Gray brothers whip up plenty of enthusiasm

Elder brother Richie and Jonny, the 21st set of brothers to play together for Scotland, will be happy with their individual efforts of a try apiece. Picture: SNS
Elder brother Richie and Jonny, the 21st set of brothers to play together for Scotland, will be happy with their individual efforts of a try apiece. Picture: SNS
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A NEW coach, a new era and a new way of travelling to Murrayfield. Edinburgh’s trams seem to have been around for a lot longer than six months but last night was their first chance to ferry rugby fans to the special stadium halt for a game featuring the first appearance together of the Gray brothers – Scotland’s Gigantor and his wee brother.

Sibling side-by-sideness – here in the middle row – isn’t new in rugby, certainly not Scottish international rugby, which has previously found room for 47 sets of brothers, Richie and Jonny being the 21st twosome to win caps in tandem. But surely few have ever looked like these guys, the biggest and blondest on the block.

Not everything works out as it should. The trams should be slick and not cost £1 billion, prompting a public inquiry into the farrago. The wifi at – don’t forget – BT Murrayfield as it’s now called, should be equally slick, not requiring your correspondent to flee the stadium to file his report, as happened on the last visit. And Richie should be rampaging right across this plain, all that pulverising promise being thrillingly fulfilled. I mean, how many strides does he need to cover the entire length of the pitch – is it only five and a half?

Is he, relatively speaking, a gentle giant? How often does he get really angry? He says he defers to his kid brother – “Jonny tells me where to go and I just shut up and listen” – but maybe the younger one’s presence in this Test, with the crowd being invited to compare them, would make him want to show who’s really boss, the true champ of the top bunk.

Gray Brothers. They sound like a long-established firm, a redoubtable store. Just as long as Richie and Jonny together weren’t going to be Grace Brothers, an emporium founded on chaos and campness. Maybe Mrs Slocombe would covet Richie’s lustrous locks, the incredible swish and swoop of them, but there was nothing camp about the elder Gray’s try in the sixth minute.


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Until that moment Jonny had been the more conspicuous in and around the rucks. Richie, the bigger and blonder Gray, still hadn’t got a touch but there was an easy-ozy insouciance about his strike for the line, as if to say: “This is how you do it, bro.”

Johnny weighed in again and you wondered – hoped – if close to 40 stones of combined cartoon-dimensioned brawn was about the dominate. They took it in turns to find the line from a free-kick, first Jonny then Richie. And then Jonny got his chance. Sheer power – to say nothing of a family rivalry which went all the way back to back-garden bounce games in Glasgow – got him his score. “What do you think of that, big man?”

Now they were resembling Gray’s of Edinburgh, the old hardware emporium: reliable, resolute and proud (well, at least until those premises closed). But then the junior partner got too excited. He could see the line, which was 25 metres away but admittedly for him was reachable in a couple of Gulliveresque strides. Mark Bennett, though, was better placed on the outside. Jonny sensed glory and a 2-1 advantage in the private try duel and got caught. “Dearie me, bro, you weren’t so reliable there.”

This wasn’t just The Jonny & Richie Show. Scotland had played smart rugby pretty much from the start and that soon turned to swaggering rugby. Ross Ford and Adam Ashe were having grand games and Greig Laidlaw was kicking well and passing even better. Two lovely long ones brought tries either side of half-time, finished with zip by Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg. Argentina huffed and puffed. Fans of flair, lovers of their football team, glimpsed the occasional juggled pass. But when the little tanks in their side – and there were a few, it’s a fine Argentinian tradition – emerged from the rucks and gazed into the night sky, doubtless for inspiration, they got Richie and Jonny, looming over them, not one but two big yellow moons.

What could complete the performance? Maybe for one of the Grays to gallumph from one set of posts to the other, a charge so thunderous it would stop the trams and re-boot the wifi. Well, what we really wanted was for them to charge together, flipping the ball and laughing about childhood japes, knocking over Argentinians like they were toy soldiers back in their old bedroom.


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