Interviewed ahead of Saturday’s match against Wales, Duncan Taylor had suggested that he was the donkey in the Scottish midfield, not that he used that exact word. Mark Bennett, he insisted, boasted the gas whereas he, in comparison, was a bit of a plodder. Some plodder!
When John Hardie spilled the ball deep inside Welsh territory in the middle of the second half the ball popped up nicely for Tom James, who is the form wing in Wales right now. He scooped up the unexpected gift, set off for the Scottish line and could be forgiven for assuming he was home and hosed with Tommy Seymour unable to reel him in.
James hadn’t banked on Taylor who, like that Fiat 500 with a Ferrari engine, displayed the sort of speed few suspected he boasted under the bonnet. The Scot had the angle but even then he did fantastically well to make the cover tackle when the score looked a certainty.
“I was happy to make the tackle but anyone would have done the same thing,” said Taylor. “It’s one of those things, you just do it for the team. Unfortunately they scored about five minutes later.”
Taylor probably has the lowest profile of any player in the Scotland squad, although it is a good bit higher now than it was before Saturday’s match. Of his 14 caps to date just five have been in the starting XV and just two of those starts have been in the Six Nations.
He missed the World Cup through injury and he is a little unlucky to play in a position where Scotland have strength in depth, at least in relative terms. Until now he has been fairly far down the pecking order but he was rarely far from the action in Cardiff.
Taylor was beaten in the air by the giant Jamie Roberts to set up Wales’ first and highly controversial try. Then came that jaw-dropping cover tackle when Taylor showed some serious wheels, and at the death he took his try like a veteran rather than the rookie he is. Credit to Ruaridh Jackson who delayed his pass just long enough to tempt two defenders before putting away Taylor, who stepped inside the final defender for his first international score.
It was a good afternoon’s work from the Saracens man but if he was planning on dancing until dawn in celebration, Taylor hid the fact pretty well. “I don’t take any satisfaction from scoring to be honest,” he said. “We lost the game so it doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m not happy having come off the field having lost again. I was happy to score obviously but it wasn’t enough to win the game.
“The Six Nations is gruelling and we’ll carry this feeling into the next game. It’s a must-win game and we don’t want to lose any more, we are done with that. It’s all about winning and getting that winning feeling back. I honestly believe just one win is all it would take.
“One win and we’d turn a corner, if we can get the winning mentality back then the sky is the limit for us, I really do believe that. We’ve got a great squad and we are capable of doing things in this competition. It’s about taking our chances when they come along. We need to keep pushing until the very end. We’ve got a good squad and we won’t let our heads go down, we’re not that far away.”
Vern Cotter was talking about names that might come back into the mix ahead of the Italian match, which is two weeks hence. The coach name-checked Grant Gilchrist, Josh Strauss, who got some game time for Glasgow on Friday evening, and another midfielder in Peter Horne who, it’s worth remembering, scored a smart try against Australia in the World Cup.
With Matt Scott also likely to have recovered from the tweak to his thigh Cotter has an interesting midfield dilemma; not so much who to pick, but who to leave out.