SCRUM Columnist Matt Horsman looks back at the Scotland-Argentina match and how the home pack played:
Well I asked last week for another 50 point performance from Scotland, and while this fell quite a way short of that, I am a big believer that winning without playing well is a huge component of being a successful side.
You can’t always play brilliant rugby, and so to come away from a win against Argentina feeling disappointed with the performance can almost be seen as a sign of the progress that this young Scottish side is making.
Upfront, the Scots struggled at scrum time, with young Zander Fagerson in particular having a tough afternoon against the gnarled test veterans in the Argentine front row. My concerns last week about the lack of strength in depth in the front row again came to fruition as the introduction of the more experienced Moray Low did very little to steady this creaking ship. Next to Fagerson, Fraser Brown and Allan Dell had solid games, but Brown’s potency at the breakdown wasn’t really on show.
There was yet another imperious performance from man of the match Jonny Gray, who’s consistency in outperforming his teammates at the age of 22 is just remarkable. Every week I watch him he looks more and more a shoe-in for a Lions’ spot in the short term, and the Scotland captaincy in the longer term. Beside Jonny, Grant Gilchrist failed to match the elder Gray’s impact both in the loose and at set piece. Neither Gilchrist nor Swinson for me is a patch on the two Grays. I’m left wondering if the whole captaincy followed by injury scenario still lingers on Gilchrist’s mind, as he is far short of the form that saw him stake that claim in the first place.
As far as the back row is concerned, Cotter started with Barclay at 8 – where he ended up playing for the majority of the Australia game – and by and large this worked. The debutant Magnus Bradbury was impressive on his first cap, carrying 5 times for an impressive 28 metres and providing a little of the go forward ball missing from the back row axis last week. Hamish Watson was less impressive than last week but still looks good value to keep the 7 shirt at least into the Six Nations.
The only substitute to make a real impact was the 100 cap man Ross Ford who’s experience helped temporarily stop the Scottish scrum from retreating when he was introduced in the first half while Brown was receiving treatment for a head knock. He also is an excellent man to have on the field in tight finishes like that, marshalling the troops around him to ensure players stay calm in circumstances of intense pressure. This is what the remainder of the forward subs are missing, as – besides Ryan Wilson who carried well when brought on – the other three (Alex Allan, Tim Swinson, and Moray Low) were largely ineffectual after being introduced.
The best sides in the world have benches that change games, not players to fill holes in a leaking ship.
Still, this was an impressive win just in rather uninspiring circumstances. Fingers crossed the Scots will finish their Autumn campaign with a flourish in Kilmarnock and send Scottish fans into the Six Nations with a cause for real optimism.
Scotland’s Autumn Tests continue on Saturday against Georgia – ‘Keep It SCRUM’ for the best previews and reaction
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