the two matches at BT Murrayfield, he has shown signs of his blistering pace and attacking prowess, regularly breaking the gain line and bringing teammates into play. At the age of 22, Jones looks destined to have a promising international career ahead of him.

Hamish Watson = The 25-year old flanker has been a consistent performer for Edinburgh both in the Pro 12 and European competition. He was able to continue that form in the Scotland jersey, showing great physicality and awareness, leading to multiple turnovers against Australia.

Jonny Gray = Following a solid performance alongside his brother, Richie, against Australia, in which he scored his second try for his county, he coped well in a new partnership with Grant Gilchrist on Saturday. The second-row continually took the game to the Argentines, making yards and putting in a big shift in defence. With 27 Scotland caps under his belt, many would be forgiven for thinking he’s been around for a long time, but at only 22, Jonny is another player who Scotland will be able to call on for the foreseeable future.

 

Six Nations

In terms of the 2017 Six Nations, which begins in February, Scotland fans have the right to be optimistic as the country now boasts a very promising group of players, which includes a great deal of both experience and youth. Vern Cotter has brought a very attractive form of rugby to Murrayfield, which has shown, especially during last year’s World Cup. With home fixtures against Ireland, Wales and Italy, Scotland will be targeting victories in all three and have as realistic a chance as ever, of challenging for the title. This will be Cotter’s final tournament as Scotland Head Coach, before his replacement, Gregor Townsend, takes over the reigns in June.

 

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