High penalty count a source of frustration for Scotland coach and captain with All Blacks up next

Scotland returned to winning ways but another high penalty count left coach and captain frustrated as they dissected the hard-fought victory over Fiji at Murrayfield.

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg was yellow-carded by referee Nic Berry after an accumulation of penalties.   (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg was yellow-carded by referee Nic Berry after an accumulation of penalties. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Both men know a marked improvement will be required for next weekend when the All Blacks come to Edinburgh. Scotland conceded 14 penalties during their autumn opener with Australia and there were another 12 against Fiji as the home side recovered from being 12-7 down late in the first half to win 28-12.

“We were frustrated with our discipline in the first half,” said Jamie Ritchie, the Scotland captain. “However, we knew they would be in the game early doors, but we felt that we were fitter than them. We talked about taking them deep; we knew that if they were in and around the game, we could get them in the last 20. You started to see that towards the end of the first half. We tired them out and did some good things. We probably gave them a bit too much territory but we found a way to win.

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“With our discipline, we need to tidy it up. We can’t be giving teams too many opportunities and we know that, so we will be looking to rectify it.”

Scotland gave away seven penalties in the first half, most of them for being offside, and five after the break. But their total of 12 paled next to Fiji’s 18 in an often ragged match which saw three Fijian players sin-binned. Stuart Hogg, the Scotland full-back, was also shown a yellow card for the accumulation of penalties by the home side during the first half.

Gregor Townsend felt Scotland weren’t clinical enough when they managed to take control in the second period and warned that opportunities would be at a premium against New Zealand. “What do we have to do better? We can’t give away as many penalties, that’s for sure,” said the Scotland coach. “We’ve got to convert when we have opportunities, which we didn’t do enough today. We did have opportunities in the first half, and a lot in the second half. In the second half, a lot of them led to penalties, but we won’t get as many opportunities to score tries next week so we’ve got to make sure we take them.”

On the high penalty count meted out by Australian official Nic Berry, Townsend added: “All the penalties in the first half bar one were against the defence, for both teams. When you know the referee and assistant referees are being really strict on the defence, you’ve got to be even further away from the edge that players play on. A lot of that was on the offside line.

“Discipline is a broad area. At times it can be in the set-piece but our set-piece was very strong but it was what we were doing in defence that needs to improve.”

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