John Barclay pleads: Don’t underplay Scots’ skills

Scotland captain John Barclay holds aloft the Hopetoun Cup following the thrilling win at Allianz Arena. Picture:David Gibson/Fotosport
Scotland captain John Barclay holds aloft the Hopetoun Cup following the thrilling win at Allianz Arena. Picture:David Gibson/Fotosport
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It may have been guts and determination that took Scotland to victory over Australia, but don’t underplay the skill that also went into it, pleaded captain John Barclay after the game.

“A lot of people talk about the Scots as brave; I don’t think we talk enough about the skills,” he said. “Look at the tries we are scoring. It is brilliant and underplayed sometimes. The guys work extremely hard and we are scoring tries any team would he happy with.

“It’s a combination of things: Glasgow’s success playing in big games, winning the league; a couple of guys are Sarries [Saracens] bringing that big-game experience; there is a bit more depth, a bit more experience. Confidence grows from within.

“We have scored some fantastic tries and are competing against the best teams in the world. We can take from that and build on that.

“Momentum is an over-used word but we had to use the momentum we had created – I think we have. We were confident coming down here.

“The composure, guys like Ali [Price] at nine and Finn Russell – the way he has changed as a leader. He has always had the skills, and his composure in the way he leads the team now, it breeds confidence to those around him.

“We had a few guys missing so we feel we have barely scratched the surface here.”

For Scotland it was not, perhaps, the highest quality of performance they have ever put together, but if you want an example of their tenacity, you have only to look at the finale. They won the ball, lost it to a penalty, saw Australia make a half break but exploited it to win a penalty back that allowed them to clear the ball to end the game.

“They are one of the best teams in the world,” Barclay pointed out. “To beat them on any day is good, to beat them in their own back yard with a dry ball is great.

“It has been suggested five years ago [when they won 9-6 in a monsoon] the weather suited us but we came here on a dry day and scored some great tries. It was a really good win.”

For Gregor Townsend, the Scotland head coach, it was a win born of heart as much as ability.

“It’s a proud day for us all, everybody involved in Scottish rugby,” he said. “To put away the frustrations of the last couple of seasons and come away with an important win is great and a credit to the players.

“There were occasions in the first half when we did not get things right, we did not get enough set piece possession, because of the pressure Australia put on the line out.

“We did not get our game flowing though we showed in the first ten minutes that we were looking to play. Then there was ten minutes in the second half where we played the rugby we wanted to play and scored a cracking try.

“Finn Russell was outstanding. He leads our attack and I thought he also led our defence well. If you have your half backs playing really well it helps you in your attack.

“We knew it would be really, really tough. Australia showed a lot of what they can do in attack. Our width in defence and the fact that everyone in the fifteen was really looking to get back into place to compete for ball really helped us and slowed down their ball.”

Townsend, pictured, admitted that even in the coaching box, there were some anxious moments in the final minutes as the Wallabies pressured for the winning try, but in the end it all came good.

“This was about heart, togetherness, defending against some very good attackers, some great runners and making sure that if you do miss a tackle you get back on your feet and cover,” he added.