What is the sign of a good player? Perhaps one who walks away with a man of the match award having missed a tackle to gift the opposition captain the opening try of the match after just four and a half minutes? That is what Stuart Hogg managed yesterday.
In fairness to the full-back, any final reckoning of his account would see the Hawickman well in the black. That early error seemed to spur the Scot to greater heights.
It was Hogg’s footwork which earned Scotland’s first try when he stepped inside Gael Fickou before stretching one arm out for the try. After the break Hogg kicked a monster of a penalty from inside his own half and later, with Scotland on a rare attack, Greig Laidlaw threw a long, speculative pass to the left flank where Hogg was standing inside Tim Visser. The pass was landing on the full-back who was marked but Hogg had the brass neck to flap the ball on its way, over his head, while facing the wrong way. The ball fell perfectly into the Dutchman’s bread basket for Scotland’s vital third try.
“It was a bit of luck,” Hogg confessed. “That’s what you need. There was definitely a wee bit of luck but you need that in an international. I’m just delighted to get that win and obviously we worked very hard throughout the week to get it.”
With a trip to Dublin looming Hogg insisted that there was more to come from this Scotland squad who have not won three successive matches in the Six Nations since 1996.
“I’d say that we have played better at times. We missed a fair few tackles in defence which was not good enough. But you can’t be too downbeat after that.”
Duncan Taylor’s first-half try was a poacher’s dream. Hogg had made a tackle on French breakaway Yacouba Camara and Tommy Seymour latched on to the ball like a limpet. The referee blew the whistle for a Scotland penalty, Seymour passed to Taylor who tapped it and took off up the right flank like the hounds of hell were snapping at his heels. What was going through his head at the time?
“Er, that I had made a mistake!” Taylor replied. “I’ll just run as fast as I can and see what happens. We’ve played with tempo throughout this Six Nations and it was one of those reactions that you have and everyone just gets behind you and we just go for it. I was running in treacle at one point there. I thought I might have got under the sticks but my legs were just heavy.”
For once the Scots’ toast landed marmalade side up because the referee went to the TMO and the big screen showed that Greig Laidlaw had a handful of a French shirt in his fist. Was Taylor worried that might have caused the referee to wipe off the try?
“It was one of those close decisions,” Taylor admitted, “but I don’t think the pull actually affected the French player and that is why they decided it wasn’t really [material].”
A 50-50 call from the match officials finally goes Scotland’s way – their luck must be changing.