We waited 27 Tests for this tripe. Twenty- seven Tests is the number under Gregor Townsend’s stewardship in preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019. Another big-game farcical effort, this outdoes the opening-game 34-7 beasting in the 2018 Six Nations v Wales. The 32-3 shellacking in the warm-up game versus France in Nice in August didn’t lie after all.
This was only the second time Scotland have lost their opening RWC game, the first being a 29-46 defeat by South Africa in 1999.
At least on that day, in an entertaining game, we gave it a proper blast, showed a lot and caused the Springboks real problems before John Leslie went off with a serious lower-leg injury.
Alan Tait and Martin Leslie touched down for us. The final margin flattered the Boks, with injury-time tries by Andre Venter and Joost van der Westuizen.
Scotland drew 20-20 with France at the inaugural event in May 1987 at Lancaster Park, Wellington. Again, we played well that day and should have won, which would have put us in to a quarter-final versus Fiji.
After these two opening-day performances there was a feeling that the team played well and had something about them, a feeling that could not be more absent after this loss.
There were no end of elementary errors by Scotland, which made it too easy for a limited Ireland team.
On 24 minutes, Sean Maitland’s win in the air followed by Finn Russell’s big diagonal set up a great attacking line-out not far from the Ireland line, but it wasn’t long until the fumble came. A lack of patience to go through the phases and firing it out wide too early saw a Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour guddle from another good platform after 35 minutes. A simple dropped pass by John Barclay on the charge five metres from the Irish line after 50 minutes, this one had me swearing at the TV.
On a positive note, at least Scotland were able to work themselves into these good positions.
Many of us fans will be asking: is it the fault of the players in not executing Townsend’s plans or is it that the plans were rubbish and the message confusing? Either way, the manner of the defeat is cause for huge concern.
The inconsistency of Townsend’s era, which used to be one good game then a bad game, appears to have been replaced by a consistency of poor performances. We had two good halves out of ten in the 2019 Six Nations. We flunked the only real test of our RWC 2019 warm-ups away to France. The downward slide of what is now unquestionably Townsend’s team is there for all to see. Winning percentages count for nothing when you are racking up wins against the likes of Georgia or an embarrassment of an Argentina team in June 2018.
Under Vern Cotter, pictured above, there was steady, solid improvement with practical, pragmatic performances. These are words that appear alien to the current regime.
Big Vern should have had two cracks at the World Cup with Scotland. Ireland will be wishing that he had, as at least then they would have been given a proper test.