A total of 11 tries, a record 82 points scored at a sold-out Murrayfield and a nailbiting finish. Not surprisingly Scotland coach Gregor Townsend was asked if that was the oddest international he’d witnessed.
“It’s a strange game when 70 or 80 points are scored,” he admitted. “You don’t often see that in Test rugby. I’m sure the neutrals would have loved that.
“It was very similar to the World Cup game [in Newcastle] when it did look like whoever had possession for four or five minutes were going to come away with something.”
There was an odd mood in the post-match press conference, with most people not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Rarely have six Scotland tries at Murrayfield been celebrated in such a muted manner. What, Townsend was quizzed, were the positives he could take away?
“The fact that we won is probably a good one to start with,” he replied, following the coach’s first match at Murrayfield. “The crowd numbers were tremendous and the way the team worked to get that win.
“We were challenged a number of times at the beginning of the game and in the second half but we stayed in front of the opposition. We are aware that there are a lot of things we have to work on.”
No one is going to argue that last point, especially with the All Black bogey man casting a long shadow over yesterday’s less than convincing display. Scotland scored six tries but they left a number of others on the pitch and when the big islanders ran hard at the Scottish tryline the defence was wet paper.
It’s a fast becoming a Scottish problem because Exeter scored three tries from short range against Glasgow in the Champions Cup so the secret is out.
Samoa’s forward pack is far from the scariest in world rugby but their big men also helped themselves to three tries from short range and another one when replacement Ofisa Treviranus strode through the middle of the breakdown 20 yards out.
“I think the fact that we weren’t winning the gain line with our tackles,” said Townsend when quizzed about Scotland’s shortcomings. “They are heavy players and they run hard but that is international rugby so we have to make sure we are getting lower than them and we are knocking them back.
“We weren’t able to slow down their ball enough in the second half, I thought we did that well in the first half, when we got a few turnovers to play off, but in the second half they were getting momentum.
“Part of defence is also where we were defending. So if we do give up possession in our 22, it is hard to defend and the consequences are much greater. They kicked into the 22 and obviously we didn’t handle a couple of restarts and that just gave them a footing in our 22 and they came away with points with tries on every occasion in the second half.”
WP Nel retired with a suspected fracture to his arm and Tommy Seymour limped off the field with a toe injury but should be fit for next Saturday’s Test.
Scotland skipper John Barclay started his Scotland career a decade ago against New Zealand at the 2007 World Cup. He was asked about this match and the next one.
“It’s nice to win, nice for four guys to come on and get their first caps and sell out Murrayfield and there were a lot of positives in our play but in some ways maybe that [sense of disappointment] is a good thing and will narrow our focus going into next week.”