IT’S a sign of the improving times that Matt Scott was caught between two emotions in the immediate aftermath of the Italy game, writes Iain Morrison.
He wasn’t sure whether to jump for joy after scoring his opening try for Scotland or bewail the brace that got away? Whatever the truth of that, the impressive centre was just grateful to get a win under his belt because, as he explained, it’s been a while.
“It’s nice to come off after a win! I was saying to Greig [Laidlaw] in the dressing room that we’ve not won a game of rugby, including Edinburgh games, for ages. The last game I won was the Connacht game just after the autumn Tests. That’s a long time. You play sport to win and it’s just a great feeling to come off after a win.
“The forwards were really good. The set piece was solid. The tackle area was a lot better than last week. The areas we said we’d work on last week, the line speed, the tackle area, the defence, was all a lot better and that makes life a lot easier for us backs.”
In recent years the Scotland team has had problems getting the ball over the try line but the issue at Twickenham revolved around the Scottish forwards’ inability to give their backs good quality ball going forward. Stung by the criticism, the big men reacted with a bruising performance that restored passion and pride. More importantly it released the almost limitless potential in this exciting young back division. All four tries came from the backs and, if there was a hint of good fortune about one or two of them, Scott could easily have claimed another two touchdowns. He thought he’d scored one of them.
“It was such an amazing feeling scoring my first try, I’ll never forget it, but I thought I had scored that one in the corner when they called a forward pass. I thought that was a try but it was marginal, I guess.
“The first one I got run down in the corner [by Tobias Botes], I didn’t quite have the legs, but I’m not going to complain. Looking back I maybe could have stretched but I didn’t really have control of the ball and as I went to stretch that is when he caught me.
“Fair play to Sean [Maitland]. He nearly set up two tries and he did set up one. He’s really good at getting his hands free. You run gamble lines off guys like that and its fantastic to run lines off guys like him. I’d be more than happy to see more of that through the course of the tournament.”
While the four-try tally will hog the headlines, Scott and the rest of the squad won this match with an aggressive in-your-face defence that was noted by the Italians after the match. Scott is a lot more robust than he sometimes looks and the midfielder is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and do a shift in the mud. Perhaps a career as a flanker beckons?
“I don’t think so, I’m not quite hard enough yet! There is a lot of tackling and grunty work being a centre. These days you have to try and be like a backrow. Before the game the coaches put a big emphasis on the centres and the backrow leading the [defensive] line and I thought we did that reasonably well throughout the game. I am feeling battered just now but it’s a good feeling.”
“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. It was a good performance and we will enjoy the win but we have a lot to work on and it will be a big step up playing Ireland.
“Still, we are a tough team to beat and we want to make Murrayfield a horrible place for teams to come and we have the foundations in place after that performance.”