Ollie Smith looks back on first Scotland try and says team-mate comes in for 'unfair stick'
The 22-year-old made his first Scotland appearance at BT Murrayfield and crowned it with the opening try of the match, showing neat footwork to defeat the Wallabies defence in the process. He made a try-saving cover move later in the first half and did not look out of place around more established internationalists. Nevertheless, Scotland ended up on the wrong end of a tight scoreline, losing 16-15 to their southern hemisphere visitors.
Capped in the summer when Scotland lost another match narrowly, the final test of a three-match series against Argentina, Smith is one of a crop of young Glasgow Warriors players trying to push past the established guard. With regular No 15 Stuart Hogg ruled out of this match due to club commitments with Exeter Chiefs and the Australia clash falling outside of the international window, Smith knew for some time that this match could be momentous for him. Looking back on it, however, he knows victory slipped away from the Scots.
“It does kind of feel like that [one that got away],” said Smith. “It's a tough one to take. It just shows we can be up there with the best of them. We were never really out of that game. It felt like we were always in a position to win. The result didn't go our way but there's a lot we can take from that game that we can be proud of. We knew we were going to have to win that game a couple of times because of the way Australia have been going the last few years, but we gave ourselves a chance to win and unfortunately it didn't go our way. But we know we definitely could have won it."
This match will be remembered for Blair Kinghorn’s agonising penalty miss as the clock struck 80 minutes. He was some 40 yards out so it was far from a gimme but most top international kickers would land it. Smith leapt to the defence of the stand-off. “He's comes in for quite a lot of stick,” said Smith. “It's unfair at times, he's a strong guy, very grounded and he's great to have around the environment. He's a skilful player and one of the best in the business. I think he'll be alright, but obviously it's difficult for him. Nine times of ten Blair gets that. We know we back him, it’s just unlucky.”
Kinghorn, like Smith, did contribute significantly with a fine try of his own (Smith graciously admitted Kinghorn’s was better than his). Perhaps he is being a tad unfair on himself. Smith showed class beyond his experience to finish off a fine pass from the stand-off. “The space kind of opened up in front of me and I didn't know what to do with myself,” laughed Smith when asked to recall the moment. “I thought, 'if I don't score here, someone is going to kill me!’ That was what literally was going through my head, but I got there in the end.”
Both he and Kinghorn could be out of the starting XV against Fiji this weekend, though, as the Gallagher Premiership-based players join up with the squad. Gloucester’s Adam Hastings is vying for the No 10 shirt with Kinghorn and with Hogg back in the fold, Smith knows he is likely to play second fiddle.
"It's a mixture of both,” Smith answered when asked if you support or compete with a direct opponent for the shirt. “You're always fighting for your position, whether it be here or Glasgow or anywhere. Obviously Hoggy is one of the best in the world at the moment and has been for many years. He's very experienced. I wouldn't say there's any bad blood there, I would say it is healthy competition. I'll do the best I can.”
Smith has certainly done enough to be back on the pitch at Murrayfield at some point in the three November matches. He has history with HQ, winning the schools cup in 2017 with Strathallan against Glenalmond. His family were denied the chance to watch him in Argentina but they were all in Edinburgh cheering him on.
"Playing at Murrayfield is something that I've always wanted to do and especially with that kind of crowd,” said Smith. “It's something that I have never experienced before. It definitely makes a difference, it definitely makes it more special, to have your family here. It's not the real debut but it's definitely pretty cool. They [the family] were all here to watch. They've been planning on coming for a while. My sister was here, all of her mates, my uncle and auntie came up from England as well so there was a fair group of us, which was good.”
There was one slight personal disappointment for Smith in that he did not come up against his role model in Quade Cooper, who is not in Australia’s current squad. "I watched a lot of Quade Cooper when I was a kid and I kind of had it in the back of my head that he would be playing,” Smith added. “He's someone I've always looked up to, the footwork aspect of things. But there are loads of guys that I try to take things from their game and add it to mine. Like Hoggy, he's got a good kicking game, he's rapid, good passing. There's plenty of guys I can take advice from.”