Controversy seems to follow Scotland whenever they pitch camp in Cardiff and that was true of yesterday’s match when the English TMO Rowan Kitt wiped off two Scottish scores in the second half that, had they stood, would have put a different complexion upon a contest Wales won 21-10.
His first decision to rule out Jonny Gray’s effort from short range looked spot on. The big lock did ground the ball over the Welsh try line but only at the second or even third attempt.
Mr Kitt’s second decision looked a lot less sturdy. What did coach Gregor Townsend make of Peter Horne’s late effort when he got on to the end of wee brother George’s neat little dink over the advancing Welsh defenders?
“I thought he did [touch it down],” replied Townsend. “It is a hard one at the time but with his reaction and the ball underneath his body I did think it was going to be awarded but obviously it wasn’t.”
But that wasn’t what lost Scotland the match. That “honour” fell to two defensive howlers that gifted Wales 12 points in a match they won by 11. The man in the crosshairs is the English-raised Scotland centre with the Welsh name, Huw Jones.
Never mind that Alex Dunbar was just as guilty for the George North score and never mind that just a few months ago Jones was the Calcutta Cup hero when he scored two cracking tries. You are only as good as your last game. The poor man missed regulation tackles on North and Jon Davies and cut a dejected figure at the end of the match. Townsend highlighted those two errors as costly ones and added the sort of ominous warning that normally comes from the mouth of Marlon Brando.
“He [Huw Jones] put his hands up to the players in the changing room,” said the coach.
“These were errors that were big mistakes in the game. He is a player who works really hard in training. I thought he attacked well but if you are defending at this level you have to put your tackles in. Especially when you have guys who are world class attackers so Huw will put the work in and if he gets the opportunity again he will put these tackles in.
“The two tries they scored we will look at those as defensive errors. That is 14 or 12 points. We got over the try line on two other occasions. There are 14 points there again. Two other clear occasions if we had been more accurate we would have scored. We will have to improve those areas.
“We lost by 11, [we had] two tries disallowed, we score or defend better on the first-phase try [scored by Jon Davies] they got. That was a game in which we had enough of the game, pressure, territory to win.”
The match stats show that, following that rocky start, Townsend is right, the Scots dominated possession and territory, with 60 per cent and 64 per cent respectively, but they had little enough to show for all their efforts. The Scots made just 86 tackles compared to 162 from the men in red but only rarely did the visitors threaten the Welsh line. The coach blamed a lack of accuracy with the ball in hand.
“We did not start with the energy and accuracy that is required in a game like this,” the Scotland coach insisted, although skipper Stuart McInally was at a loss to explain exactly why the visitors were so slow out the blocks.
“We spoke about starting well and going at it with loads of energy but Wales defended really well and we couldn’t get into our stride as well as we had wanted,” said McInally. “I thought Wales defended really well and we couldn’t really get into our attacking shape as we would have liked.”
But for all the talk of a lack of accuracy and the TMO, there is one man carrying the can for this defeat and after Townsend fired a shot over his bows it may be a while before the centre is back in favour.