Six Nations: Hogg downbeat at ‘missed opportunity’

Stuart Hogg looks dejected at full-time. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Stuart Hogg looks dejected at full-time. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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STUART Hogg was desperate to make amends yesterday for the red card he was shown against Wales a year ago, and he got off to the best possible start when he scored the opening try of the game. But the full-back was left as frustrated as all of his team-mates by the end of the match, as Wales held on for a 26-23 victory.

“I’m massively disappointed,” said Hogg, unconsoled by the fact that the margin of defeat was of a different order to the 51-3 humiliation in Cardiff last year. “Two weeks in a row we’ve been in complete control of the game, but it ended in defeat.

“It’s a massive missed opportunity. We were in it right to the very end, so it’s bitter to come away with a defeat.

“We’re going in the right direction, performing well. The time just after half-time is when we tend to switch off. Another time was when we did get the try and switched off and allowed them back into the game. It’s needing an 80-minute performance and we’ve not had that.”

Hogg was bodychecked by Liam Williams in the second half, but although he thought it an obvious offence and the crowd howled for a yellow card, he refused to complain about the decision. “I think that was pretty blatant, to say the least...

“I’m never going to blame the referees. There are grey areas at times, but on another day maybe we would have got those decisions. It was just not our day.”

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Having lost to France eight days earlier, Scotland are now only ahead of Italy on points differential at the bottom of the Six Nations table. But Hogg insisted that, while any hope of winning the championship might well be gone for another year, he and his team-mates retained the self-belief needed to start turning improved performances into victories, beginning when Italy come to Murrayfield at the end of the month.

“We’ve made it tough for ourselves, let’s be honest. But we still have the ambition to go out there and win. Let’s hope we can get the ball rolling in a couple of weeks with a win.”

Outside centre Mark Bennett was winning only his fourth cap – three defeats now after a debut victory against Argentina in the Autumn Test series – and made a clutch of second-half line breaks that promised more than they ultimately produced. He even thought he had scored at one stage when he got over the line, but if it was a try it was disallowed and play brought back for an earlier penalty, the officials’ reasoning being that substitute Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s pass to the Glasgow man had drifted forwards.

Bennett was also convinced there was still time on the clock for play to be restarted when the referee blew for full-time and denied Scotland the chance to give it one more go.

“I think there was time,” said the Warriors back, who after that win against the Pumas in November was injured in the early stages of the loss to the All Blacks a week later. “We scored [the Jon Welsh try] in 79 minutes and 20 seconds, so there was definitely time, but the call was made and we’ve just got to live with it.

“It is really frustrating. You can see that from the reaction of the players. We are starting to play the way we want to. We are really attacking teams and putting them under pressure. We think we are going in the right direction but we have just not quite got the finished product yet.”

The Scotland line breaks came quite late in the game as the Welsh defence, solid throughout, began to tire and, with a little luck, they might have been translated into points before Welsh went over for the late late try that was not sufficient to close the gap..

“It’s one of these things,” said 23-year-old Bennett, whose playing pedigree includes Ayr and Clermont Auvergne. “It is about reaction and it was late on in the game. We were playing a very physical game and expecting the Welsh defence to hold up as it had done before.

“If there was somebody there in support when I made the break I like to think we might have finished them off.

“Personally, I am happy with the way I played over the last few internationals and in certain aspects of today’s game.

“It was a very hard direct game in the first half and I found it hard to get involved. In the second half I got more touches but it still very frustrating to be beaten.”

Throughout the RBS 6 Nations, the Accenture analysis team will be providing fans with insight and analysis to see beyond standard match data. Follow @AccentureRugby

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