Scotland dogged by defensive woes as New Zealand test looms

Scotland survived a late onslaught from Samoa to win the first of three Autumn Tests at the weekend but the focus this week will be on a poor defensive display against the Pacific islanders.

 

Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend’s first game at Murrayfield was nothing short of a try feast. However, for the more solicitous Murrayfield attendees, the game was marred by Scotland’s defensive mishaps as they secured a narrow victory over Samoa.

 

Speaking after the game, Townsend said: “We have got to make sure we don’t give up possession in our half as cheaply and defend much better.

“Credit to Samoa, they played really good rugby. The first 15 minutes, they kept a lot of ball, they attacked either through the forwards or out wide, and when we gave them opportunities off our restart or errors within our half, they made the most of them.”

 

Huw Jones scores for Scotland
Source: Scottish Rugby

 

A try inside the opening two minutes from that man, Stuart Hogg, reassured the sell-out crowd that the Scots had built on their fine Summer form; which saw them reap revenge against the Wallabies after 2015’s bitter loss in the World Cup.

 

An impressive first half on Saturday saw Scotland leading 25-10 and buoyed with confidence. Not long after the break, the home side’s lead extended after a driving maul off the back of the line-out saw hooker Stuart McInally bundle over for his second try, a carbon copy of his first, to put Scotland 22 points ahead. You could be forgiven for thinking Scotland had Samoa sewn up at this stage. 

 

However, at this level of the game, composure is everything. Just four minutes after McInally’s score, the Samoans replied with a series of pick-and-go efforts up the middle eventually seeing blindside flanker, Piula Faasalele breach the Scottish defence. Tim Nanai-Williams then worked his magic in the 62nd minute and, all of a sudden, Townsend’s side looked vulnerable. Centre Alex Dunbar used all his brawn to smash through a short while later but this was met with yet another reply from the Samoan pack to bring the score to 37-31. 

 

A raft of replacements saw Scotland’s front row change from an all Edinburgh lineup to that of Glasgow Warrior’s choice front three. Changes to the halfbacks meant Peter Horne took over from Finn Russell on kicking duties and Henry Pyrgos replaced Ali Price at the side of the scrum. Horne proved a useful asset almost immediately as an inspired switch on the inside from Cornell du Preez put him through in space to go under the posts. Again though, the inevitable onslaught came once more as London Irish flanker, Ofisa Treviranus capitalised on Scotland’s sloppiness around the base of the ruck as he went through the middle to finish off the scoring.

 

Daryll Marfo dominated the scrum the loose-head prop gained his first cap
Source: BBC

 

Positives for Scotland include an impressive debut for Edinburgh loose-head prop, Daryll Marfo who was unrelenting at scrum time. The zip and pace demanded by the Scotland coaching team in pre-match press conferences was present in heaps but the focus will inevitably be on Scotland’s leaky defence as they look to avoid a drubbing against a ruthless New Zealand side who come off the back of a win in Paris.

 

An early knock to prop, WP Nel will be giving Townsend a headache in selection this week given current injuries ruling out Alasdair Dickinson, Gordon Reid, Allan Dell, Fraser Brown and Ross Ford. It is thought Zander Fagerson will step in against the All Blacks this weekend.

 

Scotland kick off against New Zealand at 5.15pm on Saturday the 18th of November.

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