Gregor Townsend says red card a big help in win over Australia

Sean Maitland scores Scotland's third try in the corner as 14-man Australia are thumped at Murrayfield. Picture: Neil Hanna
Sean Maitland scores Scotland's third try in the corner as 14-man Australia are thumped at Murrayfield. Picture: Neil Hanna
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“What if?” history is popular in some places and you can see why, but that sort of speculation in sport is a fruitless business. We will never know what might have unfolded at Murrayfield had Sekope Kepu not earned that red card immediately before the break and in some respects it matters nothing.

Scotland played against 14 men for a half, 13 for the final two minutes, and they did what they needed to do, running in a total of eight tries and looking hugely impressive in doing so.

“It was a big advantage to us,” Gregor Townsend conceded immediately after the match, “when you [the Australians] have to play 40 minutes with one man down.

“The game was such an open game that there was going to be some tired bodies. Obviously in the second half and when you are working hard as 14 not 15, those bodies are going to get even more tired.

“When the game became less structured it suited us, the defences would be a bit disjointed and we had some very good ball players who managed to get on the ball a lot in that second half.

“We have a few things to improve but coming into such a big fixture, with some bodies that were tired from last week, with all that energy was great to see. We, I am speaking on behalf of the players, get the energy from the crowd too and Murrayfield the last two weeks has been great, the best atmosphere in the international game just now, and it’s great for our players to experience that and thrive on that.”

Interestingly, belligerent Aussie coach Michael Cheika refused to hide behind the red card, even claiming against all available evidence that it wasn’t the turning point.

In stark contrast, his opposite number Townsend bore the air of a man who was content with his lot in life and so he should. He has two wins from three matches and the one that got away was the closest shave New Zealand have had here in many a long year.

Perhaps more important than the results was the performances of the team if we sweep that Samoan hiccup quietly under the carpet.

The Scots have a clear game plan and they throw down the gauntlet, challenging the opposition to halt them as best they can, something that proved well beyond the 14-man Wallabies.

Any number of players whose name nobody knew just three weeks ago have put their hands up and Scotland can boast unsuspected depth in several positions. Byron McGuigan, Darryl Marfo and Simon Berghan are all deserving of a mention but Jamie Bhatti caught the eye in particular with his barnstorming break which led directly to Jonny Gray’s try.

Moreover there is an air of purpose and confidence about this squad that helps the newbies perform, a point underlined by Scotland’s skipper.

“It’s hard to explain,” said John Barclay. “The best thing I can say is that someone like Jamie Bhatti or Darryl has come in and they are playing with confidence which probably shows that they are coming into a group that has got confidence.”

McGuigan got his chance because of a late injury to Stuart Hogg and the Sale winger was only told of his inclusion in the starting XV shortly before kick off, having originally been named among the substitutes.

“Byron comes in today off the bench, and that is quite intimidating, and he is man of the match. I think every single person that has come into this group over the last three or four weeks has stepped up and looked really comfortable and I think that says a lot about the mindset.”

The Six Nations championship looks a lot more open and interesting than it did three weeks ago.