IT PROVED an eventful World Cup for Stuart Hogg who never seems far from the headlines for all sorts of reasons. the impetuous and combative side of his nature elbowed its way to the forefront against South Africa in the pool stages, writes Iain Morrison.
Tendai “the Beast” Mtawarira barely touched the full-back as he tried to charge down a kick but still the Hawick man fell to the ground like an Italian striker. Hogg later apologised for the acting class but he may have got his just deserts on Sunday when Drew Mitchell clattered into him after Hogg had cleared his lines in what looked like a genuinely late challenge.
The officials turned a Nelsonian blind eye and waved play on seeing nothing untoward although Hogg thought otherwise.
“I just about ended in the front row of the stand,” he complained afterwards, only half-joking.
One of the most bizarre aspects of Sunday’s quarter-final in a game that didn’t want for the pick of them, was to experience Twickenham stadium, close to capacity, cheering every Scottish tackle as though they had won the William Webb Ellis trophy itself. This from a place that usually offers the men in blue a rather different reception.
“It was brilliant,” Hogg said of the atmosphere at the triple-tiered stadium. “At Twickenham you get used to being booed and heckled all the time, and to actually have a great support behind us was incredible. Scotland fans have followed us here, there and everywhere, and we have loved it.”
The World Cup has been a mixed bag for the Scotland full-back, the only player to have started every match in the campaign, with the wondrous and woeful nestled snugly together as in Leeds when he broke the Eagles line without breaking sweat only to butcher a scoring opportunity with a wayward pass to Tim Visser. While prone to the occasional error Hogg has tightened up on the nuts and bolts of his game, ably defusing the bombs that came his way and clearing his lines even if the odd rush of blood still comes to his head as Sunday proved.
Finn Russell caught a kick off and, closed down quickly by yellow shirts, he passed the problem to the full-back who shovelled it straight down the line to Tommy Seymour who, with nowhere to go, was promptly bundled into touch five metres from his own try line. It wasn’t exactly Hogg’s fault but he needed a little more composure to get out of the tight spot he had been put in.
What was pleasing was Hogg’s adult reaction to referee Craig Joubert’s blunder late in the game when he awarded Australia a dubious penalty which settled this game in Australia’s favour. While we can’t know what he said in private, Hogg’s public statement was a model of diplomacy.
“What is done is done,” he said with impeccable logic. “We can hold grudges, we can do this that and the other but we have to concentrate on ourselves and can’t change anything.
“We will continue to learn. We are a fairly young squad and will learn from this.
“We have lots of leaders in our team and I would back them all. The young boys are learning as they go on.
“We cannot go back on it now. It is done. We deserved to win that game as we put in an incredible performance. I don’t want to criticise anybody.”