Duncan Smith looks back at Scotland’s agonising defeat in the autumn Tests against Australia
Huw’s a little beauty
Centre Huw Jones looks to be a great find and enjoyed a dream two-try first home Test in his second cap. An explosive runner, he hit some great lines and has an obvious eye for the tryline. He was born in Edinburgh, schooled in England and broke into professional rugby in South Africa, where he attended Cape Town University and earned a Stormers contract. Jones formed a well balanced partnership with Alex Dunbar and merely adds to the great depth building for the Scots at centre along with the likes of Mark Bennett, Peter Horne and the currently injured Duncan Taylor. The fact Matt Scott is scoring for fun in the Aviva Premiership for Gloucester and still can’t make the squad says everything about current midfield strength.
We’re close but still no cigar
For all the good things on show on Saturday the inescapable fact is that defeat was yet again snatched from the jaws of victory. The more this continues to happen the more the psychological block might linger. No-one can fault the effort and, at times, sheer skill of Saturday’s performance but the coaches and players will know only too well that avoidable mistakes were made in the last ten minutes against the 14 men of Australia.
Restarts are still a problem
This has been an issue for a while now and needs to be addressed. Unlike some of the more complex aspects of the game it should be something that is routinely drilled into the players. Opposition teams clearly identify at as a weakness as they mix up their kick-offs and Scotland are too often found out, which leads to momentum from a score often being lost. On Saturday there were a number of lost restarts, from Ryan Wilson dropping the ball under no pressure to other turnovers which allowed Australia a foothold straight back into the game after conceding.
The Gray brothers Jonny and Richie were simply outstanding in the game and have become the heart and driving force of the team. The pair were imperious in lineout, scrum and the loose and Scotland will be hoping Richie comes through his concussion protocols and packs down with his brother again on Saturday in what will be another physical contest against Argentina.
Progress can’t be denied
A loss is a loss and the disappointment was tangible at the end but this was an excellent performance and more proof that genuine progress has been made under Vern Cotter, who now has just seven games left before Gregor Townsend takes over in June. Scotland outscored the Wallabies 3-2 in tries and were good value for it with some excellent attacking and aggressive defence. There were mistakes and moments of inaccuracy but gone are the days when Scotland struggled to put a few phases together without knocking on or being turned over. Ball retention and game management has come on in leaps and bounds and credit must go to Cotter and his staff. All we need now is some wins to reward the hard work which is clearly being put in.